Ealier today, MTC met and staff presented recommend changes to the T2035 program. One of the major recommendations is to divert $2 billion of future High Occupancy Toll lane revenue to cover the shortfall in VTA's 2000 Measure A program.
That recommendation is more or less a temporary political/programmatic cover for VTA and the BART project considering that future toll lane revenue is largely uncertain. Basically MTC is predicting that it would collect as much from the HOT lanes as it does on all the 7 Bay Area toll bridges. Unlike toll bridges, HOT lanes are largely optional, and drivers have many more legal options for not using the toll lanes. However, it is not the unusual that promoters would overestimate the revenue to justify their pet projects.
The scary part, however is the $3.2 billion operating shortfall that VTA is expected to have for the next 25 years. According to the initial estimate last year, VTA would have no operating shortfall. The new estimate puts VTA as the transit agency with the largest operating shortfall in the Bay Area. Other agencies like Muni would have a $1.9 billion shortall, and AC Transit would have a shortfall of just $283 million.
Rather than to use new toll revenue to cover operating shortfalls like it has recommended for unfunded expansion projects, MTC instead complained about transit "overlapping" and encourages transit agencies to cut service and raise fares.
MTC pointed out that AC Transit, BART, and ferries all serve the transbay corridor, and that Caltrain, BART, and SamTrans serve the San Mateo-San Francisco corridor. Transit routes may appear to duplicate at first, but they all serve a purpose by taking commuters to where they want to go with the least inconvenience. Wasteful projects like BART-SFO extension assumed that most Caltrain passengers would simply transfer to BART at Millbrae, which did not happen. It is not the Caltrain riders fault that the slower and more expensive BART extension has failed to attract them, and that Caltrain and bus passengers do not deserve to have their service sacrificed because of poor transit planning.
MTC also complained about the inconsistency of senior and youth fare discounts across agencies. Currently some agencies provide more discounts than VTA and some provide very little. While it is desirable to have a common standard, MTC appears to recommend that these discounts be tightened to generate more fare revenue from youth and seniors. It is unconscionable to raise fares on those who can least afford when MTC has done little to protect transit operations and done to most to preserve wasteful projects.
MTC believes that VTA can cut $1.5 billion in operating cost for the next 25 years (and still leaves a shortfall of $1.7 billion). What service do you think VTA can cut now? For the past 9 years, VTA mostly reduced bus service. Last year, VTA was able to increase bus service on some routes by shortchanging riders on other parts of the system.