BART, BART to San Jose, BART to Warm Springs, Dumbarton Rail, Regional Rail, South Bay

Lawsuit Challenges the Warm Springs Funding Swap

BART announced in February 2009 that it was moving forward on a $225 million contract to construct the subway portion of its planned extension to Warm Springs, which will tunnel under Central Park in Fremont. The 5.4-mile extension south of the existing Fremont terminal station will be the first stage of BART to Silicon Valley. Furthermore, VTA has announced that notwithstanding the passage of 2008 Measure B in Santa Clara County, BART to Silicon Valley will still be built in phases — and that the agency only intends to apply for federal New Starts funding to build BART as far as Berryessa Station. This proposed first phase would include only two of the six proposed stations and would completely postpone the expensive subway tunnel under Downtown San Jose. In the meantime, though, an additional wrinkle has developed. As we have mentioned before, in order to complete the funding portfolio for Warm Springs, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission diverted $91 million of Regional Measure 2 funds to Warm Springs, away from Dumbarton Rail, on the ground that the Warm Springs project was ready to go, but that Dumbarton was not yet ready. This decision has resulted in Dumbarton Rail being postponed indefinitely. Furthermore, the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority approved an over $220 million contribution to Warm Springs. These two contributions, combined, sum up to about one-third of the total project cost for Warm Springs. A lawsuit has now been filed against MTC and ACTIA, protesting the legality of both MTC’s swap of funds and ACTIA’s contribution to the Warm Springs extension. The challenge was filed by former BART Directors Sherman Lewis and Roy Nakadegawa, along with TRANSDEF. (TRANSDEF is a local transportation, environmental, and smart growth advocacy group that has quarreled with MTC over updates to the Regional Transportation Plan. TRANSDEF has also in the past year filed a lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority concerning the Altamont-Pacheco route alignment dispute, and again for recount of votes on 2008 Measure B, the sales tax for BART to Silicon Valley.)

The Warm Springs challenge is based on two primary arguments. One argument centers on ACTIA’s obligation under Alameda County’s 2000 Measure B. In particular, ACTIA’s Expenditure Plan states that construction funds for Warm Springs may not be used “until full funding for the rail connection to Santa Clara County is assured.” As we reported earlier this week, VTA will apply this year for $750 million of New Starts money from the Federal Transit Administration, in order to build the segment from Warm Springs to Berryessa. These federal dollars account for almost one-third of the cost of the Berryessa extension, and so the complaint filed by TRANSDEF argues that this chunk of money should not be deemed to be “assured” until the federal government actually commits to providing it. Firm financial commitment from the federal government would occur only later, upon execution of a Full Funding Grant Agreement.

The second argument concerns the level of flexibility that MTC has to shift bridge toll revenue between projects. Both Warm Springs and Dumbarton Rail are projects within the Regional Traffic Relief Plan, and thus both are eligible to receive RM2 funds. In addition, MTC is authorized to shift funding between RM2 projects if it determines that a certain project is unrealistic. However, if such funding is shifted, it must be shifted to another project “within the same corridor.” In this case, funding was shifted from Dumbarton, a legitimate transbay corridor, to Warm Springs, which does not lie along a bridge corridor. The two projects serve different purposes. Dumbarton Rail would add an additional east-west transbay rail link; along with a planned intermodal rail/bus hub in Union City, Dumbarton Rail would enhance connectivity for several regional rail services (BART, Caltrain, Amtrak, and ACE) that currently operate in a disjointed fashion in the South Bay. Warm Springs, on the other hand, is a single-station north-south stub extension that would exacerbate BART’s current difficulty with transbay capacity, but without the benefit of enhanced regional connectivity.

Dumbarton Rail

Dumbarton Rail alignment; courtesy of BayRail Alliance.

Warm Springs and Dumbarton are in the same general region within the Bay Area, but the relevant question to ask is whether they are “within the same corridor.” If they are, then MTC acted within its discretion by shifting $91 million from Dumbarton to Warm Springs. These two projects will clearly have different effects on transit effectiveness in the region. But a nuance here is that the objective of collecting RM2 bridge toll revenue in the first place was to implement projects that would relieve traffic congestion. It seems then that a reasonable interpretation of “same corridor” boils down to asking whether a certain transit project would have the effect of relieving congestion within the “same corridor” as another transit project. Seen in that light, the correct question to ask is not necessarily whether Warm Springs and Dumbarton are themselves positioned within the same corridor, but rather, whether they would both mitigate congestion in the same corridor. A strictly literal reading of the language “same corridor” seems to suggest that MTC acted in error by transferring the funds; but the latter interpretation weighs more favorably on the side of MTC.

The relief sought in this challenge is an injunction, to withdraw the funding allocations to the Warm Springs extension.

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Discussion

15 thoughts on “Lawsuit Challenges the Warm Springs Funding Swap

  1. GO TRANSDEF!!! The fund swap Dum to dumber was a slap in the face to potential riders. Anyone who rides BART knows the bottleneck is the Transbay Tube. Unless BART finds a way to increase throughput — like shorter headways and longer trains — there is NO point to increasing potential ridership by extending routes.

    Posted by david vartanoff | 4 March 2009, 10:41 am
  2. OK, new ground rule: I’m not voting for any transit funding if BART is on the same measure. I didn’t vote to fund Dumbarton Rail to have BART steal the money.

    Posted by Jamison Wieser | 7 March 2009, 8:15 pm
  3. For goodness do not use “BART to Silicon Valley.” This is a SVLG talking points and it is inaccurate. This extension isn’t going to where the jobs are that made the valley the Silicon Valley.

    Use “BART to Flea Market” instead.

