FBA Painting Castles in the Sky?

Castle in the clouds

On October 4th, Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG) issued a statement setting forth three pre-requisites to gaining public support for the Faster Bay Area (FBA) $100 billion transportation megatax. NoMegaTax.org is a fast-growing coalition of Bay Area elected and appointed officials, environmentalists, transit advocates, tax payer groups and civic organizations. The following nomegatax.org letter was recently sent to 430 Bay Area officials. It effectively outlines the concerns that if not fully addressed soon, will generate overwhelming opposition to the proposed FBA plan, its enabling legislation and any ensuant tax-raising ballot measures.


Dear Councilmember,

We are environmentalists and transit and taxpayer advocates who have joined together in response to the Faster Bay Area proposal for a $100 Billion sales tax for transportation. We wanted to offer for your consideration our nuanced thoughts on the opportunities posed by this proposal:

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Muni Task Force Work…Ongoing

Over the last few months, Mayor Breed’s Muni Task Force has been engaged in identifying and finding solutions to Muni problems. On November 22, 2019 BATWG sent initial comments to Controller Ben Rosenfield, whose office is administrating task force work. Based upon the Task Force’s now released draft report, here are a few observations, some of which were alluded to in the previous letter. 

Late last year the Transportation Alliance of San Francisco (TAOSF) in association with other groups issued a 1424 word report, the product of six months of careful deliberation by a highly-experienced group of transportation experts. The report, which contains 20 recommended ways of improving San Francisco’s transportation condition, was sent to dozens of City officials in late 2018. No responses were received. Below are four excerpted recommendations which appear to be of particular relevance to the Task Force’s work. 


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Future Connections between Oakland & San Francisco

It’s been clear for decades that another way of crossing the Bay between Oakland and San Francisco will be needed when BART runs out of peak-period transbay carrying-capacity. It is now estimated that this capacity limit will be reached before 2030. Thankfully the “Powers” have at last begun their planning. However, given the glacial pace of Bay Area infrastructure development, the needed supplemental system won’t be up and running until 2060 or later. So how, one might ask, do Central Bay Area transit leaders plan to cope during the intervening 30 or more years? If anyone knows the answer to this rather important question, he or she is keeping mum on the subject.

Turkey’s Marmaray Underwater Tunnel
Turkey’s Marmaray Underwater Tunnel

Here are a few observations designed to speed things up:

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Union City Mayor Still Wants her Highway

Along Route of Proposed Highway
Along route of proposed highway

Excerpts from BATWG’s 12/8/2019 letter to Mayor Dutra-Vernaci and the Union City Council:

BATWG is a 501c3 California non-profit corporation. We are all volunteers, dedicated to restoring a more balanced transportation system to the Bay Area. Collectively we have a vast amount of experience in transportation, housing and land use development.

From a review of your Plan 2040 it appears that the East West Connector [now euphemistically called the “Quarry Lakes Parkway”] is still in Union City’s program. We urge you to rethink this.

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Bay Area at a Crossroads

It’s no secret that because of disconnected transit systems and ever-increasing traffic backups, the Bay Area is becoming more and more constricted…..and that helps no one. This increasingly obvious regional problem has recently been reaffirmed by a panel of business interests proposing to raise and spend $100 billion to create a “Faster Bay Area”. While they’ve correctly identified the long neglected problems in need of attention, the FBA group has yet to set forth a fair and equitable way of raising the necessary capital. Moreover the group continues to struggle with the problem of how to implement a bonafide regional program without its being sabotaged by local and special interests intent upon obtaining new funding for their parochial and special interest projects.

The Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is clearly expecting to gain control over this vast amount of new transportation funding, which would come on top of its recent takeover of ABAG and continuing attempts to assume control over the region’s housing crisis. Is MTC up to the job? During the last four and one half decades, despite acquiring and spending well over $100 billion, MTC has had little if any effect on either strengthening Bay Area transit or reducing Bay Area traffic. So the answer has to be a clear NO.

There are several reasons for this. Continue reading

Riders Yin while SF BART Board Members Yang

Last year BART conducted a survey of its riders. The survey results revealed that between 2014 and 2018 general rider satisfaction with BART dropped by 18%, from 74% to 56%. Rider responses were elicited in response to 46 separate elements of BART’s service. The Clipper Card got the highest rating. High ratings were also given to the availability of maps and schedules, on-time performance and the frequency of BART trains.

To most riders it will come as no great surprise to learn that conditions in BART stations, interior on-car noise levels and cleanliness were much farther down the list. And it will come as even less of a surprise that the very lowest ratings included BART’s lax enforcement of its fare evasion problem, and the absence of adequate BART policing at stations, on trains and in BART parking lots. At the very bottom of the list was the riders’ strongly negative reaction to BART’s failure to address its homeless problem.

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