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Editorial: Heed Grand Jury report on dysfunctional VTA

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  • 7/30 Milpitas Post
    Published Friday, July 30, 2004, in the Milpitas Post Editorial New light rail rolls smoothly, but let s not forget our transit woes Now it is time to face the
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2 5:13 PM
      Published Friday, July 30, 2004, in the Milpitas Post


      New light rail rolls smoothly, but let's not forget our transit woes
      Now it is time to face the truth of the problems cited by Grand Jury

      In the midst of all the hoopla of the launch of the new trolley
      extension to east San Jose from the Great Mall in Milpitas, it is
      understandable all the assorted failings of the transportation efforts
      in the valley would be forgotten. The timely and extremely insightful
      final report of the 2003-2004 Santa Clara County Grand Jury, however,
      serves as a reminder that some glaring facts can't be swept away by
      the inaugural run of a long-awaited line filled (at least for the
      first day) by happy riders.

      The grand jury analysis nails down some of the main problems:

      ONE: The overall direction of the Valley Transportation Authority is
      in the hands of a totally dysfunctional board, which has essentially
      turned over the district to its staff. Because the VTA board is
      composed of assorted city and county elected officials, none can
      devote the time required to become aware of how to resolve the
      terrible challenges the district faces.

      TWO: The VTA is plagued by high labor costs it inflicted on itself
      through thoughtless labor contracts, has the lowest fare-box retrieval
      of any major transit system in the country, and suffers from one of
      the highest rates of absenteeism by employees, further aggravating its
      cost dilemmas.

      THREE: It has thrown in with a wrong-headed zeal to build a flawed
      BART extension looping down from Warm Springs then tunnel underground
      through downtown San Jose toward Santa Clara. The VTA board refuses
      to admit that the BART idea isn't likely to get built for nearly half
      a century. Nonetheless, VTA keeps spending huge sums to do the
      engineering for the project, which has already gotten thumbs down
      ratings from both the feds and the state (expected to provide a third
      of the money). Voters were erroneously sold on the idea the BART line
      would ease commute times on the highways. Now it appears the expected
      ridership would barely shave two minutes off a commute up 880.

      FOUR: The operational red ink has already forced VTA to borrow from
      the half-cent sales tax measure voters approved which won't begin to
      be collected until 2006.

      Grand Jury reports, alas, have a nasty habit of being totally ignored
      by officials unwilling to face the truth. We hope that isn't the case
      this time. By pursuing its current course, VTA's staff is
      perpetuating the blunders made over the past decades by an inattentive
      part-time board that is supposed to be setting the long-term
      priorities, goals and strategies.

      Only if there is major re-structuring to a smaller, more dedicated
      board which can focus on transportation needs, will the beginning of a
      real turnaround at VTA occur.
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