Streamlining the Caltrain Extension Project

Bay Area Transportation Working Group

During these difficult times of shutdowns and reduced resources, it is both necessary and prudent to conserve transit resources wherever and whenever possible.

With that in mind the Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG) has updated its previous statements about the DTX project. There appear to be opportunities to significantly reduce costs without cutting into or otherwise undermining the passenger rail service into the Sales Force Transit Center. We are joined in these recommendations by the two preeminent rail advocacy organizations of California; namely, RailPAC and the Train Riders Association of California as well as by TRANSDEF, SaveMuni and other DTX supporters. These opportunities relate to the 4th and King Station, the proposed Pennsylvania Avenue subway extension, the Tunnel Plug and the subway under Second Street:

Continue reading

Getting the Phase II BART Extension Right

There are rumors that the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) may finally have come to its senses. As previously reported in these pages (See BATWG Newsletter #14), Phase II of the BART extension along Santa Clara Street through downtown San Jose was to require almost 5 miles of tunnel 56 feet in diameter, the height of a five story building. The subway was also to be exceedingly deep, resulting in longer escalators, longer elevators, longer stairways, longer ventilation structures and longer utility runs. According to a VTA presentation made to the BART Board on May 31, 2019, the bottom of the subway was to be 121 feet below grade, the height of an eleven story building. Needless to add this design added greatly to the project cost.

But the situation could be brightening. With a small section of cut-and-cover construction at the two downtown stations the size of the subway could reduced enough to avoid having to haul away an extra 1,400,000 cubic yards of spoil. It would also significantly reduce both the thickness of the concrete tunnel lining and the depth of the subway. It is to be hoped that common sense will eventually prevail in San Jose.

BATWG’s Survey of BART Riders Ongoing

Because of COVID-19 we are no longer passing out survey notices at BART stations. However you can still take the survey, from home. 

If you are or were a BART rider think back to how things were before the current crisis. Were things ok? How could they have been better? You can find the survey by going to BATWGblog.com and clicking “BART Survey.”

Please tell your friends and associates about the opportunity to weigh in. Anyone who is or was riding BART is eligible. And now would be a great time for BART to bear down on cleaning up its act.

Marin-Sonoma Voters Weigh in on SMART’s Future

The Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District’s (SMART’s) 45 mile commuter rail service in the North Bay from Santa Rosa to the Larkspur Ferry is funded by a ¼ cent sales tax through 2029. This week North Bay voters decisively rejected the proposal to extend the sales tax for an additional 30 years through 2059, thereby forcing the District to address its budgetary and operational problems in a realistic manner. Past mistakes and unwise decisions regarding cost, scheduling, projected ridership and rail operations have lead to a system that is both excessively costly and underused. Things have gotten to the point where the District’s total operating expense now exceeds its revenue. Fortunately there are 9 years of guaranteed sales tax funding remaining, giving the District sufficient time to reform its management and operations so as to provide a better and more effective service, and thereby improve its standing with the voters.

Continue reading

Mayor’s Working Group Struggles to Upgrade Muni

 

Since last June Mayor Breed’s “San Francisco Muni Reliability Working Group” has looked for ways to improve overall Muni performance. Chaired by SFMTA Vice-Chair Gwyneth Borden and former City Controller Ed Harrington, the group was comprised of 13 individuals, including two San Francisco Supervisors and representatives of the Transportation Workers Union and various other organizations.

The group’s final report contains 66 recommendations, broken down as follows: Technical and Operations: 18, Workforce and Hiring: 24, Context and Regional: 17, and Governance and Organizational: 7. BATWG has reviewed the report and has the following responses:

General:

There are many good ideas embodied in the report. However the Muni is part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), a complex and multi-layered 6,000 person organization operating in a difficult fishbowl environment subject to virtually continuous public scrutiny. No group of 13, no matter how dedicated, could adequately identify and respond to all the opportunities to improve the functionality of such an organization. For this reason the Mayor’s group was quite dependent upon Muni management for information and therefore took many of its improvement ideas from proposals already in circulation.  The Mayor’s effort is ok as far as it goes, but more is needed.

Bringing a very large and growing organization like the MTC including Muni up to its full operating potential will require periodic management audits of the entire organization. These audits would necessarily have to be comprehensive and completely independent.

Technical and Operations:

Continue reading