MTC/BART's flaming SFO failure still bleeding SamTrans dry
- Published Wednesday, May 17, 2006, in the San Francisco Chronicle
SamTrans a shrinking partner in cash-draining BART Peninsula line
By Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross
Those colorful new "BART to SFO" ads wrapped around BART cars sure are
eye-catching -- but they can't camouflage the fact that the system's
$1.4 billion extension to the Peninsula remains a big money loser.
So much so that BART and its extension partner, SamTrans, slapped
Peninsula riders with special fare increases in January -- ranging
from 20 cents to $1.20 -- to help cut the losses.
Meanwhile, SamTrans, which has been subsidizing the extension to the
tune of millions a year, is having its own money problems -- and had
to raise bus fares a quarter last September.
Now, BART wants SamTrans to come across with another $11.2 million
SamTrans CEO and General Manager Michael Scanlon recently shot off a
letter to BART, saying he'd give no more than $5 million next year --
then zip the year after that.
Scanlon also griped that BART had violated a deal with SamTrans by
making a unilateral decision to increase the number of cars on BART
trains to the Peninsula -- after BART had shortened the trains at the
start of the year -- without consulting SamTrans first about the
BART director James Fang, who represents San Francisco on the system's
board, called SamTrans' funding offer outrageous and said officials
there "should be ashamed of themselves."
[BATN was under the very strong impression that BART director James
Fang represents BART's management to the exclusion of pretty much
anything else. If anyone anywhere has any evidence to the contrary...]
It's worth noting that SamTrans made a huge stink two years ago,
withholding millions of dollars in subsidies to BART -- until BART
threatened to sue.
The irony here is that BART's ridership to the airport has actually
exceeded the system's expectations. The problem is that business at
the other new Peninsula stations is failing to take off as planned.
[BATN: This is simply an out and out lie. BART's project-justifying
"prediction" for SFIA station ridership was 14,400 daily entrances
and exits in the year of opening, per table 3.1-5 of the June 1996
FEIR/FEIS. Compare that 6,352 today and 4,906 in February 2004 (six
months after opening).
This "best performing" station -- the one that the reporter's unnamed
BART source mendaciously and deliberately misleadingly refers to as
"exceeding expectations" -- is in fact carrying FEWER THAN HALF the
number of "predicted" opening-year riders, even three years after
Remind us again: when do the jail terms for those responsible for
this $1.8 billion fraud begin?]
For the first half of this month, there have been 339,251 trips on
the Peninsula line -- a fraction above last year, but still 6.6
percent below what BART was counting on in its budget.
Now BART is pushing the airport service with shrink-wrapped cars.
Why not the rest of the Peninsula line?
"SFO is the draw -- our signature station," BART spokesman Linton
Johnson said. "Plus, we had a unique opportunity to work with
Travelocity, which was paying for all this ad space."
Photo op: It was smiles all around as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and
other elected officials gathered Tuesday in front of the Caldecott
Tunnel to promote the $19.9 billion "rebuild California"
transportation bond -- but behind the scenes, we hear, there's a
little bit of tension over whose face goes on the campaign
According to one source close to the deal -- who asked not to be
named so he can keep feeding items like this to the press -- the
governor wanted to star in the bipartisan bond commercials, which
coincidentally would air right as he was running for re-election.
Democrats, however, are saying, "No way."
As a result, there may be more than one campaign, with Schwarzenegger
taking top billing in his ads while the Dems and labor cut their own
It was interesting to note that state Senate President Pro Tem
Don Perata of Oakland was the only Democrat who showed up at the
governor's photo op Tuesday.
And Arnold? He was 45 minutes late.
Contact Matier and Ross at 415 777-8815 or matierandross@...
[BATN: See also Bay Rail Alliance's analysis:
"BART-SFO extension a success? Unfortunately, not even close"