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.


Anonymous said...

My biggest fear is that some of these so-called leaders have risen to the state level and have created themself a High Speed Rail Authority, which I fear will end up like BART-to-San-Jose: a fancy brand name, a never-dying project, and a drain on resources for existing (and quite successful) services. At best, it might end up being like BART to SFO: falling far short of ridership and revenue projections and becoming a fiscal albatross on the neck of an agency that can't afford to bear it.

295bus said...

I share anonymous's concerns.

As with BART-to-SJ, voters were presented with HSR and no alternatives.

I'd have been happy to see modest improvements to BA/LA train service (try competing with the speed of driving before trying to be faster than flying), for a moderate cost, but we were only given an all-or-nothing choice.

I did vote for 1A, though, mostly in hopes of seeing improvements to CalTrain out of it. Am I a sucker?

accountablevta said...

You're not a sucker. 1A and the High Speed Rail Authority are not perfect, but the passage of 1A does validate the legitimate vision for HSR in California.

The political process really doesn't give voters more choices. That's the sad part about the whole deal.

There are few opportunities for modest improvements between the Bay Area and LA. The freight corridors are congested and it is a challenge to build the right infrastructure to get these FRA compliant trains over the mountains. Other corridors present more opportunities (Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner, Coast Starlight) but these improvements complement the HSR vision.

The tough part now is to make sure that HSR vision is fulfilled efficiently and effectively and not get bog down under the Kopp/Diridon baggage.

arcady said...
And now, San Jose is talking about asking the federal government for a bailout to, among other things, fund the BART extension. I don't even know what to say to that.

accountablevta said...

With a Democratic president and congress, there's a chance that the tax and spend cycle would return. It is no surprise that these delusionals would ask for a bailout (money on top of what they wanted from the "New starts" program).

The issue is that everyone else will ask for the same thing. LA just have its sales tax increase passed and will certainly want money from the feds. High speed rail is also another element where federal support is needed to move the project forward.

It is not likely that the BART project would get funded without other projects throughout the country getting a lot of money also. This project is still the most controversial whereas others are more of a consensus.

arcady said...

One difference between LA and San Jose is that while the Subway to the Sea and BART extension cost roughly the same, the ridership for the former can conservatively be estimated to be something like 200,000, the BART would probably get something like a quarter of that. And I think that part of the reason behind Measure R in LA is that the MTA realized the relatively dim prospects of getting capital funding from the feds and the state, and instead tried to raise it locally, although it would be dumb not to take any opportunity to get outside funding anyway, if it's being offered.

accountablevta said...

While I have my doubts about the feasibility and the cost-effectiveness of the Subway to the sea (the rail projects in the past caused fare increases and service reductions on the bus side. Bus riders took the MTA to court and settled.), that project still has more reasons for success compared to the BART project. Wilshire is one of the busiest transit corridors. It is relatively dense, and with very few options to improve transit because of the lack of ROW on the street and nearby.

That's what the BART project will have to compete with. The BART project is so much behind in many ways.

295bus said...

If the feds want to invest in transit as an economic stimulus--great. But projects still need to be useful, and should be ranked by cost-effectiveness.

I predict CA HSR would be a top contender for stimulus funds. I'm not saying it's the most deserving (or the least)--it's just the kind of "inspirational" project politicians would be likely to go for.