The Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board declared a fiscal emergency today in the face of a $30.3 million budget deficit going into Fiscal Year 2012.
The Caltrain railway serves as a means of public transit for residents of San Francisco, San Jose and the communities spanning the distance between.
Amid dire fiscal straits, the board is considering solutions which include the possible closure of up to seven train stations including South San Francisco, Belmont, San Bruno, and the College Park station in San Jose.
Many Caltrain riders, and other members of the public, attended the Joint Powers Board meeting today to express largely the same message: do not cut service to our communities. They showed up in such large numbers, in fact, that the intended meeting place could not hold them and a larger room had to be acquired.
Though many believe this is an issue solely impacting inland Peninsula residents, Coastsiders in attendance at today's meeting felt otherwise.
Pacifica City Councilmember, and former mayor, Sue Digre, was among them.
"It's a quality of life issue, but its also an economy issue," said Digre. "If we cannot get to each other's city, we cannot contribute to each other's economy."
When addressing the local economy in Pacifica City Council chambers, Digre has often referenced the need to bring Peninsula residents "over the hill" to Pacifica to spend their money.
While serving as mayor of Pacifica in 2010, Digre addressing the lack of public transit options in the city.
By Digre's definition, Pacifica's public transit issue is similar to what the Peninsula cities south of Millbrae may face, as SamTrans buses are the only other option to Caltrain's railway service.
A self-identified "coastal resident," April Vargas, also emphasized that Caltrain cuts will impact all of San Mateo County.
"I live on the coast, and we don't have access to Caltrain but we do realize its importance," said Vargas.
She served on the committee that oversaw the design features of the soon-to-be finished project.
Pacifica resident and 2010 Pacifica city council hopeful, Barbara Arietta, addressed the issue of traffic congestion that Caltrain station closures may produce.
By Arietta's calculations, "86,000 plus metric tons are being put on our highways if Caltrain riders are displaced.
"It's of utmost importance to keep Caltrain," said Arietta.
By declaring a "fiscal emergency" today, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board bypassed the necessity to develop an environmental impact report required by the California Environmental Quality Act if they decide to shut down stations.
The Board also retroactively declared a fiscal emergency in Fiscal Years 2009-10 and 2010-11.