Final Push on BART Bond

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf takes her turn at the mic this morning at a last rally for the BART bond. Photo: Streetsblog
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf takes her turn at the mic this morning at a last rally for the BART bond. Photo: Streetsblog

Press, advocates and politician gathered at 8:30 this morning in front of Oakland City Hall for a final push for the $3.5 billion BART bond, Measure RR. As Streetsblog readers will recall, the bond is intended to rebuild and upgrade BART’s aged infrastructure, focusing on the exiting tracks, trains, tunnels, signals and electrical systems.

From the Yes on RR campaign’s release, Measure RR will enable BART to:

    • replace 90 miles of rails that have been severely worn down over 44 years of use
    • repair tunnel walls damaged by water
    • modernize BART’s 1960s-era electrical infrastructure
    • enhance BART’s ability to withstand an earthquake
    • prevent breakdowns and delays by replacing antiquated train-control systems; and
    • increase BART’s capacity, which will relieve Bay Area traffic and reduce air pollution caused by cars.

With the two-thirds threshold required for the bond’s passage, the consensus is it’s going to be a squeaker. Recent news reports about a BART janitor who worked absurd amounts of overtime, plus an active campaign against the bond by Senator Steve Glazer, has BART-bond supporters concerned–which was the reason for the last-minute rally.

Senator Mark Leno, Assemblyman David Chiu, SF Mayor Ed Lee, and BART Director Nick Josefowitz chatting just before the press conference. Photo: Streetsblog
Senator Mark Leno, Assemblyman David Chiu, SF Mayor Ed Lee, and BART Director Nick Josefowitz chatting just before the press conference. Photo: Streetsblog

“It’s simply irresponsible,” said State Senator Mark Leno, about Steve Glazer’s anti-BART campaign. While acknowledging the foul up of allowing a janitor to work so much overtime, he likened the anti-BART campaign to punishing the entire Bay Area. “BART can improve its governance at the same time it rebuilds…anger is not an answer. What is your plan?” he asked of the opposition.

This was a repeated theme–and one which Streetsblog agrees with. It makes no sense to let BART fall apart because of anger over a management screw up. Yes, the manager who permitted a single janitor to take that much overtime needs to be reprimanded and fired or demoted, but the idea that this also means the entire system should be allowed to fester makes no sense. This kind of wrong-headed thinking could literally get people killed.

The press gaggle watched from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, in front of Oakland City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog
The press gaggle watched from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, in front of Oakland City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff quipped that BART isn’t that different from a person. “Once you start pushing 50, you need repairs,” she said. Streetsblog readers will recall that the Washington DC Metro is roughly the same age as BART, but is in a virtual meltdown because of deferred maintenance.

“Without BART, 450,000 people can’t get to work… our economy grinds to a halt,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). The danger of BART failing without upgrades was a repeated theme in the addresses. If that happens, the economy will fail, said Barbara Leslie, President and CEO of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. “That’s what happens if the workforce can’t get to work.”

“The Bay Area succeeds because of human capital and infrastructure,” said Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, “Look not just at today, but look at tomorrow.”

“Looking at all the faces on BART this morning,” said San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, “I pray we pass this.”

Barbara Leslie of the Oakland Chamber. Photo: Streetsblog
Barbara Leslie of the Oakland Chamber. Photo: Streetsblog
  • mx

    I voted for it, because BART desperately needs to modernize infrastructure, but damn do I resent being stuck in the position of feeling like I have to vote to send billions to a Board and management I have zero confidence in, one that continues to relentlessly pursue expansion into further suburbs rather than take care of the system we’ve got.

    If it loses, which it well might, I do wonder what BART is going to do. Try again with a smaller bond presumably, but I’d hope they manage to shake things up enough to show that they really get the message this time.

  • JustJake

    All the quoted government leaders, singing out in unison “give us more of taxpayers money”. No surprise here, and the electorate is finally wising up. The more they threaten that this must be aporoved, the more NO votes it gets. Extortion…

  • Drew Levitt

    It’s worth asking now, while it’s still a hypothetical, what BART could do “to show that they really get the message.” I have the feeling that many people don’t trust BART at all, to the point where there is nothing BART could do to win their trust. I would prefer that those individuals be honest with themselves and with the rest of us, and acknowledge that they will never vote for additional BART funding. Maybe there is a large middle ground of voters who are rightly skeptical of BART’s intentions but who can be won over by some earnest gesture – but I’m not sure what that action would be.

