An Open Letter to Aaron Peskin

Peskin3Dear Supervisor Peskin:

Last month the SF Board of Supervisors, acting as the SF County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), took back $9.6 million it had previously allocated to help pay for sending the Caltrain trains into SF’s new Salesforce Transit Center. According to the San Francisco Examiner the reason for this was to avoid paying for the “expansion planning” of the Transit Center. But the $9.6 million in question was not for expanding the Phase I Transit Center, it was for completing the preliminary engineering design of the Phase II Downtown Caltrain Extension Project (DTX). According to the Examiner the reason given for blocking the DTX funding was to hold the leadership of the Transit Center project (presumably meaning the Transbay Joint Powers Authority and Staff, and the SF County Transportation Authority’s own well-funded oversight staff) “accountable for alleged mismanagement of the $2.2 billion Transit Center”.

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How Caltrans Administers its Roadway Projects

CaltrainArticleCalifornia Senate Bill 1 was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on April 28, 2017.  State Prop 6 would have rescinded SB 1 but it was defeated by the voters of California on November 6, 2018. For this reason SB1 will continue to raise $0.12 a gallon in additional gas taxes. It is estimated that by 2020 this new funding source will be raising $5.1 billion a year in new State revenues, 2/3rd of which has been earmarked for road projects.

Given this large new source of funding now would be a good time to take a close look at how Caltrans spends its roadway money. One way of assessing Caltrans efficiency relative to that of other states is to compare its administration and engineering costs (soft costs) to construction costs. The table below shows California’s soft costs as a percentage of construction costs in comparison with those of other large and populous states:

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An Open Letter to SFMTA Director

Dear Ed…

Thanks for attending and joining in at the September 29th Transportation Forum. Your participation was clearly appreciated. The outline below was what BATWG had expected to present at the Forum. The proposals reflect some of what’s needed to strengthen the SFMTA and improve the City’s response to its overall transportation problem. We hope they are of use:

A. The SFMTA Board

Granting the MTA immunity from day-to-day political influences (through SF Prop E adopted in 1999 and SF Prop A adopted in 2007) was probably a good idea. However 4-year terms for appointed local officials is too long. The elected Mayor and Supervisors should be able to intercede when necessary every two years. The terms of the MTA  Board members should be reduced from 4 years to 2. Being an MTA Board member is a difficult and demanding job. All seven members of the MTA Board must therefore be strong and committed individuals. Continue reading

RM3 Aproved…..the Aftermath

RM3 was accepted by the voters of the Bay Area on June 5, 2018. This has created a gigantic $4.45 billion slush fund for regional planners to dispense. Considering that the “Yes on RM3” side outspent the “No” side by least 250 to 1 and yet won by a scant 53.9%, the “Yes” side has little to cheer about. Especially since the votes for successive regional transportation funding measures have been dropping.

As might be expected, non-bridge users voted mostly for RM3 and frequent bridge users voted mostly against it. All else aside, RM3 was patently unfair in terms of who pays and who gets the proceeds of the bridge toll increases.

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Last Year’s SB1 Gas Tax Increase: Yes or No

SB1:

SB1 was enacted by the State of California on April 28, 2017. Per
SB1, beginning on November 1, 2017 Californians started paying an
additional twelve cents a gallon for gasoline and an additional twenty cents
a gallon for diesel fuel. SB1 also provides that beginning on July 1, 2020
these taxes will rise with inflation.

Where will the SB1 money go? According to an April 28, 2017 article in
the Sacramento Bee, 70% of the funds raised by SB1 will go to the
Roadway Maintenance and Rehabilitation Program, State highways and
local streets and roads, with the remainder divided up among public transit,
goods movement, traffic-reduction measures, bicycle/ pedestrian
improvements and miscellaneous administrative and other uses.

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