Saturday, November 22, 2008

$230 million cut in transit funding

While the downtown delusionals got to celebrate for winning a few months of lies, the state is already planning cuts to transit funding. The state is projecting a $11.2 billion budget shortfall for the remainder of this fiscal year. In order to close the deficit, the state is planning tax increases as well as cuts to various programs.

"If the cuts go through, there's no word on what the impact might be on service and fares. But with BART facing a cut of $14 million and Muni $21.5 million, the choices are bleak. There's always the bureaucratic standby of more administrative belt-tightening, but don't be surprised to see fare increases, service cuts and fewer workers to clean buses, trains and stations."

VTA is expected a cut of $9.5 million, which translates into the operating cost of about 30 buses for a whole year.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Campaigning brings out the worst in politics

It is all too common. From the presidential politics and local politics, campaigning generally brings out the worst. In a desperate move trying to win, a lot of campaigns present false accusations, make unfulfillable promises, and hide crucial information.

The Measure B campaign brought the worst in the South Bay politics. From the beginning to the end, the yes campaign made false promises. Crucial information about the cost of the project was hidden by the transit agency and the San Jose Mercury News. VTA did all they could trying to separate itself from the tax, even though VTA would collect the money and build the project. There was virtually no room for substantive debates.

As we already experienced in 2006, regardless of the election outcome, things generally tend to stay the same. The downtown delusionals will continue to advocate to build the project at the expense of everything else. Bus and light rail service will still be at risk. The economic reality at VTA will remain the same.

Even though most voters can't connect the dots between declining VTA service and Measure B, it does not mean that they don't care about the bus service and other VTA priorities. Measure B never directly asked them to de-prioritize these important needs. However, the downtown delusionals have their own interpretation. Expect them to demand VTA to defund these needs.

VTA could hide crucial information during the election, but VTA will not be able to hide it forever. Very soon, VTA will have to face reality. By that time, the dots will be much more easier to connect.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Is BART the only thing that voters could ever pass?

In an unprecedented turnout, the yes vote for B barely crept pass 2/3 threshold with the provisional votes. It is unusual because Santa Clara County had a voter turnout of about 70% in 2000 and 2004, but increased by over 15% in just 4 years.

It is a temporary win for the downtown delusionals. As expected, they will say that voters only want BART but not other forms of mass transit, and that somehow VTA can pay for the whole project.

Is that really the case?

  • In Los Angeles, voters approved a 1/2 cent sales tax increase for transit by 67.31%.
  • In the North Bay, voters approved a 1/4 cent sales tax increase for rail by 69.5%.
  • In the East Bay, voters approved a parcel tax for AC Transit operation by 71.9%.
Voters should have easily passed a tax for transit if they actually have confidence in VTA. VTA now only had to rely on voters who don't know about VTA or the tax 8 years ago.

Regardless what the vote margin is, VTA is bound to break its "promise." VTA has not been telling voters how it could build the BART line, or even how much it would cost. In any case, the financial situation will only get tighter with declining state funding and sales tax revenue.

Given the results, it is unlikely for voters to approve a third tax for the same project in the next 8 years, if not longer. VTA will have no choice but to build a shorter line (which was never put on the table before by VTA until right after the election) with the funding it already has. At the end, it may not be a win for the downtown delusionals who want nothing but a subway.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More VTA threats

While the final vote count for Measure B has yet to be certified, we already know plenty whether Measure B fails or passes.

  1. VTA is still a few billion dollars short of what is necessary to build the BART project to downtown San Jose.
  2. The state is expected to make further funding cuts to transit because of the its budget crisis.
  3. VTA is already anticipating shortfalls in sales tax revenue. Automobile sales, one of the largest contributors in sales tax revenue, is expected to fall by double digits from a year ago.
  4. VTA, like many other transit agencies around the country, took advantage of a tax loophole (leaseback transactions of assets) in the past that allowed them to generate additional revenues. Because of the fall of AIG, which is the insurer of most of these transactions, transit agencies are facing the possibility of paying millions in penalties.

Even if Measure B passes, at best it would buy VTA a few more years of lies. In the meantime, existing VTA service would come under an even greater threat.

It is unfortunate that in this valley we have so called "leaders" who are obsessed with the BART brand name and the downtown subway. While their obsession with a type of trains is one thing, their willingness to distort reality and sacrifice existing service is another. If we were, like other regions, put the brand name obsession aside, we would've achieved consensus and deliver quality and cost-effective transit.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A nail biter

The Measure B vote is still too close to call (although still hasn't passed). Meanwhile, unfortunately both Measures C and D passed.

Compared to the Measure A hospital bond and other transportation taxes throughout the Bay Area, Measure B receives the least vote even though SVLG spent more than a million dollars to promote it. It is a testament that enough people know about VTA's mess and that they don't approve of it.

Meanwhile, Prop 1A high speed rail bond passed with minimal promotions.