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Transit boss offers sacrifice
February 10, 2011, 02:23 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

Mike Scanlon, chief executive officer at the San Mateo County Transit District.

San Mateo County’s transit boss offered to sacrifice part of his $400,000 compensation package yesterday as the three agencies he heads struggle financially.

Mike Scanlon, chief executive officer at the San Mateo County Transit District, oversees Caltrain and the county’s transportation authority as well as SamTrans. Caltrain faces a $30 million deficit this year and SamTrans has been running a $15 million to $20 million deficit for years.

"I’m sorry for the distraction my compensation package has caused the agencies,” Scanlon said to the SamTrans Board of Directors. "I am prepared to make some sacrifice.”

Caltrain lacks a dedicated funding source and relies on contributions from SamTrans, Santa Clara County’s Valley Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to survive. The three agencies form the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which owns and operates the Caltrain tracks.

This year, SamTrans is reducing its contribution to Caltrain by about $10 million due to its own financial troubles, primarily due to significant reductions in state funding, although its ridership is currently also in decline. Both VTA and MUNI will follow suit, pushing Caltrain’s deficit to the $30 million mark.

Under the current budget scenario for Caltrain, cuts could be as severe as a reduction in service to 48 trains that would operate only during the weekday commute. All other service would be eliminated including weekday trains outside the commute peak, weekend service and service to Gilroy. The schedule also would require the suspension of service at up to seven stations, according to Caltrain.

Although Caltrain’s ridership has steadily climbed the past six months, SamTrans suffered more than an 8 percent loss in riders so far this fiscal year.

"The financial challenges are bigger than me,” Scanlon said. "If the time has come for me to go .... maybe someone else can do it better.”

But Karyl Matsumoto, who now chairs the SamTrans board of directors, said Scanlon’s compensation was the sole responsibility of the board.

"We approve the salaries,” Matsumoto said.

Scanlon’s total compensation from the three agencies is $407,643 when factoring in retirement benefits and a housing allowance.

"It makes me look like an opportunist,” Scanlon said about the housing allowance.

But the SamTrans board, one by one, heaped praise on Scanlon yesterday and defended his salary.

"You are not just a CEO. You are a leader,” said Burlingame Vice Mayor Jerry Deal, who sits on the SamTrans board.

San Carlos Mayor Omar Ahmad agreed.

"We will not suffer a lesser CEO,” Ahmad said. "I’m damn glad you are here.”

SamTrans hired Scanlon in 1999.

"You were hired because you were the best person for the job,” said Shirley Harris, who is the public representative on the SamTrans board.

Scanlon’s compensation package was not scheduled to be discussed at yesterday’s meeting since it was not on the meeting agenda.

He brought up his own salary as he mentioned negotiations will take place later this year with some of the transit district’s labor groups.

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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