    Posted by VTA Watch | 7 March 2009, 8:52 pm
  4. VTA Watch: What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as… err, well, maybe not sweet. Anyway, I believe I’ve spent more than adequate time on this blog debunking the extension and its purported value, for readers to have gained an perspective alternate to that propagated by SVLG/VTA, even without producing a sardonic replacement moniker. But perhaps I’ll be on the lookout for one, in any case. ;-)

    Posted by Eric | 7 March 2009, 9:17 pm
  5. You should read this:
    http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/10/27_lakoff.shtml

    It is all about framing the issue.

    Posted by VTA Watch | 7 March 2009, 9:26 pm
  6. I will concede then that you are a more cunning linguist than I.

    But did you happen to see my previous postings on this topic? Specifically this post and this one? I believe those two post titles do not a bad job of of framing the issue, particular for the LOTR fans among us.

    Posted by Eric | 7 March 2009, 9:31 pm
  7. Well, if it’s a matter of reframing it then even “BART to the Flee Market” would give them the upper hand because it acknowledges growth and expansion. Instead we should start framing it as wanting to “preserve traditional BART service”, it worked for Prop 8.

    Posted by Jamison Wieser | 8 March 2009, 10:03 am
  8. 5.4 miles for one station (or two, depending on funding). Smells like commuter rail to me, rather than a mass-transit system. I’d rather see the money spent on in-fill stations, like at San Antonio/Estuary, 30th/Mission, etc.

    Posted by Mark | 9 March 2009, 11:23 am
  9. BART in suburban territory basically is commuter rail with respect to its wide station placement — note that even if an infill station is built at Irvington, there would still be a couple miles between each of these Fremont stations. It does not resemble commuter rail with respect to its frequent service, though ridership numbers/patterns don’t necessarily suggest that such low headways throughout the day are warranted at far-flung stations.

    Posted by Eric | 9 March 2009, 11:27 am
  10. now that the warm springs extension subway contact bid has come in at 40% below the estimated cost, or $113M under the estimate, perhaps the transbay blog can issue an update on your anti-WS BART stance?

    during a downturn is precisely the best time for government construction to take place, by both stimulating the local economy and also have lower construction price. It’s looking more and more that the Warm Springs extension is really a godsend.

    The savings on the subway construction alone will offset the $91 million borrowed from the Dumbarton project.

    Posted by Jack | 4 May 2009, 6:08 pm
  11. Jack: I don’t see a good reason to revise my stance on this project, largely because WSX makes little sense in a vacuum; its main purpose is to be a first phase of BART to SJ. So one cannot look only at WSX and its construction costs, without considering the larger context of BART to SJ. But BART to SJ opens a can of worms. High cost is one important factor, but there are numerous other planning flaws.

    There’s no doubt that the general Fremont-SJ area served by the extension needs superior rail service, but BART may be the wrong technology for the job. The fact that the Central Park subway bid is lower than expected might help rescue Dumbarton Rail, but it doesn’t explain away the other issues.

    Posted by Eric | 4 May 2009, 6:27 pm
  12. Eric,

    this blog’s stance is too oakland and san fran -centric. I looked through some of the proposed transit improvement, and it seems to be this: let’s build a bunch of rail in San Fran and oakland. we’ll give people in silicon valley buses and VTA.

    Posted by Jack | 5 May 2009, 4:00 pm
  13. Jack,

    I’m not sure how much of the blog you’ve read, but if you’ve thoroughly read the previous posts on this topic, you would realize the exact opposite is true. I very much support a robust rail link between Fremont and San Jose. I believe the South Bay needs better transit than it has. This blog is not only about rail in San Francisco. I’ve also written pointing out flaws in the Central Subway. What I am interested in are well-planned projects. When projects are flawed, I will call them out on that, whether they are in San Jose or San Francisco. BART expansion in San Francisco and Oakland will eventually be necessary because of the transbay capacity issue, which is inherent to the structure of the BART system. That doesn’t mean I don’t want better transit in San Jose, and it doesn’t mean that San Jose isn’t worthy of investment. It means we need to address a concern inherent to BART, and separate from the San Jose extension.

    I don’t believe BART is the right choice of technology for the San Jose alignment. EMU standard gauge service can provide service comparable to or better than BART, at lower cost — which means it would be more feasible for VTA to construct, unlike the current BART alignment. A standard gauge route would also be integrated with Caltrain and HSR, in a way that BART never can. It would also get built way faster than BART, which VTA continues to postpone because it cannot afford to build it. South Bay politicians are flocking to the BART brand, without being familiar with (or simply not caring about) the very serious drawbacks of BART, which have afflicted the counties in the BART district.

    In a previous post, I stated that I supported transit expansion in the South Bay. Depending on the corridor in question, that should involve heavy rail, light rail, or bus rapid transit. I believe this will result in a much more transit-friendly South Bay than a single BART line, with infrequent stations, ever could. Rather than build one expensive BART line, I would instead blanket the South Bay with better transit lines, so that more people would have access to better transit. Picture dozens of stations, instead of just six BART stations. This can be done, if VTA would admit that there other projects worth funding besides BART. But VTA has fixated on BART, to the detriment of the rest of Santa Clara County that is distant from the BART alignment.

    I would suggest you carefully read this blog’s other posts on this topic (there are several) before jumping to conclusions. This post is one place to start. One thing is consistent: I am always in favor of better transit. But that does not always equate to BART. I would encourage you to read the other posts on this blog, and to consider adopting a more nuanced position.

    Posted by Eric | 5 May 2009, 4:14 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Streetsblog » Today’s Headlines - 4 March 2009

  2. Pingback: Preliminary Injunction Against Warm Springs Denied « Transbay Blog - 20 March 2009

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