In baseball parlance, it was the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs, with our team fighting for the electrification of Caltrain Commuter Rail Service, which looked to be in serious trouble.
But that’s when our sluggers came to the plate, and our entire region will benefit because of their collective efforts.
First, our senior Senator Dianne Feinstein. From start to finish, her tenacity in securing our $647 million in matching funds from the Federal Government never waned. Reasoned, reasonable but resolute, our well-respected Senator delivered with timely outreach to the President’s Secretary of Transportation, and bi-partisan outreach with her peers.
Second, our Governor Jerry Brown. Articulate and erudite, his political timing remains the best in the business. Weighing in with key leaders in D.C., both publicly and privately, he proves daily the skills developed over decades in honing the craft of compromise, consensus and common-ground.
Third, House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi. Tenacious, persistent and smart, Leader Pelosi knows how to negotiate in such a way that her principles never waver, while winning over others time and time again.
So for you and I living and working in the Silicon Valley and Bay Area, why does a 153-year old train, which started operations when Abraham Lincoln was President, even matter? Simple; the old diesel train of our past and present is not the train propelling us into the future. With electrification, we can add more train-cars per train, and more frequency to the system, allowing us to nearly double the ridership from 62,000 weekday passenger trips to more than 110,000. Replacing diesel with electric makes the system smoother, quieter, 97 percent cleaner and 15 percent faster.
Why did a commuter train in one section of the State become such a priority for our statewide leaders like Dianne Feinstein, Jerry Brown and Nancy Pelosi? Consider the corridor. That small strip of just 45 miles between downtown San Jose and downtown San Francisco is golden for our Golden State:
- 1.6 million jobs
- 53 percent of all California Patents filed
- 20 percent of all sales taxes collected in our state
- 14 percent of California’s Gross Domestic Product
To be certain, there were numerous other players in the starting line-up that will bring the electrification of Caltrain to the finish line. In the public sector, Senator Kamala Harris and our regional congressional delegation of Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier and Zoe Lofgren were spectacular. Mayors Liccardo and Lee, along with State, County and City officials, all engaged. Caltrain, VTA, MTC, SFMTA and SFCTA rallied riders and passengers to the cause. On the private side, our partners at the Bay Area Council, SAMCEDA and SPUR played pivotal roles. As for the Leadership Group, this has been a 21-year labor of love, always placing our wallets where our words are:
- Our 1996 Sales Tax Initiative raised nearly $50 million for Caltrain
- Our 2000 Initiative raised more than $100 million
- Our 2016 Initiative raised more than $1 billion to modernize the line
Politics has been called the ultimate contact sport. For Caltrain, and the tens of thousands of daily customers it will serve, we’ve proven again that politics is also the ultimate team sport. If we keep this team together, there’s no limiting the future successes we can champion for our region.