DTX Needs MTC’s Support

This BATWG letter makes the case for placing the DTX project at the highest level in the competition for local, private, regional, State and federal funding:

July 16, 2022

Theresa Romell, MTC Director of Funding Policy and Programs
Metropolitan Transportation Commission
San Francisco Ca 94105

Subject: Elevating DTX to MTC Tier 1, Level 1

Dear Ms. Romell,

The initiatives taken by MTC in recent months are most encouraging. Your agency appears to be making a concerted effort to ensure that transportation funding goes to the projects with the highest potential for benefiting the region as opposed to perhaps well intentioned agency or local program that fall short in that regard. Equally important is to ensure that agencies, especially those with very large undertakings, administer their projects efficiently. The efforts that you and MTC are making to bring these changes about are supported and appreciated.

Given the more than 40 speakers who spoke at the July 13, 2022 Programs and Allocations Committee meeting, the one minute time limit per speaker was understandable. However it left quite a bit unsaid. As you know, virtually everyone who testified on the 13th was strongly in favor of placing the Downtown Extension of Caltrain in Level 1. Following are some points we’d like to emphasize:

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BART, an Agency in Dire Need of Oversight

On June 21, 2019, pursuant to State Senator Steve Glazer’s SB1488, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Harriet Richardson from among three candidates selected by the BART Board to be BART’s first Inspector General (IG). The job calls for the IG to oversee and report upon BART activities and expenditures. What BART apparently didn’t anticipate was that Ms. Richardson would actually attempt to do her job. But the cat was soon out of the bag.

On July 7, 2022 the Alameda County Grand Jury released scathing 8-page report on how BART was treating its State-appointed IG, detailing how BART’s management and Board of Directors have aggressively interfered with, resisted and undermined the work of the IG. Anyone whose watches how BART goes through money will well understands the need for an independent BART IG. So what’s next? Will things get better?

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The Big Distraction

On August 25, 2022, California Air Resources Board and the Governor of California released their latest climate control fantasy. They propose to combat climate change by banning the sale of all new internal combustion vehicles in California, beginning in 2035. While this may seem like a step in the right direction, the new edict is so full of holes that a diesel truck could drive through it. First, people can keep driving fossil fuel autos long after 2035. Second, they can continue buying used fossil fuel cars after 2035. And last but not least, most people buying electric cars will dispose of their old gas guzzlers by selling them as they always have in the used car market, there to be resold to less affluent buyers in other parts of the country or world. This will guarantee that the discarded vehicles will continue spewing out green house gasses for many tens of thousands of additional miles and many more years.

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SFMTA’s Big Empties

The Bay Area has hundreds of independent auto repair and body shops. Walk into any one of them and you will almost always see individuals hard at work on various vehicle repair and restoration tasks. People actually doing things, getting their hands dirty and getting the job done.

But apparently not in the SFMTA’s repair shops. Some of them are enormous. And the official line is that they are so incredibly busy that they must be operated for three shifts a day…with appropriate extra pay for swing and graveyard work of course.


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BART Phase II – The Muddied VTA Snowball Keeps on Rolling Downhill

During its August 26, 2022 presentation to the BART Board, VTA spokesperson Takus Salpeas put the width of the center-loading platform in the downtown San Jose station at 22 feet, about the same width as BART’s existing platforms in places like Castro Valley and Orinda. Under SF’s Market Street the platforms are 35 feet wide.

BART Market Street Subway Platform

If a 22-foot platform requires a just-announced 53-foot diameter tunnel (up from the recently established 48-foot diameter tunnel), then a 35-foot platform would presumably require a 65-foot tunnel. Recently the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) put the cost of BART Phase II assuming a 48-foot tunnel at $9.15 billion. So the question becomes, how much would a 53-foot tunnel increase the cost of the project? Or a 65-foot tunnel?

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Adapt to New Conditions or Remain on Autopilot?

The Pandemic has hit. Travel habits have changed. Advances in technology have made it easier to do more with less commuting and other travel. Transit has been dramatically affected by all this. Yet so far there is little evidence that the large Bay Area transit agencies and MTC are adequately heeding the warning signs. Based upon the broadly based surveys of the Bay Area Council, the meticulous economic research of Stanford Professor of Economics Nicholas Bloom, the conclusions of acclaimed transportation consultant Alan Pisarski, and other findings, the handwriting is on the wall. We now have a better idea of how the changes brought on by the pandemic are affecting and will continue to affect transportation, housing and societal norms.

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