  • mx

    That’s a fair question. There are certainly some people who will never vote for it, simply because they never use the system, don’t want to pay for it, and really don’t care whether BART goes away tomorrow. But propositions requiring 2/3rds majority do pass when there’s a good case for them. And, if RR does fail, it’s going to be even more of an uphill battle to pass a new measure in future elections when turnout is lower and the curmudgeon vote is a larger percentage of the electorate.

    I’d say management changes, but the last time we tried to do that, we ended up paying the last GM a fortune to not work.

  • OaktownPRE

    I already voted against the bond but I can tell you what they’ll need to do to get my vote the next time. Number one, they could start with dropping expensive and unnecessary extensions such as the $1.5B plan to go five miles down the freeway median to a station miles north of Livermore. Just wipe that one completely off the books. Then I might know they were serious. Second they could focus on dealing with the single point of failure that was designed into the system by going cheap by having only three tracks through downtown Oakland. This morning because of “police action” at Civic Center the whole system comes to a grinding halt. Throwing $3.5B more at the current thinking at BART is throwing money away.

  • Drew Levitt

    Thanks, this is very helpful! I share many of your concerns even though I voted the other way.

  • zippy_monster

    So how about this: BART siphoned HSR (Prop 1A) money to pay for their cable car to the airport. If the BART board agrees to pay that money back into something set aside to fund the DTX… maybe that might show that they’re serious about doing other than guzzling money for dubious projects. BART is critical infrastructure, but critical infrastructure needs more than just money thrown at it.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    The board could just resign. I voted for RR, but I really would have liked for the board to fall on their swords first.

  • david vartanoff

    So the first reform step should be a referendum regulating salaries and wages at BART so that golden parachutes cannot be paid, overly generous COLAs are restricted, and pensions/ healthcare contributions are reformed.

  • Jame

    Sorry, I disagree. Livermore has been paying for BART (as it is in Alameda County, and part of the district) for the past 30 years. There should be a station in Livermore. But it should not be aligned with the freeway. The only acceptable terms are in downtown by the ACE station. Because that makes sense for the region.

    They also need to build in more redundancy. And move ahead with BART Metro plans.

    As an Oakland resident, the last thing I want are more extensions leading to no space in the core. I can hardly get on as it is. But we also can’t ignore what was initially promised to taxpayers.

  • Drew Levitt

    Thanks to all for helpful, constructive replies! I can’t speak to the likelihood of any of these actions but I hope the BART board is listening.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    It seems like OaktownPRE was objecting to the middle-of-the-freeway Livermore plan, not Livermore BART in general. I agree that BART to downtown with transfer to ACE makes great sense for the region.

  • OaktownPRE

    I absolutely object to any more BART stations in any city in the middle of freeways. I would consider a DMU extension to downtown Livermore, to meet up with ACE to be a much, much better return on investment – even if it’s still a low priority item. This idea of building heavy rail metro style BART hither and yon is actually quite insane. Nobody does that anywhere else in the world. And certainly nobody spends that sort of money to run trains every twenty damn minutes.

    If it’s so important to get commuters from the Central Valley off the freeway and onto BART why don’t they extend ACE to the Dublin Pleasanton station? It could be done for a fraction of the cost of this ridiculous boondoggle.

    And lastly, lots of people have been paying for BART. There’s no station in Emeryville. No station in Albany or Kensington. Even though they slapped the name on it there’s no station in Martinez. There’s no station for the five times as many people who live on Geary Blvd. Whatever the taxpayers in Livermore have paid it couldn’t amount to more than a tiny fraction of the billions needed. Sorry, I’m not buying that “we’ve been paying” argument one bit.

  • Kieran

    You can thank Marin county for pulling out of BART’s plan as the sole reason there’s no BART subway on Geary. BART originally wanted to goto the North Bay by having a subway on Geary reach around Park Presidio blvd.

    Then the train would turn north, travel across the underside of the Golden Gate Bridge and serve most of the North Bay, up to San Rafael and most likely Novato/Santa Rosa.

    By looking at this picture of a 1960 conceptual design for BART in the North Bay you’ll see what I mean
    http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2016/04/1960sBARTProjectMap.jpg

  • DragonflyBeach

    So then voice that to the board of supervisors. We need to make it clear that BART extensions in the core are important.

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