Saturday, July 09, 2005

BART's averted strike and the VTA tax

The morning after the the strike was averted, someone told me that, if the strike had happened, it would hurt the VTA tax in 2006 as voters will remember the strike and would question why they should pay more taxes to support a system that might not operate.

While I agree in part, I think if the strike happened there might be unintended consequences that no one can calculate.

Nonetheless the public showdown outside the bargaining table between the labor and management is showing a troubling aspect for Santa Clara county. During the showdown, the labor did not receive much sympathy and was often criticized as being a group of highest paid employees wanting to get more. Although the tentative agreement has averted the strike and its impact, it still leaves the impression and the possibility that riders would have to pick up the tabs because of these generous contracts. Before the tentative agreement with labor, BART has already approved a fare increase next year, making the most expensive transit system to ride even more expensive.

As for VTA, what choices do they have? Basically as an agency that contracts its service to another agency, VTA would not be at the bargaining table to negotiate with BART unions. It leaves the possibility that the BART board and management in Oakland might agree on a contract that would shift more burden to VTA than what VTA had planned. Since only BART can run a BART line, VTA cannot control the operating costs by contracting the operation through competitive bidding or using its own employees. In constrast, Caltrain's operation is competitively contracted, in addition to VTA having representation on the Caltrain board.

A new sales tax basically means a blank check for the BART management and unions in Oakland, at the expense of VTA riders, employees, and taxpayers.

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