MTC is actually quite honest about their move to allocate uncertain and yet-to-be-legislated high occupancy toll lane revenue for the BART project as a way to defraud transit riders and taxpayers in the future:
MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger acknowledged the commission was moving ahead before they had legislation, but saw no problem with it. "I would consider the issue that is before you today in the plan and the placement of the $2B as a placeholder, which is subject to change and probably will change. I will acknowledge that we are jumping the gun to some extent. But I think that's a reasonable planning assumption to make and I don't think it has to prejudice this process. We need to make some kind of commitments now, at least on a provisional basis."
By making this move, MTC is signaling VTA that it is okay for VTA to continue spending money on consultants. When the project becomes "shrovel ready," MTC would then cut other transit projects to make up the actual funding shortfall. For instance, the Warm Springs extension has been on the past RTPs for years because MTC assumed the project would be funded by surplus passenger revenue from the SFO extension. When ridership fell below MTC's expectation and that funding got evaporated, MTC made San Mateo County pay for construction anyway by defunding the Dumbarton Rail project.
MTC and VTA want everyone to believe that they're "surprised" by this economic crisis and that somehow through this plan they don't need to ask for more tax dollars or transit cuts. However their history shows otherwise. Since 2001, they have been trying to make the BART project appear affordable. When they got some money, they would spend more than what they have so they can extort us for more money later by raising taxes and cutting transit projects.
Meanwhile MTC has gotten the justification to expand highways (HOT lanes) and that somehow widening more highways would mean less pollution and less dependence on automobiles.