BART is the ingredient that will destroy transit in the Silicon Valley.
San Jose Mercury News printed an op-ed from Chuck Reed and Sam Liccardo, responding to Scott Herhold's column expressing opposition to the BART project.
The op-ed essentially represented SVLG/VTA's view of staying the course on the BART project, when, almost eight years after passing the 2000 Measure A, VTA has constructed nothing and the agency is looking forward to another tax increase.
This op-ed deserves a response.
"Several experts have studied less-costly transit alternatives to BART for this corridor, and, without exception, those studies prove the axiom that "you get what you pay for." If we want more than 100,000 weekday commuters to use transit along that corridor, BART remains the only means - by a wide margin - to that goal."
VTA never truly studied other transit alternatives in the corridor. VTA actually sabotaged MTC's studies that would've considered other transit alternatives in the corridor between Fremont and San Jose. Other agencies in the Central Valley are interested in upgrading ACE into a High Speed Rail like service to San Jose. VTA is actually against these proposals because they compete with BART. On the other hand, BART will not provide direct service from the growing Tri-Valley and Central Valley.
"In fact, the BART extension would carry more riders in this county by 2030 than all of our existing forms of transit today - bus, light rail and Caltrain combined."
In Los Angeles, the Red Line subway carries about 127,000 riders per day, and its bus system carries over a million riders per day. It is a no-brainer to figure out that the BART extension cannot have more riders than all the other services that VTA runs, and our urban environment is more similar to LA.
"Mr. Nakadegawa characterizes the 71 percent fare-box return projection as too ambitious, yet our experience tells us otherwise. Within months of completing the BART extension to San Francisco International Airport, the agency recovered 70 percent of its operating costs through fares."
71% farebox recovery is not realistic. When the BART-SFO extension was proposed, backers of that extension suggested the line would generate a fare surplus. Because of that miscalculation on the farebox recovery, SamTrans almost went bankrupt.
Backers today say 71%, which means more like 40% if it is built. As a transit rider, would you accept fare increases and service reductions to pay for the shortfall? As a taxpayer, would you accept more sales tax increases?
"With several residential high-rises under way now in San Jose's downtown core, and with high-density zoning approved near transit stops in Milpitas, San Jose and Santa Clara, the stations will have a clearly urban character. With or without BART, the future will bring even greater population density."
Although San Jose and Milpitas are building higher density, the density proposed will not generate enough riders, and the density needed to generate enough riders will not receive community support.
Downtown San Jose can only build so high (and therefore so dense) because of the airport conflict. Perhaps SVLG, Reed and Liccardo would have preferred that Ernie Renzel built the airport further away from downtown so that downtown could actually have a real skyline and not having to decide between economic benefits generated by real estate and the airport.
As much as Renzel shortchanged downtown San Jose, SVLG and others are shortchanging transit with BART. If San Jose were visionary, it wouldn't have picked BART to catch up with Oakland. Proposals like Caltrain Metro East are much more visionary, cost less to taxpayers, suitable to the suburban environment, and actually connect to new developments in Central Valley.
Roy Nakadegawa spent decades to improve transportation and he is not beholden to downtown and construction lobby. People like him oppose BART not because they oppose mass transit (which they don't), but because they want a type of mass transit that won't shortchange others.