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Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

BART needs to close a $25-$35 million shortfall in its operating budget. The media blames the deficit on overpaid janitors, while staff is proposing a menu of fare increases:

The board held onto the possibility of putting a surcharge on rides taken using paper fare cards and reducing BART’s discount rates for youths, seniors and disabled people. The directors did not vote on fare increases, which they say are needed to help fill a projected $25 million to $35 million budget gap, but they discussed which fare proposals should undergo a mandated federal civil rights study so that they can be considered when the board assembles a spending plan.

There is one very easy solution to this problem: raise the cost of parking. BART has 45,984 parking spaces. Increasing the daily parking charge by $2.25 ($45 monthly) is sufficient to cover $25 million. Increasing the daily parking charge by $3.15 ($63 monthly) would raise $35 million. Those adjustments would make BART parking charges comparable to current market rates.

BART parking lots fill up at the crack of dawn, and the monthly reserved slots have years-long waiting lists. The Warm Springs station already has a waiting list and it isn’t even open yet. Because BART  is giving away parking at below-market cost, there is no parking availability (except for a lucky few). So even if there weren’t a deficit, the parking fees need to be raised regardless.

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Uber and Lyft ridersharing services are being blamed for the low ridership of the Oakland Airport BART connector:

BART officials had hoped their $500 million connector to Oakland International Airport would be a money maker — but instead it has wound up costing the financially beleaguered transit agency $860,000 in the past two years, as ridership has dropped below the break-even point.

“We didn’t anticipate Uber and Lyft and the others, and that’s hurting us,” said BART spokesman Jim Allison.

Oakland International reports that the number of airline passengers taking ride-hailing services to and from the airport totaled more than 11 percent in January — up from 7 percent in July.

With the competition, ridership on BART’s connector has been dropping below the 2,800 rides a day needed to cover the line’s $6.1 million annual operating costs. That wasn’t always the case. In the months following its November 2014 opening, the line was averaging 3,200 daily riders — or about 400 over the break-even point. No more. For the past three months, ridership has been down an average of 11 percent over the same time a year earlier.

Ridership for the month of January was 2,530. In February it was 2,798. That ridership is very close to the amount predicted by staff for the $6 fare (2,685 daily trips) back when the Board first approved the project. So the ridership isn’t unexpectedly lower — it is exactly where they knew it would be.

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Must be great to get paid millions of dollars for doing absolutely nothing:

Today Caltrain announced that it has negotiated an extension of the deadline for contractors to begin construction of the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project while the agency awaits a decision from the Federal Transit Administration about the execution of a $647 million funding agreement. The contractors agreed to extend the deadline for four months, from March 1 to June 30.

The extension does not come without cost implications. Buying additional time from the contractors will likely require the utilization of up to $20 million in project contingency that otherwise would have been available for construction related expenses in the future.

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It is no secret that CBOSS, the Caltrain PTC signal system, was in deep trouble. The $231 million(!) project was ill-conceived and mismanaged. On late Friday, Caltrain put out a bombshell press release, finally admitting failure:

Caltrain announced today that it has terminated a contract with Parsons Transportation Group (PTG), the firm responsible for designing and implementing a Positive Control System or CBOSS. This contract was designed to implement federally mandated improvements to the train control system that will enhance safety and reliability of the railway.

The unusual action was deemed necessary after continued delays in delivering the project and an utter lack of progress in moving the project forward.

Caltrain is trying to scapegoat PTG for this screwup. However, the ones responsible are Caltrain staff who spec’ed out the project, and the Board who approved this steaming pile of shit.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Caltrain has been trying to salvage an FTA grant for electrification and new trainsets. Much of the CBOSS funding came from a Federal grant, and a skeptical Congress will no doubt inquire as to why Caltrain should be entrusted with more grant funding after the CBOSS fiasco.

cboss1

CBOSS prototype

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So much for that BART transit-oriented development policy:

The BART board is expected to consider on Thursday an additional $37.1 million, 655-space parking garage to the Dublin station.

The proposed six-story garage would replace a current surface parking lot of 118 spots. A net 540 spaces would be added, according to a BART report. The estimated $37.1 million would include $8.6 million in design and $28.5 million in construction costs. Operating costs are expected to be $240,000 annually.

Some quick calculations show the annualized capital cost (at 5% interest rate) is $1.855 million. Including the maintenance cost ($240k) and daily parking fee ($2.50) that comes out to a daily $8 subsidy per commuter!

There are currently 3,100 people on the reserved parking waiting list. So even after spending all that money, it won’t do anything to improve parking availability.

dublin_parking

 

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Nobody could have predicted

The Press Democrat has an interview with SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian. Here is Mansourian defending the agency’s screw-ups:

Mansourian, who has earned praise and criticism for his full-steam ahead managerial approach, did not appear chastened as he reflected back on the events of 2016 that prompted the service delay.

He made the case that SMART could not have foreseen having to replace the engines on each of the 14 rail cars because of a design flaw, nor the challenges getting warning signals at crossings to work properly or the difficulty attracting staff to the high-cost North Bay.

“If there was anything that was in our control and we could have worked harder, and we had a crystal ball, then we would probably feel awful,” he said. “But there were three things that led to this — not a single one of them was in our control.”

In fact, no crystal ball was required. All of these mistakes were entirely predictable and preventable. SMART could have ordered a reliable, off-the-shelf trainset. Instead, they spec’ed out a custom model, which would inevitably have bugs. SMART also designed a signal system around track circuits instead of axle counters. Axle counters are the industry-standard approach because they are 5 times more reliable.

SMART blames its staffing problems on the high-cost of living. In fact, there is an absurd amount of featherbedding. Trains will have both an engineer and conductor, when only an engineer is needed. And there will be eight vehicle technicians, for a fleet of just 14 railcars.

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The VTA has published the draft EIR for phase 2 of the San Jose BART extension. Phase 2 would extend the line starting from Berryessa, through the downtown area, and terminating (for now) at Santa Clara Caltrain. The projected cost is more than $4.7 billion.

Like most EIR’s, it is extremely long. But you can skip to this one chart, which tells all that you need to know about the cost-effectiveness:

bart-sj-cost-effectiveness

In other words, the VTA will spend over $4.7 billion to generate just 14,619 new transit trips. Counting operating subsidies, that is more than $50 per trip.

 

 

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