The SamTrans Board of Directors authorized the Acting General Manager to address collections of debts incurred by the agency for more than 30 years by its fellow Joint Powers Board (JPB) members, the Valley Transportation Authority and the City of San Francisco.
“SamTrans has been the glue that has made Caltrain a successfully managed system since the Joint Powers Board was formed more than 20 years ago,” said District Board of Directors Chair Charles Stone. “The time is past due for these bills to be addressed.”
The SamTrans Board of Directors has authorized Acting General Manager Carter Mau to seek a written response from the City and County of San Francisco and the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to detail their efforts to ensure SamTrans is reimbursed fully and properly for its initial $82 million investment in the Caltrain ROW that has been lingering since 1991. In today’s dollars that investment that would be more than $150 million.
The precise number owed depends upon the partners intent to live up to contractual obligations on the repayment of the initial investment made by San Mateo County, including agreements regarding the governance and management structure of the JPB.
Additionally, SamTrans will seek information from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission concerning any reimbursable funds available to them, and to inquire if steps have been taken by the City and County of San Francisco or the VTA to secure these funds on its behalf.
Finally, the Board of Directors authorized Mau to take any actions necessary to implement the reimbursement of funds.
SamTrans decision occurs while some members of the JPB have advocated, prior to any actual study of the matter, to reorganize Caltrain’s governance structure. Members of the Caltrain board from the City and County of San Francisco and the VTA are seeking to disband the JPB in favor of undefined alternative structures that seek to improve their own respective control of Caltrain operations and management.
SamTrans will seek to retain its successful leadership of the Caltrain JPB system while still collecting the outstanding debts owed to them by the City and County of San Francisco and the VTA.
The Caltrain JPB’s governance review is in its early phases, and no cost implications to change have yet been conducted. It is clear, however, that alternative solutions will cost significant amounts of money and have not articulated any meaningful benefit to the systems operations or service to riders.
“San Mateo County has been more than generous and patient with this exploration of how the governance works. We remain open to improvements that will provide material benefit to the riders or improved efficiency to operations of the system,” said Charles Stone, “That is not what we see unfolding. What we have witnessed so far is two of the three member agencies seeking to take over control through a new governance structure while leaving large outstanding debts incurred for the current one.”
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