Editorial: Pull the plug on VTA
- Published Tuesday, June 29, 2004, in the Gilroy Dispatch
Pull the plug on VTA: elect and reorganize
Here are a pair of hearty "Amens" to two recommendations contained in
an in-depth grand jury report on the Valley Transportation Authority.
The grand jury concluded that the public transit agency is badly
managed by a board that is too political, badly distracted and overly
reliant on staff members, and that building a BART-to-San Jose
extension will financially cripple the VTA.
Our first enthusiastic "Amen" is for the grand jury's recommendation
that the VTA immediately stop spending money on the doomed
BART-to-San-Jose extension. The report said that BART won't be able
to afford the project for two decades.
The 16.3-mile construction project will be bankrupt by 2009 and be in
a $1.9 billion hole by 2013, according to a 2003 report by the VTA's
own chief financial officer. Like us, the grand jury is incredulous
that the VTA continues to spend money on a BART extension as if that
report were never issued.
That fiscal doomsday report just addressed the cost to build the BART
boondoggle. It doesn't even begin to address the mammoth subsidy
operating the transit system will require.
Clearly, as we've said for a long time, the VTA can't begin to afford
to build or operate a BART-to-San-Jose extension. Building the
BART-to-San-Jose extension means that expanding and improving Caltrain
service in South County, improving local and regional bus service,
marketing the transit services the VTA already offers to reduce the
huge subsidy taxpayers pay for every rider, will not happen.
Our second hearty "Amen" concerns the grand jury's recommendation that
the VTA board of directors be reorganized. We like the idea of
directly electing the board, but we're not so sure about the idea of
reducing the size. South Valley already shares representation on the
board with Milpitas, a city with whom we have very little in common.
Reducing the size of the VTA board will increase the likelihood that
South Valley will be represented by board members with conflicting
The VTA board needs to be reorganized and directly elected to provide
a more focused board made up of directors who are directly responsible
to taxpayers. We are concerned, however, that the grand jury report
cites the Santa Clara Valley Water District -- the agency that
recently approved a hefty 25 percent rate increase to help pay for
rapidly increasing handsome employee salaries and benefits -- as a
The grand jury report carries no legal weight but does require the VTA
to prepare a formal response. Let's make sure the VTA knows that BART
to San Jose and a business-as-usual board should be things of the
We urge South Valley residents to get involved. The first step is to
read the report. It's available online at
<http://www.sccsuperiorcourt.org/jury/GJ.html>. Then, contact your
city and county representatives to make your views known. Copy the
VTA's board of directors on any correspondence.
If we say "Amen" loud enough and often enough, perhaps the VTA board
will take off its political rose-tinted glasses, take a hard look at
itself and the BART extension proposal and make some important