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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.

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.

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CBOSS prototype

Apparently, Democrats learned nothing from their recent election debacle. They are still promoting the idea of allowing large multinationals to avoid paying their taxes. Former Michigan Senator Carl Levin has joined Republicans in calling for a “tax holiday” on offshore corporate profits, and using the windfall to fund infrastructure projects:

As divided as our country may be, one issue where there appears to be strong bipartisan agreement is the need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. Democrats have supported this for years, and President Trump has made it one of the centerpieces of his domestic program. The question is how we’re going to pay for it. Many are eyeing the huge pot of money — $2 trillion to $3 trillion — sitting offshore courtesy of U.S. corporations who have stashed it there, because they don’t want to pay taxes on it.

With the infrastructure proposal looming large, that pot of money has become an attractive answer. But the big questions are what tax rate reduction would be a sufficient incentive for corporations to finally pay the tax owed on their offshore profits.

Hilary Clinton made a similar proposal during the campaign, as have other Democrats in Congress. This policy would be a mistake for many obvious reasons. First, it rewards bad behavior on the part of large multinationals. The law is clear on the amount of tax owed, and corporations should pay it just like everyone else has to. The second problem is that these infrastructure projects would be almost entirely for roads and highways; i.e. don’t expect it to pay for subways or high-speed rail. And finally, this tax windfall would be just a one-time event. It does nothing to address the long-term decline in gas-tax revenues, which is the root cause of the infrastructure deficit.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook testifying before Congress on his company’s tax avoidance

Our insane zoning policies cost the economy $1.5 trillion in lost productivity annually:

According to a recent paper by the economists Chang-Tai Hsieh, from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and Enrico Moretti, from the University of California, Berkeley, local land-use regulations reduce the United States’ economic output by as much as $1.5 trillion a year, or about 10 percent lower than it could be.

The problem is especially severe in coastal cities, where zoning policies limit the supply of housing. Based on the cost of materials and local wages, a house in San Francisco should cost less than $300k. But due to artificial land-use restrictions, prices are actually around $1 million. And there is little incentive for local government to lower the price of housing.

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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.

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