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Editorial: Reject SJ BART tax Measure B (and C & D too)

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  • 10/16 Daily Post
    Published Thursday, October 16, 2008, by the Palo Alto Daily Post Editorial Reject the BART tax Here s a way to fund the renovation of Palo Alto s libraries.
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2008
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      Published Thursday, October 16, 2008, by the Palo Alto Daily Post

      Editorial

      Reject the BART tax

      Here's a way to fund the renovation of Palo Alto's libraries. Instead
      of asking Palo Alto residents to pay for it, ask the entire county to
      increase their taxes. Why shouldn't people in Gilroy, San Jose and
      Los Gatos pay for Palo Alto's libraries?

      Absurd? That's about as absurd as asking Palo Alto to pay for a
      transportation project that will benefit San Jose and the 880
      corridor. and that's one of the reasons why we recommend a "no"
      vote on Santa Clara County Measure B on Nov. 4.

      Whether you use it or not

      Measure B would increase the sales tax by one-eighth of a cent from
      8.25 percent to 8.375 percent to pay for operations of BART. The
      amount riders pay for tickets won't even come close to funding the
      day-to-day costs of this 16.1-mile transit line, so everyone in the
      county -- whether they intend to use BART or not -- is being asked
      to make up the difference.

      If a BART tax gives you deja vu, that's because county voters already
      approved a half-cent increase in 2000. It was supposed to fund the
      extension of BART from Fremont to San Jose, along with numerous other
      projects for areas of the county that wouldn't benefit from BART.
      These additional projects were crumbs the leaders of San Jose were
      tossing to get the support of the north and south county.

      No promises kept

      Eight years later, not one of the 14 projects promised by BART
      supporters has been completed, and some -- like the idea of commuter
      trains on the Dumbarton rail bridge -- have quietly been canceled.
      Last month, regional transportation planners took the money for that
      project and switched it to BART.

      And that's one big problem with BART -- it sucks up all available
      transportation dollars for other projects, and will continue to do
      so until the extension is completed in 20 or 30 years. [BATN: If it's
      anything like the way over-budget BART-SFO/Millbrae extension fiasco
      and the ongoing strain its operating subsidy (it was predicted to be
      *profitable*!) has placed on SamTrans/Caltrain finances -- the
      sucking will likely continue indefinitely beyond SJ BART extension
      completion.]

      Limited funds

      If you vote for Measure B, don't complain if there isn't money to
      repave roads, improve bus service, transport the disabled or
      electrify Caltrain (which is necessary before it can be extended to
      downtown San Francisco).

      Other problems:

      * The federal government is refusing to fund the extension, putting
      the project on its "not recommended" list of bad transit ideas. The
      backers of the tax (business interests in San Jose led by the Silicon
      Valley Leadership Group) claim that the feds will open the spigot of
      money if voters simply approve this additional tax to operate the
      BART extension, as if that were the only problem with this proposal.

      * We worry that the plans for this expansion are wildly unrealistic.
      For instance, consider the claim that the extension will carry 98,000
      passengers a day, yet there are only 19,000 employees in downtown San
      Jose. Even San Jose's most bullish growth projections don't show that
      many employees downtown in 30 years.

      * After 21 years, VTA's light rail system still hasn't met original
      ridership or revenue projections. Why will BART be any different?

      * BART projects are always more expensive than originally advertised.
      This project has gone from $4 billion in 2000 to $6 billion today.
      And it will go much higher than that because it includes a 4-mile-
      long tunnel under San Jose. VTA was happy to run trans at ground
      level when it built its light rail system, but now it wants to get
      fancy. However, tunnels for transit projects in Boston and Los
      Angeles turned out to be incredibly expensive, way beyond anyone's
      expectations.

      * VTA, which is building BART, is arguably America's least cost-
      effective transit agency, due mainly to outrageous salaries in an
      ever-growing bureaucracy. If VTA's costs were simply brought into
      line with other transit agencies in the Bay Area or California, this
      tax wouldn't be needed because the money could be found within VTA's
      existing revenues without loss of nay other transit service. you may
      have read in the Post about how Valley Medical Center in San Jose
      hired Deloitte Consulting, which believes it can reduce the
      hospital's annual budget by anywhere form $57 million to $107
      million. We'd like to see VTA do the same thing before it asks the
      public for more money.

      * VTA has no plans to bring BART to Palo Alto. You'd think that
      San Jose, benefiting form our tax dollars, would at least promise
      to return the favor in the future.

      In 2000, nearly every political leader in the county supported
      BART. This time, Palo Alto Mayor Larry Klein and Yoriko Kishimoto,
      council's transportation expert, are among those urging a "no" vote
      on Measure B.

      Don't surrender oversight

      We recommend a "no" vote on Measure B as well as its tow odd
      companion measures, C and D. Measure C asks voters to approve a
      countywide transportation plan that has yet to be finalized and
      hasn't even been approved by the VTA board. Voters should have the
      right to see a completed document, not a rough draft. Measure D asks
      voters to give up their right to approve county transportation plans
      every six years. Given VTA's track record, why on earth should voters
      give up any oversight of this poorly managed agency?


      [BATN: See also:

      Palo Alto leaders question SJ BART tax Measure B
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39480

      SJ BART to get big funding boost from CTC, Dumbarton Rail
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39420

      MTC OK's shifting $91m from Dumbarton Rail to Warm Springs BART
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39419

      Dumbarton Rail to lose $91m to help feed SJ BART money pit
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39301

      Editorial: BART vs. Dumbarton rail; dysfunctional transit planning
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39011

      Warm Springs BART vs. Dumbarton Rail debate gets testy
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39010

      Should Warm Springs BART defund transbay Dumbarton rail?
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/38995

      Editorial: Don't divert Dumbarton rail funds for costly SJ BART
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/38945

      VTA's finances still disastrous; BART still pushed at any cost
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/26664

      Dumbarton corridor rail "most cost-effective" to cut congestion
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/23456

      Comment: SMCo. BART SFO/Millbrae disaster killing Caltrain, SamTrans
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/23403 ]
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