Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Let's not forget the other Grand Jury report

Recently, Santa Clara County Grand Jury issued a report questioning Santa Clara County's participation in the Dumbarton Rail project. At the same time, MTC proposes to rediret $91 millions of Regional Measure 2 bridge tolls funds into BART extension to Warm Springs. That money would replace the $145 million operating surplus from the SFO extension, which will never be fulfilled given flawed ridership projections.


As we examine Dumbarton Rail, what we must not forget is the 2004 Grand Jury report questioning BART to San Jose. Four years later, VTA is still dysfunctional and continues to make decisions based on politics.

What we also must not forget is that Dumbarton Rail was included in the 2000 Measure A just like the BART extension. VTA added Dumbarton Rail to the measure to make the tax appear more "balanced" across regions and to get support from north county cities like Palo Alto, which were suffering from traffic congestion coming off the Dumbarton bridge and were unwilling to build new roads through wetlands and neighborhoods.

Dumbarton Rail is currently under study and is facing some challenges, not too much different than BART. Unlike BART however, it doesn't have a group of dedicated delusionals who are willing to pay for it by destroying the transit system. Dumbarton Rail simply isn't expensive enough to bankrupt any transit agency.

By any measure, focusing on Dumbarton Rail is nothing but a distraction to one of the most harmful transit projects in the Bay Area, the BART extension. It also exhibits a double standard, in which it is okay for VTA to continue spending money on BART despite the failure of the 2006 Measure A, and not okay for a project that is also supported and funded by voters in San Mateo County, Alameda County as well as the rest of the Bay Area through Regional Measure 2.

As to the proposed fund diversion, MTC should be making its decision based on the voter disapproval of the 2006 Measure A. If MTC isn't sure, MTC can wait until after the November election.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

So you're saying neither project should go ahead?

accountablevta said...

BART shouldn't go ahead because it is bad. The Dumbarton Rail project should at least be allowed to finished the Environmental studies and then make a decision by that time. High speed rail bond is also on the November ballot, and that decision could have some impacts on Dumbarton Rail.

Anything happening on the high speed rail side would have nothing to do with BART since they're incompatible.

BARTRider said...

I understand you have a preference of commuter rail over bart for a san jose extension, but I don't understand your objection to the warm springs bart project. Grand juries concluded the VTA shouldn't fund either the dumbarton rail project or the san jose bart extension. That's for the santa clara side of an extension, and SCC can chose whichever technology they want from bart, commuter rail, or light rail. No matter which technology is used for the SCC side of a san jose extension, the warm springs extension is necessary to connect with BART. The VTA already sold the right of way in fremont to BART so it will be bart until at least the warm springs station. I'm assuming you support some sort of rail connection from san jose to fremont, so as I said, I don't understand your objection to a connection to BART at warm springs.

Winston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Winston said...

The Warm Springs BART extension is only necessary if you want to extend BART to Santa Clara county. There are plenty of options for running better rail service between Fremont and San Jose. They include:

1) Double track the line currently used by the Capitol Corridor and ACE and connect with BART at Union City. This option is probably the quickest and easiest to implement and would have the quickest travel times to Santa Clara and Dridon Station, but you would have an additional short hop on light rail to get downtown. It wouldn't serve Milpitas, but for most riders a connection in Santa Clara would be better anyway.

2) Use the abandoned UP ROW that BART is planning to use for conventional commuter rail to Milpitas then follow Montague and Trimble road over either Coleman or to the existing line that the ACE and Capitol trains use. This is a deeply stupid and expensive routing, but still cheaper than BART to San Jose. It is the option that the Bay Rail alliance supports.

3) Build conventional rail on the ROW planned for BART to San Jose. You could get all the advantages of BART to San Jose for about half the price.

4) Extend VTA light rail to the Fremont BART station. This would be the cheapest option, but would also offer the lowest performance (yes, there are issues because of the county line, but those exist with any option and aren't that hard to overcome).

accountablevta said...

The fact is that BART to Warm Springs cannot happen unless there's a rail connection to Santa Clara County at Warm Springs. That's the condition voters approved in Alameda County back in 2000 on its sales tax. In other words, BART to Warm Springs can't happen until BART to San Jose happens.

