Editorial: Reject SJ BART tax Measure B (and C & D too)
- Published Thursday, October 16, 2008, by the Palo Alto Daily Post
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
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).
* 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
* 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
SJ BART to get big funding boost from CTC, Dumbarton Rail
MTC OK's shifting $91m from Dumbarton Rail to Warm Springs BART
Dumbarton Rail to lose $91m to help feed SJ BART money pit
Editorial: BART vs. Dumbarton rail; dysfunctional transit planning
Warm Springs BART vs. Dumbarton Rail debate gets testy
Should Warm Springs BART defund transbay Dumbarton rail?
Editorial: Don't divert Dumbarton rail funds for costly SJ BART
VTA's finances still disastrous; BART still pushed at any cost
Dumbarton corridor rail "most cost-effective" to cut congestion
Comment: SMCo. BART SFO/Millbrae disaster killing Caltrain, SamTrans