Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mr. Burns to become VTA's general manager

It is still not entirely clear at these point why VTA would chose him over other candidates. If they think that hiring Michael Burns as a new general manager would make their worthless BART project to look more worthy, they are wrong. No one can turn chicken shit into chicken salad.

It apprears that Michael Burns' strength is on transit operation. He was hired as the head of San Francisco Muni after the infamous Muni Metro Meltdown in 1998. Since then, the performance of the system has improved. He has advocated for plans to make the system more efficient, and a vision that is similar to what Rescue Muni advocates.

On the other hand, during his tenure in Muni, the only major capital project that went into operation was the F-line streetcar extension to Fisherman's Wharf in 2000, with planning and construction began many years before him. The only expansion project that was developed partly under his watch is the Third Street Light Rail, which is currently under construction. Also, Burns has not managed any highway projects in San Francisco. With Pete Cipolla at VTA, three light rail projects went into construction and two of them were opened, with the last one scheduled to open two months from now.

However, given Burns' strength in operation, perhaps he could take actions to improve the system with what VTA already has. Trying to do that at VTA would certainly be easier than trying to do anything in San Francisco, where the political crap is many times more worse than in Santa Clara County. Up in the city, every little thing could trigger a power trip with the politicians. Also, incompetence, fraud, and waste not only are tolerated, but are considered to be justified.

On the other hand, no matter how competent the general manager is, the success and failure of the agency also depends on the board of directors. Sadly, the board is very political and its policies is largely driven by non-transportation agendas and conflicting interests. With VTA's agenda wrong all these years, would Burns try to correct the situation? Or would he just bendover and go against professional sense? Could he become another Pete Cipolla?

5 comments:

Penguiniator said...

It seems to me that Burns will probably go along with whatever Gonzales wants. Cipola and Gonzales had a major falling out over the BART extension. I doubt Burns would have been hired if it was thought he would be anything but supportive of Gonzales' bull-dogged determination to build the BART extension at any cost.

accountablevta said...

The problem with Cipolla is that he pissed off basically everybody else before he pissed off Gonzales. So when Gonzales no longer likes him, he had no other supporters to back him.

I don't know which direction Burns will go, but I don't think his strength is in building projects. What would be interesting to see is how many, and who, he pissed off during his term at VTA.

Penguiniator said...

The Mercury commented that he had a reputation for being tough on labor. He also made some public statements in support of bring BART to San Jose, which led me to conclude he will probably go along with Gonzales.

They won't be able to get the public to support another sales tax hike. And that will force their hand. They will have to decide if they are going to continue as a bus and rail service agency, or simply as a light rail agency/BART subcontractor.

I think they will choose the latter, as they have always maintained steadfast support for BART as their number one priority. I believe they will do whatever it takes regardless of the cost, including laying off most of their work force and subcontracting the bus service so they can funnel more money into BART.

And that's where Burns' experience in dealing with labor comes in. He will have the unenviable job of showing VTA's drivers the door.

Maybe I seem a bit pessimistic, but I've been following these issues for some time, and see little reason for optimism.

Penguiniator said...
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