Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Why I Oppose BART to San Jose 

I've been commenting on BART since February of last year and have been opposed to it from the start. But, I have not really explained why.

BART is a nice system; don't get me wrong. Customers get a nice ride compared to other subway-type systems in the country.

There are problems with implementing fixed-rail transit in a relatively young and still developing region, though, especially when the development mentality is to tear down and rebuild every few years because buildings that are ten or 20 years old are "outdated". There is no sense of permanance to anything in the Bay Area, or California for that matter. People here are hypnoticized (to quote "School of Rock") by the "new and improved".

Business areas are demolished and replaced by malls, roads are moved, new housing is placed where open fields once spanned. Fixed-rail planners cannot predict where people will come from or go to in 20 years. Just look at the original light rail line for an example. When it was conceived, the north San Jose business park was where the growth in industry was, and the Santa Teresa area was where people wanted to live. So, naturally, planners installed light rail to cater to both.

By the time it was complete, industrial growth had shifted to Mountain View, among other areas, and Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Tracy, and Modesto were where housing starts were popping up. Traffic planners could not keep up, and the result was daily gridlock to and from the south county, the Altamont and beyond. Planners cannot design a fixed-rail system that spans hundreds of square miles of, as yet, undeveloped land and know now where traffic will flow when it is complete.

But my objections go beyond that. The amount of money that will be required to complete the BART project will likely be double the projections, as every BART project in the past has. That, of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing if the result is beneficial to the community. But VTA cannot convince anyone--not the federal government, the State of California, or the voters of Santa Clara County, let alone the entire VTA Board, that it is a good thing. Their ridership projections (the original, not the revised projections tailored to secure federal funding) do not justify it, and their sales tax revenues, which voters are unlikely to increase, cannot support it.

These objections are enough, but there are more, and they are personal. VTA will have to devote enormous financial resources, not only to build it, but to operate the BART extension, once it is completed. Operating the buses, light rail, and BART will not be possible, even with additional funding from sales tax increases. VTA will not have the option of backing out of BART, and light rail is their pride and joy, so they will sacrafice bus service. And that means drivers will lose their jobs to subcontracting.

The silence from the union about all of this is deafening. It stuns me beyond words. It makes me think they want it to turn out badly before they will claim agrieved status, as though what I outlined above were not enough of a reason. But if they wait for drivers to lose their jobs and lose their monthly dues income before speaking up, where will they get the resources to combat VTA? Right now they are in a position to prevent damage. Later they will only be able to mend wounds and console victims.

Which would you prefer--a union that responds proactively in advance of disaster, or one that waits until the damage is irrepairable and postures itself as an advocate for the unemployed?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Discontent Over BART--NOO--Ya Think? 

MercuryNews.com | 11/27/2005 | Discontent grows over plan to fund BART extensionThe Mercury acts as though this is new. I guess they can no longer pretend it isn't so and must now pretend it's a new development just so they don't look stupid.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Funding Perspective 

BART to SJ Gets Boost | Gilroy Dispatch
Gilroy - The $4.7-billion BART to San Jose project got a $6.5-million boost this week from the federal government.
This is a small amount of money compared to the funds needed to complete and operate the BART extension--one tenth of one percent of the figures quoted above. But BART's price tag has already proven to be a moving target, one that keeps rising higher.

However, politics is working its magic. Behind the scenes polititians have been rewriting the rules to make it easier to approve the BART project and VTA has revised its ridership figures to make it an easer sell to the federal government.

Anyone who can't see where this is headed has their head firmly planted up their ass. VTA can't sell this to the government on its merits, so they are manipulating the figures and changing the rules to suit their goals.

Burns has been busy lately writing letters to editors trying to convince the public that Transit Speak really does make sense after all in the hope that he can convince enough of them to vote yes to tax themselves--again--to pay for VTA's waste.

Without the tax in '06 VTA will have to revise its BART plans, which it should have done anyway after the economy tanked. But every slap in the face Reality delivers only steels VTA's resolve. Money may be in short supply at VTA, but stupidity is not.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

FUD Campaign Ramping Up 

The Dispatch:
Over the next month, VTA staff will continue to work in partnership with a cross-section of county elected officials, civic leaders and residents to finalize a comprehensive funding scenario that will fulfill the promises of the 2000 Measure A Program....
The Boss is campaigning hard. The problem with his remarks, though, is that it's too late to fulfill the promises of the 2000 Measure A program. The whole reason for having another tax initiative is that VTA failed to fulfill its promises in the first place.

So, rather than be straight with the public, he embarks on a Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt campaign. He says if we don't vote in an additional tax, that VTA won't keep its original promises, but makes it sound like a good thing by detailing all the wonderful things that will come about if it passes.

Excuse me, but isn't that what was said about the 2000 Measure A initiative before it was voted on? Didn't VTA make promises about transit improvements and dire predictions of the consequences for failing to support it?