"If asked if $42m is enough, I don't believe we are in a position to say yes," wrote BART General Mananger Dorothy Dugger in an Aug. 20 e-mail to VTA head Michael Burns. "Until we have an operating plan we really don't know what the costs are." Burns was asking Dugger for help responding to a statement in the Mercury News that VTA's annual obligation to BART was $48 million, not the $42 million the sales tax hike is estimated to generate.
VTA and BART had differences on operating plans. VTA wanted BART to operate shorter trains to save capital and operating costs. BART did not agree with VTA's plan for shorter trains because BART determines the train length according to the ridership demand between San Francisco and the East Bay. Running shorter trains to accommodate low ridership on the proposed line would cause overcrowding further north.
Michael Burns wanted BART to confirm VTA's flawed estimate, which claims Measure B would be more than enough to subsidize BART operations. Although BART was reluctant to endorse VTA's estimate, BART realized that it is in their interest to see Measure B passed anyhow even if it may mean further cuts into VTA's operation. In response, BART issued a letter stated that VTA's estimate was consistent with the 2001 comprehensive agreement, even though it never tried to answer the critical question of whether Measure B would be enough.
"It means that the VTA board placed a tax measure on the ballot without even knowing what the costs of the project are going to be," said No on B spokeswoman Margaret Okuzumi. "VTA is attempting to obscure this, to hide this, to get some kind of political cover from BART."
It is hard to get fair news coverage these days on this issue. Due to media consolidation and bias, the San Jose Mercury News and its associate local newspapers virtually blacked out most news and comments critical of Measure B. Two weeks ago, with three TV stations covering the press conference held by the No on B campaign, San Jose Mercury News provided zero coverage, even though "reporter" Gary Richards showed up and observed the press conference.