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.