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MTC/BART's flaming SFO failure still bleeding SamTrans dry

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  • 5/17 SF Chronicle
    Published Wednesday, May 17, 2006, in the San Francisco Chronicle SamTrans a shrinking partner in cash-draining BART Peninsula line By Phillip Matier and
    Message 1 of 1 , May 17, 2006
      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
      next year.

      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
      costly consequences.

      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
      opening.

      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
      commercials.

      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
      spots.

      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"
      http://www.bayrailalliance.org/bart/sfox_ridership.html ]
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