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

The March to Berryessa

Although the underlying objective of BART to Silicon Valley may have been to furnish Diridon and Downtown San Jose with new gleaming subway stations, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is currently setting its sight only as far as Berryessa Station in East San Jose: about two miles short of where the tracks are planned to dive into a subway under Santa Clara Street. The Berryessa station area is currently home to the San Jose Flea Market; it is hemmed in by nearby low-density, auto-oriented residential development, and it features no major transit connection point. It is, to say the least, an unlikely location for the terminus of a major rapid transit line. But the terminus it may indeed be, thanks to the fact that VTA is now faced with flat sales tax revenue through the year 2036 and cannot afford to build any more of the line. The extension to Berryessa is now expected to be complete by the year 2018, with the remainder of the extension following by 2025 at the earliest. The ballot text to 2008 Measure B opted against clearly explicating for voters the possibility (or was it near certainty?) that the project would be built in phases, rather than in one fell swoop from Milpitas, through San Jose to Santa Clara. Indeed, official reactions from Reed, Guardino, et al, immediately following the November 2008 election cried grudgingly for a phased project only before it became apparent that Measure B had actually passed — immediately followed by heaved sighs of relief once the vote tallies barely edged out past the required 2/3 mark. Nonetheless, the segment of the BART extension that VTA plans to submit this year for federal funding includes only two of the six planned stations: (i) the station at Montague and Capitol in Milpitas, where BART would connect with VTA light rail, and (ii) the station at Berryessa, a rendering of which is pictured below.

Rendering of Berryessa BART station. Courtesy of VTA.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has already removed $91 million of Regional Measure 2 money that was slated for Dumbarton Rail (thus pulling the plug on that project at least for a couple decades) and reallocated it to fill the funding gap in the Warm Springs BART extension. The cost of the stub line to Berryessa is $2.1 billion; combined with the Warm Springs extension, some $3 billion will be spent to extend BART from its current Fremont terminal even further into the depths of Bay Area suburbia. VTA plans to use the rest of this year to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement while applying for section 5309 New Starts funding from the Federal Transit Administration. It anticipates an FTA Record of Decision in January 2010, and subsequent financial commitment from the federal government (in the form of an executed Full Funding Grant Agreement) is required to trigger the flow of 2008 Measure B sales tax money.

VTA marches forward with the truncated BART extension, but in light of current economic conditions, the budget is unsurprisingly grim — calling into question the agency’s sense of reality: even in these tough times it prioritizes a gold-plated rail extension, when it ought to focus on maintaining and improving the bus, light rail, and commuter rail service upon which the residents and workers of Santa Clara County currently rely. It is not yet clear to what extent this core service will be cut, or by how much fares will be increased, to set the budget right. Sales tax revenue for this fiscal year has been projected to decrease 6.76% from last year, followed by a 5% decrease in FY09-10, and a 3% decrease in FY10-11. VTA will lose over $6 million of State Transit Assistance funds for the latter half of this fiscal year, and as we have remarked before, STA funds are eliminated for subsequent years. VTA projects a $53.1 million shortfall in operating revenue by FY11-12, by which time a $50.1 million operating reserve will have vanished into thin air.



15 thoughts on “The March to Berryessa

  1. I thought BART wanted to stop going out into far-flung suburbia.

    Too bad they don’t realize that Caltrain East would provide this service much more effectively. And standard tracks mean other rail services could use them too, instead of only BART.

    Plus Caltrain is slated to look more and more like full metro service as it electrifies, etc.

    oh well. too bad I don’t get to make all the decisions.

    Posted by Ian Leighton | 1 March 2009, 9:25 pm
  2. Rename the station Guardino Park.

    Posted by david vartanoff | 2 March 2009, 10:40 am
  3. Some say we lied to you November.

    Well, It may look that way to some nay-sayers, but we didn’t, and if we did, it wasn’t iintentional and it’s all the dot-com implosion’s fault or something, and it it was intentional it dodn’t matter, and if it dd, well, try to sue us and just try get the $100 million in consultant pork we’ve already spent.

    So sorry!
    It will never happen again. No way.

    Posted by SVLG-VTA-MTC | 2 March 2009, 11:49 am
  4. “I thought BART wanted to stop going out into far-flung suburbia”

    I think there is a real conflict, or cognitive dissonance, at BART (or maybe not, they might know exactly what they are doing).

    On the one hand they realize their system has a peaking problem like no other and this is a direct result of building stations in auto dependent suburbs but on the other have you ever knows bureaucrats to go away from where the money is? I mean if things get really bad someday there will be a “crisis” at the SF stations and we will need to hastily build more capacity.

    Its a win win.

    the way BART is set up just screws this region and local transit riders.

    Posted by Zig | 3 March 2009, 12:56 pm
  5. I don’t see why Berryessa is any less deserving of a BART station than say Fremont, or Colma, or Pittsburg, or Dublin. Just build a big parking lot/parking structure, and commuters will come. Sure- BART going to San Jose is the ultimate goal, but if it takes several phases to get there, I’m fine with that too.

    Posted by Jesse Lee | 10 March 2009, 6:56 pm
  6. Jesse, I would argue that the question here isn’t entirely really whether Berryessa is more or less “deserving” of a station than other places. (Although, that does raise the point that the BART alignment is inadequate in terms of serving job locations.) But had BART been planned rationally (rather than politically) we wouldn’t have BART in Pittsburg or Dublin either. It’s a question of balancing priorities when choosing how to make the best use of limited funding. And the “build a big parking lot” bit raises still other issues. Millbrae has a big parking garage — too big. The availability of plentiful parking isn’t enough to generate ridership if the station itself is poorly sited.

    Posted by Eric | 10 March 2009, 9:21 pm
  7. WTF BART? What is with these expensive and complicated looking station designs? Since when does a BART station have to be “an engineering marvel”? I say, build a SIMPLE station (single island platform, two escalators, two stairs and one elevator with a simple umbrella canopy with as much POURED RE-ENFORCED CONCRETE as possible) and save the tax-payers $100 million. Look at the simplicity of the original stations for guidance. The canvas canopy at Milbrae? Beautiful, but so dirty now and it will have to be replaced… eventually! And Colma? What an abortion that was. Three track station for a THROUGH station? Don’t design these ‘temporary terminals’ for BE the terminal. We don’t need a yard at the end of each line. Fremont doesn’t. BECAUSE it was planned properly with HOW it would function BEFORE it was built.

    Sheesh BART. Why do you always re-invent the wheel?

    Posted by Connor | 11 March 2009, 8:01 pm
  8. Far be it from me to defend counterproductive BART extensions, but that said — there is something to be said for having a transit system that is beautiful and a point of civic pride. It is, after all, a permanent infrastructure investment that reflects on the city, and BART falls short of other systems in this respect. (Though arguably that’s more of a priority at well-traveled downtown stations than somewhere like Berryessa.) I think it may be a bit too soon for us depend on that rendering as necessarily being accurate.

    Posted by Eric | 11 March 2009, 8:10 pm
  9. I think that if BART had stuck to the unified design for stations (laid out by Donn Emmons whom also designed the award-winning elevated track structure) then these outlandish stations wouldn’t be an issue. But, they seem to have gotten lost along the way over the years. They recently threw the signage guide out the window and long before that, threw the station design out, too. Since it now costs SO much to bring BART anywhere, these little hamlets ‘think’ their station needs to be a point of civic pride. I think we need to come back down to earth and design functional stations and not formed stations.

    Posted by Connor | 12 March 2009, 7:57 pm


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