Oakland/San Francisco Bus Service; Looking at the Entire Problem

AB455 seeks to improve bus connections across the Bay Bridge between the East Bay and the Salesforce Transit Center.

BATWG has followed AB455 ever since the bill came to our attention last January and on June 21, 2022 sent Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks and Senator Scott Wiener a letter on the subject. From the outset we have been supportive of its general objective but felt and still feel that the entire East Bay bus service needs work, not just the Bridge. Here are highlights:

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Grand Jury Exposes BART!

There is no doubt that BART provides a highly popular transportation service and is therefore a key element in providing mobility without people having to drive everywhere they go. For this, BART is of inestimable value to the Bay Area.

But at what cost?

Building BART was an extremely costly undertaking. Expanding it continues to be vastly more costly than it should be, as evidenced by the Federal Transportation Administration’s estimated cost of $9.15 billion for the BART Phase II subway through downtown San Jose. Operating BART is similarly over-priced and the Link 21 project is proceeding as if the sky’s the limit. Here are three separate windows through which a reader can see what’s going on at BART:

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CARB: Reports, Reports and more Reports

BATWG is a non-profit corporation organized in 2012 by a group of experienced transportation professionals and activists. Mostly volunteers, we are dedicated to working with like-minded groups to improve the reliability and appeal of the Bay Area’s passenger rail and bus systems. Recognizing the damage that will occur if California doesn’t become more effective in reducing GHG production, BATWG has recently focused more on the disparity between what agencies write in their reports and what actually gets done on the ground. It’s from this perspective that we have reviewed CARB’s Draft 2022 Progress Report.
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Making the Southeast Bay Rail and Bus Connections Work

There has been much recent discussion about how to improve rail and bus connections in the Southeast Bay. The list below summarizes how things could be put together in a productive way. Absent some semblance of coordination and unity, the “solutions” to complicated networking problems tend to come one by one, often pursuant to ill-considered “bright ideas”, often promoted parochially by inexperienced people with no understanding or interest in the need for regional connections, or by developers and real estate speculators looking for financial gain. Piecemeal approaches to transportation infrastructure improvements are seldom of transportation benefit to anyone. With their “BART-above-all-else” approach, the original BART planners tried it that way, thereby forcing the connecting transit services to do the adapting and leaving the Region with some unnecessary gaps in service that persist to this day. The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board on the other hand in its Capitol Corridor upgrade programs has done an unusually thorough job of taking connection opportunities into account. The following proposals are intended to illustrate part of what a carefully coordinated rail and bus network in the Southeast Bay might look like.

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MTC Considers Stronger Project Oversight and Risk Management Role

In May 2022, the MTC Commission convened a workshop which included discussion of programming and project delivery models for MTC Plan 2050, with particular emphasis on major rail megaprojects. The Workshop addressed building partnerships with rail providers in the region to set up project delivery and governance structures designed to build and operate a more seamless and customer focused rail network. This MTC work is funded by a $400,000 Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant. As part of its work the MTC reviewed past rail project delivery models in the Bay Area, as well as those used in the Toronto Ontario region and in London.

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Picking Up the Pace and Wasting Less

Need for State and Federal Oversight:

Much of the funding needed to develop infrastructure in the Bay Area comes from State and federal sources.

Pursuant to the passage of the Urban Mass Transportation Act in 1964, federal funds began to be directed to various local and regional transit improvement projects. To avoid the heavy-handed and physically taxing involvement of the federal government in thousands of local and regional projects, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s) were established across the country.

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Transit “Connectivity”, the Real Estate Development Way

Alameda County Measure BB, passed in 2014, included $400 million to connect BART to Livermore. In 2017 the State Legislature (AB 758) set up the Tri-Valley San Joaquin Regional Rail Authority (TVSQVRRA) and, according to the Legislative Analyst, charged it with “planning, developing, and delivering cost-effective and responsive transit connectivity between BART and the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) commuter rail service in the Tri-Valley, that meets the goals and objectives of the community, as specified”.

Any rational observer would take this to mean connecting BART to Livermore and ACE in a manner convenient to train riders and would-be train riders. But the TVSQVRRA, we later learned, had other plans. Instead of a viable connection between BART and ACE in Livermore, TVSQVRRA wants to build a 43-mile Valley Link line extending from BART’s East Dublin terminal to North Lathrop, over 30 winding track miles northeast of Livermore.

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BART’s Link 21 Project – Status Report

In August of 2019 BART, in conjunction with the Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority, launched the ambitious Link 21 project. The plan is to build a second subaqueous rail crossing between Oakland and San Francisco, and create a single highly integrated passenger rail network in Northern California.

Here is an abstruse extract from a recent BART Link 21 team report:

“The Link21 Team is using a Business Case Framework to guide Program Development and Stage Gate processto manage risk. Program Development has been brokeninto three phases; Phase 0 – Program Definition, Phase 1 – Program Identification, and Phase 2 – Project Selection

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