Shock news! MTC, BART, SamTrans and VTA top transit turkey awards
- Published Wednesday, November 25, 2009, by Examiner.com
Transit turkey award
By Guy Span
Bay Area Public Transportation Examiner
Out of the 27 Bay Area transit agencies, there have to be a few turkeys. However, the candidates are legion. Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) receives a nomination for its timid approach to casual carpools, by proposing to charge only $3.00 for the use of express lanes by a driver and two transit riders. Water Emergency Transportation Authority gets one for its vision of an imaginary need for ferry service between Oakland and South San Francisco. SamTrans scores very high for bleeding all its projects to cough up $508 million and counting for its share of BART to the Airport.
BART itself scores a triple-bogie for its multi-billion doillar push for three projects: BART to Livermore, BART to San Jose and BART's utterly useless Oakland Airport Connector. That makes BART a Triple-Crown winner in this horse race. Then there's the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, supposedly the planning agency for the Bay Area.
Like BART, the MTC is also a perennial winner as they push for funding goofy projects and act as an enabler to help them happen. The MTC-assisted SamTrans to make some of the worst transit decisions seen in the Bay Area (to date). MTC and BART take first and second place, as they do every year. This is not news; it is a yawner. However, this year we have a strong third-place contender with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). The implication here is that they are so poorly operated, they can't even take first place.
VTA's 2000 Measure A sales tax was supposed to provide for a host of transit projects including the Dumbarton Rail Line and BART to San Jose. It was known when it went to the voters that the sales tax increase would not pay for all the proposed projects. Now, down the road and more sales tax increases later, it still won't pay for all the projects.
Part of BART to San Jose supported by the VTA was $145 million in operating surplus from the SFO Airport extension planned to be directed towards San Jose. Even playing games with BART's operating costs to generate a "surplus" fails to fill the $145 million gap, so the MTC, with VTA's concurrence, redirected (borrowed) $91 million from the Dumbarton project over to BART. The voter's voted for Dumbarton as an equal project but the VTA has decided it wanted BART more. This is eerily similar to the voters in San Mateo County opting for an electrified CalTrain in 1988 and not having it 20 years later, but instead more BART.
This cavalier approach to what VTA told the voters and what the voters will actually get was a subject of a Santa Clara Civil Grand Jury investigation, published last August. The Grand Jury found that the VTA had inaccurately described the effects of previous sales tax measures, resulting in the need for more taxes. The Grand Jury described the Citizens Watchdog Committee as more of a lap dog, since it was composed of the Citizens Advisory Committee and essentially reported to the Board. This is kind of like asking yourself if you did anything wrong The Jury also found the VTA to be a staff-driven organization with political leadership.
VTA denied all charges, claiming the Grand Jury did not understand and that the Watchdog Committee was exactly as described in the 2000 Measure A Tax. This is exactly what the VTA said in 2004, when that Grand Jury found BART to San Jose to be an incredibly expensive project not understood by the VTA and further that the VTA was incapable of leading it in any event.
In between those two Grand Juries, the Hay Group Report claimed that the VTA had "lost its regional focus and strayed from its core business." The report also noted that VTA needed to improve governance, multi-city representation and secure its financial future. The VTA implemented some changes but denied the general validity of the report.
Then, in what can only be described as Thanksgiving desert, we have the "Let them eat cake" incident. This is where bumbling incompetence would almost make the VTA lovable, if it only didn't cost so much money. In December 2006, the VTA's regular bakery closed and so lost its supply of birthday, retirement and other celebratory cakes. Rather than then finding a new bakery, the VTA put this out to competitive bid with a 33 page RFP <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/files/VTA_cakes.pdf>, describing ingredients, fillings, texture, icings and the lot.
The winning bidder would also have to win a taste-off composed of VTA officer evaluators (one sample for five tasters please), deliver cakes when and where ordered from specified flavors and provide $3,000,000 general liability insurance (as described in Exhibit H). This may be the first RFP in history to specify the use of jimmies (sprinkles). Data provided in the RFP showed that the VTA orders about three cakes a month and the favorite topping is whipped cream.
Like many things at the VTA, this project went nowhere and the VTA now buys its cakes like ordinary mortals.
[BATN: See also:
MTC did what politicians, not riders, wanted on BART SFO/Millbrae
More madness: huge opportunity cost of Millbrae BART extension
Madness of MTC & SamTrans-backed BART SFO/Millbrae extension
BART SFO/Millbrae cost SamTrans over half a billion dollars
Divorce from BART over SFO disaster still costing SamTrans dearly
What did Millbrae/SFO BART cost San Mateo Co. and SamTrans?
Warm Springs BART lawsuit may restore Dumbarton Rail funding
Lawsuit claims BART Warm Springs fund were illegally allocated
MTC steals $91m from Dumbarton Rail for Warm Springs BART
MTC panel shifts $91m from Dumbarton Rail to Warm Springs BART
VTA aims to cannibalize Measure A to build part of SJ BART
Dumbarton Rail to lose $91m to help feed SJ BART money pit
Editorial: BART vs. Dumbarton rail; dysfunctional transit planning
Column: VTA's laughable 33-page cake specification
VTA quietly withdraws hilarious 33-page bid request for cakes