Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss will join the Caltrain board of directors in January, giving Palo Alto and other cities in the northern part of the county their first representative on the nine-member board.
Kniss, a former Palo Alto mayor, was appointed by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority on Thursday to replace fellow Supervisor Don Gage, who is termed out in December. The authority's board of directors unanimously voted for Kniss to be Gage's successor on the Caltrain board, VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress said.
Kniss is joining the Caltrain board at a time when rail transportation has emerged as one of the hottest issues in Palo Alto. Caltrain is projected to have a budget deficit of up to $30 million in fiscal year 2012 and a coalition of citizens, including former Palo Alto Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto, have launched an effort to help make Caltrain financially sustainable.
Caltrain is also partnering with the California High-Speed Rail Authority on the Peninsula segment of the proposed San Francisco-to-Los Angeles rail line. The project has generated significant opposition in Palo Alto, where the City Council has passed a resolution of "no confidence" in the high-speed rail project.
The Palo Alto council, while critical of high-speed rail, has consistently lauded Caltrain as a vital commuter service. The city has recently launched a new Rail Corridor Study to refine the city's vision for the rail corridor and to consider possible urban-design opportunities near the tracks.
The VTA controls three seats on the Caltrain board, which is officially called the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board. The other six seats are split between San Francisco and the San Mateo County Transit District.
Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said Kniss is scheduled to be sworn in to the Caltrain board in January.