Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Can we finally put BART out of its misery?

With all precincts counting, Measure B has 66.3% of the vote, vs. 66.67% needed to pass. However, there are still provisional ballots and vote-by-mail ballots to vote. Hopefully that wont change much, and it can die a nice death. Measure B was a horrible idea. After the feds pretty much told VTA that their planned BART extension did not make any cost/benefit sense, VTA hitched a great plan: "We will show that the voters are so stupid that they are willing to tax themselves to oblivion just to put the 'BART' name on something." Luckily, it seems to have failed. Hopefully that will cause the powers that be to rethink this "BART or nothing" approach.

If the choice were between adding new freeways and building BART, I would surely be in the BART camp. Only its not that way. 50 years ago, Santa Clara county decided that 'expressways' were a much better choice than BART. More recently, raising taxes to build Highway 85 seemed to be the way to go. "Upgrading" 237 and 87 to freeways also appeared to be wise ideas. Only now, after building all the roadways, it is finally dawning on people that "hey, maybe some people might actually like to take transit". Problem is that most development is geared towards cars. The further south, the worse it gets (just check out South San Jose - with residential 6 lane divided streets, where you have to walk over a mile just to get to your neighbor across the street.)

In this climate, who would take BART? Primarily people that take transit already. It might save a little time. (No getting stuck in traffic on the express bus). Though it would probably cost them more. New riders? Well, a few that were afraid of buses. But VTA already has an extensive light rail system that hardly anybody rides. Why should they? The stations are set in the middle of the freeway. "Hmm. traffic's light. I guess I'll just drive in". They also go a a circuitous route to finally get to their destinations. The end result is that they almost always take much longer than driving. (Often even longer than biking!) And this to arrive at a destination that is horribly pedestrian unfriendly. And links between transit systems? Hah! the light rail passes right over an Amtrak/ACE station - but the light rail station is half a mile away! Why make it easy for people to connect between transit systems?

For $5 billion dollars, perhaps we could actually build transit systems and development in a that they would actually be used. Now that would be innovative. Transit for moving people. And VTA just thought it was for providing union jobs.

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