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Editorial: Escape from BART to cost SamTrans over $90m

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  • 2/21 SF Examiner
    Published Wednesday, February 21, 2007, by the San Francisco Examiner Editorial BART-SamTrans peace treaty at last From all signs, ending the rancorous feud
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 21, 2007
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      Published Wednesday, February 21, 2007, by the San Francisco Examiner

      Editorial

      BART-SamTrans peace treaty at last

      From all signs, ending the rancorous feud between BART and SamTrans
      is now a done deal. All that remains is for each transit agency
      involved to vote approval, which is expected to happen by the end of
      the month.

      This long-awaited peace treaty is welcome news for the whole Bay
      Area, especially San Mateo County. Annual subsidies of up to $17
      million for BART to operate the airport extension trains have been
      draining SamTrans bus budgets for years. Whenever SamTrans balked at
      paying, BART threatened to sue and SamTrans backed down to negotiate
      a smaller payment.

      The most recent face-off came last year when increasingly deficit-
      plagued SamTrans unilaterally announced it could no longer afford a
      subsidy greater than $5 million a year. BART responded it was owed
      $10 million for the extension's 2006 operating losses and was ready
      to start another lawsuit.

      Fortunately the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission,
      which had been quietly brokering an interagency agreement for the
      past two years, finally got the two sides to accept a divorce
      settlement that will put a stop to the predictable annual
      brinkmanship.

      The agreement <http://tinyurl.com/2d24sn> calls for a quite
      substantial payout of at least $90 million over the next quarter-
      century. BART would also become free of the Peninsula service cuts
      and fare increases that SamTrans pushed in order to lessen its
      support obligations. BART now gains the ability to attract more
      riders by responding promptly to market conditions.

      The new agreement satisfies SamTrans because none of its buyout
      payments come directly from current operating budgets. The bulk of
      the debt would be retired by turning over funding SamTrans was due to
      receive from state Proposition 1B, the transportation bond measure
      passed last November. The remainder would come in 24 annual $1.2
      million payments from San Mateo County's half-cent sales tax for
      transportation.

      There is no denying that an earlier generation of San Mateo County
      politicians became overly eager to play in the regional big leagues
      and made bad deals for establishing Caltrain and the BART airport
      extension. Or at least their deals eventually turned out bad, even
      if they might have seemed like good ideas at the time.

      When the airport extension plan was being sold in the early '90s, the
      San Mateo Transportation Authority bought into rosy predictions that
      BART's new Peninsula line would be a solid moneymaker. In exchange
      for receiving promised future profits that never happened, San Mateo
      agreed to fund any operating shortfalls inside the county.

      One can only wonder why any experienced transportation official
      would believe the airport extension could somehow become Northern
      California's only profitable public transit line. Let's hope county
      government is now too sensible to ever be fooled like that again
      and -- better yet -- that the Peninsula public would be too alert
      to allow any repeat of such folly.


      [BATN: See also:

      Column: SMCo. BART disaster vindicates ex-Burlingame mayor, others
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/33817

      BART, SamTrans claim divorce over SFO extension will help riders
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/33786

      SamTrans to buy its way out of disastrous BART extension deal
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/33740

      SamTrans looks to escape ruinous Millbrae BART extension deal
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/33739

      SamTrans-BART deal turns failed Millbrae extension over to BART
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/33738

      Comment: SamTrans divorces BART over failed SMCo. extension
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/33696 ]
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