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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DTX Project Remains Entangled in SFCTA Maul

Here are excerpts from a dialogue that has been ongoing between the SFCTA and BATWG since the October 22, 2019 SFCTA hearing. It illustrates BATWG’s current assessment of the situation:

Excerpts from BATWG’s letter dated October 26th to the SFCTA:

At the October 22, 2019 SFTCA hearing much was made of 2028, the year by which the trains would be allegedly be carrying passengers to and from the Salesforce Transit Center. [Based upon the delays that have already occurred and that are continuing to occur], 2030 or later would be more realistic.

In any event there are two dates of far more immediate importance that were not mentioned on 10/22.

First, when will [the SFCTA let] the Preliminary Engineering and PE cost estimating work be restarted? While [we] believe that Mark Zabeneh is ready and able to do the work we realize that he may be cashiered, unfairly in our view. So the question becomes, when will someone be given the authority and funding needed to commence preliminary engineering? When will the SFCTA get serious about restarting the DTX project?

Empty Transit Center Train Terminal Sits Waiting…

Second, when will a bonafide preliminary engineering cost estimate be available for all to see? Given the uncertainties and confusion created by the past and continuing delays, the potential funding sources have understandably adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Clearly defining the project is an essential first step to restarting the project, and that requires a completed PE.

Excerpts from a subsequent exchange of letters between SFCTA and BATWG: Continue reading

NO on AB 1487 Coalition Letter to Governor Newsom

NO on AB 1487 COALITION
c/o Law Offices of Jason A. Bezis
3661-B Mosswood Drive Lafayette, CA 94549-3509
(925) 708-7073     Bezis4Law@gmail.com

September 25, 2019

The Honorable Gavin Newsom
Governor of California
1303 10th Street, Suite 11 73
Sacramento, CA 95814
[VIA https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/ and U.S. MAIL]

Re: Recommendation to Veto AB 1487 with Message to Legislature to First Enact Reforms of MTC

Dear Governor Newsom:

This office represents a coalition of organizations, including the Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG), which urge you to veto AB 1487 with a message to the Legislature to investigate the struc­ture, activities and effectiveness of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and to enact necessary reforms of MTC first. MTC is ill-suited to govern a “Housing Finance Authority.”

AB1487 would give significant new power and taxing authority to a “Transportation Commission” that is not qualified to handle housing. Every four years, the eighteen voting MTC commissioners are “selected for their special familiarity with the problems and issues in the field of transportation.” Government Code §66504. The new four-year term began in February 2019. The selection process did not include ‘housing.’

The MTC commissioner selection process is opaque and undemocratic. Our coalition found legal irregularities in seven of the Bay Area’s nine counties in the 2018-19 selection process. ln many cases, commissioners were appointed with literally nothing in writing: no application, no statement of qualifi­cations, not even an e-mail requesting appointment. The Brown Act violations are too numerous to dis­cuss herein. MTC sent letters to many jurisdictions that explicitly asked them to re-appoint the incum­bent. In one case, a 32-year incumbent was re-appointed to another four-year term during a six-minute “special meeting” held in the backroom of an Italian restaurant four days before the November election.

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Getting Serious about the Market Street Subway

New York subway train

As has been pointed out before, the Muni level of the Market Street subway is currently operating at less than half its peak-period passenger-carrying capacity. That’s because 20 years ago, instead of coupling the one and two-car trains operating along the Avenues (namely the K,L,M,J, N trains) into longer trains suitable for subway operation, the Muni gave up on the coupling. So now it operates one and two car trains in the subway as well as on the Avenues, therefore sending many fewer LRV’s through the tunnel than needed during peak commute periods.

In an attempt to counteract the resulting overcrowding, the SFMTA tries to push as many of its short “trains” into and through the subway as possible. This has not worked.

Continue reading