Eulogy for Ezra Rapport

Ezra Rapport served with distinction as ABAG’s Executive Director from 2010 to 2016.

Mr. Rapport passed away on October 6, 2022 after a long illness. In its tribute ABAG noted that during his years at ABAG, Mr. Rapport “spearheaded development of the regional planning framework that culminated in the 2013 adoption of the original Plan Bay Area and oversaw the ABAG units working on energy efficiency, clean water supply, climate adaptation and disaster resilience, risk management, local finance, trail management, open space and economic development.”.

ABAG’s tribute to him put it well when they noted “…Mr. Rapport is remembered by friends as a determined iconoclast who was unafraid to ruffle bureaucratic feathers with his bold ideas and strongly held beliefs. His integrity, good heart and commitment to public service were unquestioned, even by those he sometimes rankled. Mr. Rapport is survived by his wife Andrea and their three children.”

Before joining the ABAG staff, Mr. Rapport had many productive years, in part as an assistant to former state Senate Pro Tempore Don Perata. During that time he helped create and organize the Bay Area’s regional ferry system.

After his retirement from ABAG in 2016 Ezra became a member and regular participant in BATWG meetings until his health no longer permitted it. During those meetings he was consistently a strong and steady presence. As one member put it, “I got to appreciate and respect his focus, vast knowledge and commitment to the betterment of the Bay Area”

Link 21: Proceeding on Auto-Pilot?

On September 20, 2022, BART Link 21 team members updated BATWG on the status of their project. We learned a lot. We learned about the strenuous and costly efforts that the BART team and its five consultants under the leadership of BART Project Director Sadie Graham have made to try to explain their project to stakeholders around the Region. And we also learned about the difficulty they were having in trying to make sense of a new and unpredictable set of circumstances brought on by COVID and its aftermath.

Link21’s Current Status

The Link 21 team is clearly struggling to pin down the nature and effect of the oncoming changes in employment, housing and commute practices on general travel patterns, and how these changes would affect Link21’s plans for an ambitious new regional rail system.

Yet without resolving these issues, by October 2022 the Link21 planners had already gone through a total of $60 million, including a mind-boggling $24 million spent on “program management, project controls, consultant management & strategic advice” and another $10 million spent on outreach. Despite September 20th’s thorough and effective presentation, the results of the Link21 effort to date remain cloudy and it remains difficult to understand how and why so much money has been spent and where the project is headed.

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The VTA’s BART Phase II Debacle

Just Keeps Getting Worse

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA’s) BART Phase II horror story in San Jose gets more dismal by the week.

In preparation for MTC’s Program and Allocation Committee’s October 12, 2022 meeting, the MTC’s staff, struggling to keep the ever more expensive BART Phase II project as one of its top candidates for State and federal funding, bought into the VTA’s project cost estimate of $9.0 billion, despite the fact that it was $140 million dollars below the year old Federal Transit Administration estimate of $9.14 billion. Despite BATWG’s attempt to warn MTC of both the VTA’s discounted price and the inherently excessive cost of the project, Staff plowed ahead and on October 26th the MTC Board accepted the VTA’s $90 billion price and placed the project in its Major Project Plan Category 1, Level I category. On November 3rd, just seven days later, Eliyahu Kasminser’s excellent article on the project in the San Jose Mercury quotes VTA officials as acknowledging that the price of the project was now $9.3 billion, a price that is virtually certain to further increase.


It gets worse.

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BART Phase II – Unfinished Business

Realizing just how costly and controversial the project has become, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, along with other VTA Board members and municipal politicians, recently commissioned a Peer Review Team of “experts” to conduct an independent evaluation of the BART Phase II Project comparing the original twin bore alternative to the current single bore alternative.

BATWG’s response to the resulting Peer Reviewers’ Evaluation is set forth below in a letter to Mayor Liccardo.

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Central Subway will Bleed Muni for Years

Columnist Joe Eskenazi is the Managing Editor of Mission Local. On September 26th his vivid critique of the Central Subway Project concluded that the Central Subway is a “grotesquely over-budget and behind schedule rail project…that will bleed Muni for years”.

Here’s how bad it is. At $2 billion the Central Subway, with only 76% of its 1.7 miles actually in subway will come in at $1.2 billion per mile. The table below, which came from a comprehensive ENO study of urban rail project costs in 9 countries throughout the world indicates how this Bay Area subway price compares to similar projects elsewhere.

For the ENO report see:

As Mr. Eskenazi notes, this ill-conceived, politically-motivated project will forever hang as a financial load stone around MTA’s neck. Here’s why:

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Alameda County Transit District: Key Upgrade Elements Identified (again)

Enforced bus-only lanes on long distance and trunk lines, including on bridges

Fast direct routes with minimal zigs, zags and detours

Clean, well-maintained, safe and comfortable vehicle interiors

Well maintained and easily identifiable stops

Convenient transfers…timed, especially between neighborhood feeders and trunk lines

Load charts to guide route and service level changes without increasing operating costs

Better coordination between AC and cities like Oakland and Berkeley

Improved signage

Clear and easily available digital maps

Real Time Scheduling and Reliability

Tasks the District can’t handle, farmed out without hesitation

With improvements well underway, an effective marketing program