Diverting funds to BART to Warm Springs translates to a tacit endorsement of BART to San Jose. The grand jury at that time know how wastful that project was. Should MTC accept one grand jury report but not another? Should MTC ignore the 2006 vote?

bartrider said...

Winston,

"The Warm Springs BART extension is only necessary if you want to extend BART to Santa Clara county."

Why would you have to extend BART all the way to San Jose from warm springs? You could just as easily connect light rail or commuter rail to BART at warm springs. The warm springs project is dependent upon a connection to San Jose, not necessarily a BART connection. Light rail could run from Montague up to warm springs if SCC doesn't want to pay for BART.

BARTRider said...

accountablevta,

"Should MTC accept one grand jury report but not another? Should MTC ignore the 2006 vote?"

As you said, "Warm Springs cannot happen unless there's a rail connection to Santa Clara County at Warm Springs." The MTC is not ignoring the BART san jose extension grand jury, but it does expect the VTA will extend some sort of rail connection up to warm springs eventually. As a caltrain supporter don't you support a caltrain extension up to warm springs? BART supporters expect a BART connection up to warm springs. Light rail supporters expect a light rail connection up to warm springs. SCC can do whatever they want south of warm springs, but fremont pays into BART, owns the right of way now, and the public prefers BART in fremont.

Winston said...

Bartrider,

Just about any technology is cheaper than BART. If the connection on the Santa Clara side is going to be anything other than BART then it would make a lot more sense to extend that north to Fremont or Union city then it would to extend BART southward. Of course, you could extend BART to the Santa Clara county line but it will be more expensive and no better performing than just about any alternative.

MikeOnBike said...

bartrider said: "the public prefers BART in Fremont"

Compared to what? When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If the public in Fremont prefers BART, it's because it's all they know.

The number of Fremont residents riding BART regularly is only about 2 percent.
http://transitorienteddevelopment.dot.ca.gov/station/stateViewStationData.jsp?stationId=3
(Assuming most of the daily boardings are outbound in the morning.)

$747M (3/4 of a billion dollars) for a few thousand round trips is a LOT of money.
http://transitorienteddevelopment.dot.ca.gov/station/stateViewStationData.jsp?stationId=3

Notice no federal funds are being sought (anymore). It's because BART to Warm Springs fails to meet federal cost-effectiveness standards.

$222M is contingent on a rail connection to Santa Clara County.

$145M is the profits (HA!) from the SFO extension.

Of all the possible transit improvements in the city of Fremont, somehow this very expensive, low ridership, underfunded project is Fremont's ONLY priority.

Winston said...

3/4 of a billion IS a lot of money. In fact, it's in the same ballpark as the cost of upgrading the tracks currently used by ACE and the Capitol Corridor to support 100 MPH trains running every 15 minutes between Union City and San Jose.

BARTRider said...

mikeonbike said: "If the public in Fremont prefers BART, it's because it's all they know."

ACE and Capitol Corridor both stop at Fremont-Centerville (37260 Fremont Boulevard). I'm not sure how many people use this station to go to Santa Clara or San Jose, but I'm assuming not very many since I don't know anyone at work that does.

winston said: "In fact, it's in the same ballpark as the cost of upgrading the tracks currently used by ACE and the Capitol Corridor to support 100 MPH trains running every 15 minutes between Union City and San Jose."

The problem is that UP owns that track and would never sell it, similar to the problem facing HSR and the portion of the dumbarton project between the bridge and union city.

VTA already bought a right of way from UP. They sold the alameda county portion of the right of way to BART to build the warm springs project. As accountablevta said, the warm springs project funding is dependent upon a rail link to SCC. So you guys should either be happy with the current ACE/Capitol Corridor or press SCC to build a rail link to the alameda county border. Since you guys don't like BART, I suggest you support light rail to Milpitas or commuter rail to diridon. If you're worried about cost push for light rail because as winston pointed out it's the cheapest.

accountablevta said...

At present, the extension could only be built if BART to San Jose is fully funded, which is something the voters did not approve. MTC should respect the voters' decisions.

BART to Warm Springs cannot be built because of an assumption that it could connect with light rail or Caltrain there, which are not on the table, especially that light rail or Caltrain could connect with BART in Fremont or Union City.

The other distubring aspect is that diverting the funds means that Fremont gets to spend all the money. That project is totally within the City of Fremont.