Cause: Dysfunctional Public Institutions / Effect: Regional Transportation in Shambles

For the last 8 years BATWG volunteers have worked to improve Bay Area transportation. In the process we’ve come to realize that in the Nine County Greater Bay Area, many of the region’s jurisdictions and large public agencies are failing to deliver effective transportation solutions and that without significant governmental change there is little chance of their doing so in the future.

Here are a few examples of how and where things have gone awry:

(resume reading here)

S.F. County Transportation Authority:  Seismic upgrading of Doyle Drive cost five times the original budget set forth in SF Prop K in 2003.

MTC: Bay Bridge East Span went from $2 billion to almost $7 billion and took 24 years to build.

SFMTA:  SF Municipal Transportation Agency’s disastrously-disruptive Central Subway project is reportedly at least 2-1/2 years late and $150 – $200 million over budget.

BART:  Rampant fare evasion, and bad on-car and in-station behavior are causing many would-be riders to think twice about using BART.

Santa Clara VTA:  Proceeding with a grotesquely overpriced 4.8-mile subway through downtown San Jose.

Sonoma Marin Area Regional Transit (SMART):  Commissioners seem content with a farebox recovery pre-COVID rate of just 9%, thereby loading the other 91% of SMART’s exorbitant $50 per ride operating cost on the tax payers.

Mayor of Union City:  Determined to blight her city with a 1950s style highway.

Caltrans: Always ready to expand its highways, regardless of whether or not the results are positive.

Absent strong, committed leadership these things will continue to happen. In many cases the wrong people are making the decisions. It is not ok for inexperienced and unqualified people to be attempting to define large infrastructure projects. It is not ok for legislators and agencies to proceed with wasteful, short-sighted ventures. It is not ok for EIR’s and EIS’s to cost too much and take too long to complete. And it is not ok for construction projects to take much longer than necessary and be subject to constant scope and cost increases. Because of such practices billions of State and federal transportation dollars have been wasted on ill-conceived, overpriced and poorly managed public projects.

Could Things Get Better? Yes…..if…..

If ethical standards were established and maintained, with stiff penalties for violators.

If politicians and connected insiders would stop altering the intent of voter-adopted propositions.

If the California State Legislature would stop trying to impose one-size-fits-all edicts on California’s towns, cities, counties and regions.

If large public agencies were subjected to independent management audits once every three years.

If agencies collaborated on behalf of meeting common regional objectives.

If the Media went back to looking beyond the press handouts.

If the transportation agencies dedicated themselves to providing “customer-centric” and well-integrated transit services.

Capital Improvement Programs:

If government would set priorities based upon objective criteria and logic rather than on who with influence was demanding what.

If only dedicated, experienced and otherwise highly-qualified individuals were appointed to sit on consultant selection committees.

If critically-important schedules, cost estimates and alternative analyses were given the experienced, high-level attention they deserve.

If EIR’s and EIS’s were appropriately limited in time, cost and size.

If public agencies administered their construction projects fairly and efficiently,

…by consistently securing compliance with the plans and specifications,

…by efficiently processing change orders without delay,

…by promptly acknowledging and taking responsibility for Agency mistakes

…by expeditiously paying for work satisfactorily completed.

Needed Most

Experienced, committed leaders with the ability to collaborate, make fair and astute decisions and get the job done.

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