Posts Tagged ‘BART’

How BART does belt-tightening

Pity poor Cubic. The defense contractor spends years lobbying for a $200 million faregate contract, only to have the pandemic upend the budget at BART. With billion dollar deficits, it would be crazy for BART to do a new faregate project…or not:

BART expects ridership won’t be close to rebounding to pre-pandemic levels for years and is grappling with “a crisis without precedent in our history,” the transit agency’s staff told its board Thursday. The pandemic is expected to cost the train system more than $1 billion in revenue losses through fiscal year 2022.

Board directors said Thursday that they want to see possible scenarios about which service could be brought back when depending on returning ridership…Director Liz Ames said she would like more investment in capital projects. She stressed moving forward on new, more secure fare gates which aren’t yet fully funded. General Manager Bob Powers said fare gates are a high priority. Director Debora Allen said “safe, clean, affordable transit” will get people back the fastest. She pushed for new fare gates and more police enforcement.

Service has been reduced almost by half, and they’re worried about whether Cubic gets their cut.

New faregates will not prevent anyone from going through the emergency exit

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God damn carmunists

mcpartland_0Last month, the BART Board had a presentation on parking fees. The agency currently has a cap of $3/day. This is not only less than market cost, but also less than the cost of round-trip bus fare. BART staff has been looking at updating the agency’s parking policy. But one BART Director, avowed carmunist John McPartland, is opposed:

“I disagree with market-based parking,” countered Director John McPartland. “I don’t work for BART, I work for the public, and I’m not in the business of gouging the public.”

“My goal would be giving it to them cost-neutral, whatever it costs to maintain it,” McPartland said.

It should be noted that the current policy is definitely not cost-neutral. BART’s systemwide farebox recovery is less than 60%. Much of that farebox shortfall is from the suburban park-and-ride stations. BART can either make up that loss by raising parking fees, or else replace parking with infill development. It should be noted that McParland opposes doing either.

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The BART-SJ extension includes a redundant station at Santa Clara, duplicating the existing Caltrain service. At last month’s VTA Board meeting, Director Bob Rennie asked staff the following:

Rennie: We’ve had a number of people come to our Board meeting and ask why are we spending the extra money to extend to Santa Clara? I’ve never seen a trade-off of other options. If we have not done a trade-off analysis, are we going to do a trade-off analysis? Can we do a wider station at Diridon instead?

VTA Staff (Dennis Radcliffe): Many of those things were considered, but generally we are not exploring any of those…The Santa Clara station provides parking that we’re not providing at the downtown station.

I know this is pointing out the obvious but….if VTA wants to provide more parking at that location they can build a new garage at the Santa Clara Caltrain station and have those riders board Caltrain. 


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When San Jose pushed for a deep-bore tunnel on the downtown BART extension, one of the criticisms heard repeatedly was the station access issues. So it is bizarre that Mayor Liccardo would only now criticize staff for producing a station design lacking entrances:

For San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmember Raul Peralez, who both sit on the VTA board, the higher budget or delayed opening wasn’t as much of a concern as the lack of pedestrian access to the planned Downtown San Jose BART station. The lawmakers called for a second downtown station entrance. The lively session on Friday included discussion of changes to the current plan, with board members representing San Jose raising flags about the concept for the BART station set to be built downtown.

The current plan only includes one main entrance — located just north of Santa Clara Street — across an already-busy intersection from many of San Jose’s largest employers and attractions.

“I’m just very concerned about setting ourselves up for having pedestrians cross and clear (Santa Clara) when we know the number of assets in downtown where we expect people to be coming from… San Jose State University, City Hall, Adobe world headquarters, Zoom headquarters, all the entertainment venues,” Liccardo said. “All of those are south of Santa Clara.”

VTA’s off-the-cuff estimate for the addition of a second, south-of-Santa Clara underground entrance to the station would be in the $100 million range.

Major downtown metro and rail stations typically have entrances going off in multiple directions. The SJ downtown stop will have just the single entrance.

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Trumpism has no place at BART

It was inevitable that Donald Trump’s brand of toxic politics would spread. But who could imagine that it would infect the BART Board of Directors — namely Debora Allen, who represents District 1 in Contra Costa County.

Like Trump and his border wall, Allen is obsessed with keeping out the “bad guys” with new faregates. It does not matter what the cost, or the fact that a wall or gates or whatever is ineffective. She has routinely inflated claims of fare losses without a shred of evidence (she claims losses of $35-75 million when BART data says it is $15-25 million). And whenever someone corrects her on this, she engages in raging twitter flame wars:


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Further delays on BART-San Jose project

I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise:

BART service to downtown San Jose — including the crucial stops at the Diridon train station and First Street — could slip to as late as 2030 under some new estimates being floated by the Valley Transportation Authority. At one point, political and business leaders had anticipated BART service beginning in 2026 in downtown San Jose.

The reasons for the new estimates for BART service, as of now? VTA cites multiple factors. For one thing, environmental clearance had been anticipated in 2017 but was pushed back to 2018. Then, to help minimize disruption to merchants along Santa Clara Street, beneath which BART trains would run, VTA spent additional time to craft a single-bore tunnel option for BART’s approval. 

The EIR had nothing to do with it. The single-bore option is what caused the delay. BART had originally planned on conventional cut-cover construction, but chucked those plans to start over from scratch on a more complex design. A 4-year delay usually results in higher costs, so don’t be surprised when there is a follow-up announcement on ‘unexpected’ cost increases.


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Perhaps one reason why it takes so long to replace a worn-out BART escalator:

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BART fare evasion has become the cause celebre, with the agency given a blank check for security-theater. A partial list of projects includes $60 million to secure stairwells at night and $18.4 million for new fencing. BART may even spend $200 million replacing faregates with newer models.

According to BART officials, the fare-evasion costs the agency $25 million per year. That might sound like a lot, but in relative terms it is 5% of ridership (which compares favorably to other big city metros).

What if I told you there was another transportation system in the Bay Area with a much worse cheating problem? A large network covering the whole Bay Area, whose evasion rate was a whopping 24 percent?

I’m referring of course to the HOV highway network. MTC studies find that 24% of vehicles in the HOV lane lack the necessary number of passengers.

And whereas BART fare-dodgers don’t slow up trains, HOV cheaters very much clog up highways — to the point where average speeds in the HOV lane have slowed to a crawl. This in turn slows public transit and other buses, with large economic cost.

Unlike BART, the HOV lanes operate on the honor system and there are no plans to change that. So despite the rampant cheating, don’t expect Caltrans to install toll-booths or K-rail to “harden” HOV lanes.



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At a cost of over $30,000 per space, parking garages are the most expensive way for passengers to reach a BART station. BART also gives that parking away at below-market cost. The most vocal advocate for parking garages is BART Director Debora Allen. Allen also opposed the BART-housing bill. So it is strange to see the SF Chronicle describe her as a fiscal conservative:

Director Debora Allen, the board’s fiscal conservative, also hailed the appointment as a major improvement for the transit agency. She was heavily involved in the search for candidates.

“While some colleagues and staff began the selection process with some trepidation—uncertain that the IG [Inspector-General] position was necessary and concerned it had been forced upon BART — the process of developing the job description and listening to highly qualified inspector general candidates from across the country helped them understand the potential operational improvements an inspector general could bring to the agency,” Allen said. “The selection process brought us together to focus on what always should be front and center: the continuous improvement of the transit services we provide.”

Indeed, the job of the IG is to reduce costs at the transit agency. But what are the chances the IG recommends changes to car-centric BART stations, which consume huge operating subsidies?



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The disabled community is not happy with this new faregate design:

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