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

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