BART, BART to San Jose, Caltrain, South Bay, VTA

From the Horse’s Mouth

Yes, Transbay Blog is technically still on a hiatus of sorts, but, at the risk of having to rename it the BART-to-San Jose Blog, I couldn’t resist sharing a gem from Michael Burns, General Manager of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority:

“Given that voters have endorsed BART not once, but twice,” VTA General Manager Michael Burns said, “from the staff’s perspective the priority is clear, and that priority is BART. […] It’s clear we can’t see the BART project getting ($750 million in federal) money if we’re spending our local money on other projects,” Burns said in an interview earlier this week. “That just doesn’t add up.”

Sacrificing countywide transportation improvements, and funneling all money and efforts into BART? You don’t say. The reference to “other projects” of course includes Caltrain electrification; building high-speed rail will require electrification in any case (along with grade separations and other upgrades to the Caltrain corridor), albeit over a longer timeline than if VTA had prioritized funds earlier. “Other projects” also includes improvements to the Santa Clara-Alum Rock corridor, which could use an upgrade as much as any corridor in the South Bay. At one point in the not-so-distant past, this corridor through Downtown San Jose and the largely transit-dependent neighborhoods of East San Jose was slated for a light rail line that was supposed to debut service this year, in 2008; but it was not built, then it was later downgraded to a rapid bus, and it has since been put on hold altogether. Also envisioned was bus rapid transit for Monterey Highway, a completed Vasona light rail extension, and a Capitol Expressway light rail extension that would circle around to meet the existing Guadalupe Line, via incremental extensions built to Eastridge and Nieman. Michael Burns emphasizes that in 2008, the voters spoke in favor of BART; but in 2000, the voters had already spoken more definitively in favor of a countywide transportation plan that included not just BART, but also a more complete light rail network, along with electrification and and expansion of Caltrain. (2000 Measure A, which assessed a larger 1/2-percent sales tax for transportation, earned 70.6% of the vote that year; in contrast, 2008 Measure B will establish a smaller 1/8-percent tax, and it squeaked by with 66.78% of the vote this year.) VTA’s prioritization of the BART extension above all else is long-standing, cemented in place years before Measure B; Measure B simply gave VTA the green light it has long been aching to speed through. Bringing the axe to the forsaken “other projects” should not be interpreted as VTA’s eagerness to respond to the will of the voters, as Burns might have us believe. It has been the case all along that VTA has not had the wherewithal to finance both BART and the “other projects,” thrown anew into sharp relief by the sales tax revenue shortfall. We will, of course, wait with bated breath for VTA’s updated cost estimates for the BART extension, to be released in February 2009.



8 thoughts on “From the Horse’s Mouth

  1. i’m with you all the way on this. keep up the good work, and i’m glad you came back from hiatus to comment on this. did you see SPUR’s recent transportation article ( which recommended BART to SJ as IMMEDIATE action? Ugh, I expected better of SPUR.

    Posted by ed | 12 December 2008, 12:19 pm
  2. You know, the Bart to San Jose project could really use a blog of its own.

    Also, I love your new header pictures! The lights bordering the buildings are my favorite part of going to San Francisco at this time of year. I wish they’d leave them up all year round.

    Posted by Becks | 12 December 2008, 1:02 pm
  3. Thanks, Becks, glad to hear you like the header. The Embarcadero Center lights are one of my favorite reminders of the holiday season, too.

    Posted by Eric | 12 December 2008, 6:49 pm
  4. I had a coworker once. I work in Hayward. He lived in Pleasanton. He said he wanted to move to SJ because it was closer to stuff than Pleasanton. Like closer to SF than Pleasanton is. I don’t know what planet he was referring to but we all know P-town is a lot closer to SF than SJ. My friends who live in South Bay regularly claim that SF is “closer” than East Bay points like Oakland and Berkeley. I think SJ residents (and voters) are in a delusional state where they think SF is really close, and not those 60 miles away. In their eyes, “faraway” places like Fremont, Union City and Walnut Creek have quick access to SF, and they should too. Perhaps we need to reiterate the use of the legend on the map to tell the distance?

    Posted by Jame | 14 December 2008, 9:45 pm
  5. does what it’s told.

    SOMEbody’s got to pay for the SPUR Urban Center on Market Street, and SOMEbody’s got to pay for the metastatic staff growth of that wonderful non-profit.

    If shillling full-time (and more!) for the Central Subway and BART to Santa Clara and HSR to Los Banos is that cost, well, so be it.

    Face it: transportation in Northern California is screwed for the next 50 years (BART to Millbrae was just a little warm-up exercise), and SPUR, like SFCTA, like VTA, like MTC, like Pelosi and Feinstein and Newsom and all the rest of them, have chosen to be on the profitable side. Cost effective and environmentally sustainable public policy is for loser pussies!

    Posted by SPUR | 17 December 2008, 1:01 am


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