San Jose Mercury columnist Scott Herhold highlighted why the BART extension is a bad idea.
Herhold featured an "exchange" between former BART director Roy Nakadegawa, who has always opposed to the BART extension, and VTA General Manager Michael Burns.
There are some assertions from Burns that require a response from VTA Watch:
"As you know, the BART extension is a significant part of the Measure A project package that was approved by 70 percent of voters in 2000."
Although VTA has always suggested that BART is popular due to fact that the 2000 Measurea A was passed by over 70%, Burns should know that winning sales taxes doesn't need BART extensions. When he was the head of Muni in 2003, the transportation sales tax in San Francisco (Prop K) was passed by nearly 75% without promise of any new BART extension.
"Specifically, Mr. Nakadegawa's statement that the BART project is 'tremendously expensive, better suited to dense urban areas than suburban transit,' ignores the fact that BART currently serves Livermore, Pleasanton and San Mateo County well."
BART provided a service that was not, and cannot be, well utilized in those areas. It takes real money when operating nearly empty trains late at night in the suburbs. The BART SFO extension has drained so much resources out of SamTrans and its bus service never recovered to like it had before in the mid 90's before the agency committed to build BART. The Caltrain connection to the San Francisco Airport was even worse today than before.
Big city subways have standing loads during much of the day in most parts of the line. VTA will not get this level of ridership on the BART extension.
"Increasing the capacity for local streets and highways to absorb the projected growth in traffic would also be extremely costly, and the feasibility of this would have to be factored into any alternative public transit proposal."
The "congestion management" (highway planning) side of VTA has proposed a number of new carpool lanes and rebuilt interchanges along I-880 and I-680, as well as a new connector between I-880 and I-680. VTA already has funding sources dedicated to these projects.
"Nakadegawa's point that it could easily end up costing $9 billion to $10 billion has no basis in fact and ignores VTA's history of delivering 25 Measure B projects, three light rail lines, and numerous highway projects within budget and on schedule."
The BART project can cost $7-9 billion because VTA has always refused to account for the bonding cost like other non-VTA transit projects. When asked about it, the EIR states that it is a part of the "Measure A program". What a nice way to make BART look cheaper by relabeling the bonding cost into another category.
Of course, the "Measure A program" is broke. It needs at least a new quarter cent sales tax to work. The "Measure A program" includes other projects like light rail extension and Caltrain improvements. VTA could very much kill these projects to fund BART, and without making BART appearing to cost $7-9 billion.
"In 2004, the adopted project EIR projected the fare box recovery ratio was 71.2 percent and a new rider cost of $32.83, based on projected ridership of 80,000 to 100,000 trips per day, significantly less than the $100 per rider cost that Nakadegawa cites."
71% farebox recovery is too optimistic and appears fraudulent. About half of the BART's ridership is transbay, where people have to pay a toll to drive across the bay. People can drive and will continue to drive free between Fremont and San Jose. Is Mr. Burns suggesting that we should place toll booths on I-680 and I-880 to increase BART ridership?