Friday, February 02, 2007

More money to consultants at the expense of transit operations

There's nothing except the passage of a new tax that would make Carl Guardino and Scott Knies more happy: $364 million for the BART extension blackhole from the California Transportation Commission. VTA intends to use the funds to continue studies and designs for the BART project.
That money was a part of the Traffic Congestion Relief Plan (TCRP) proposed by then-governor Gray Davis in 2000, in which he promised $750 million to VTA for the BART extension.

In the following years, most of the TCRP funding was frozen because of the state funding crisis. Some projects like the Caltrain Baby Bullet, which was ready for construction, received full funding. This year, after voters approved Prop 1A and 1B, the CTC began to allocate TCRP funding to other projects.

Guardino and Knies would like you to believe it is all good news, while ignoring the obvious flaws of the BART extension, and the need for additional sales taxes to begin construction.

However, transit riders is likely to pay for this. In order balance the state budget and provide debt service for Prop 1B passed last November, Schwarzenegger has proposed to reduce Public Transit Account (PTA) by $1.1 billion this year, and has also threatened to eliminate the gas tax revenue spillover to the PTA in future years. The PTA funding is a revenue source where transit agencies can spend on transit operations. The spillover funding is particularly important as it can be used to soften the impact on transit operating budget in light of rising fuel prices.

Perhaps Schwarzenegger does not intend to cut transit operating funds for BART. Perhaps Guardino and Knies do not intend to receive BART funding at the expense of transit operation, but the reality is that the state is trying to cut transit operating funds while allocating money for more studies on a project that VTA cannot afford to build and operate.

With all of the $364 million will go to consultants, and nothing for construction or transit operation, how much of that $364 million do you think VTA would spend on consultants to administer bids for sheet cakes served at BART extension public meetings?

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