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Silicon Valley Transit Users: NO on Measure B

The Silicon Valley Transit Users published a detailed and well-referenced analysis of VTA’s Measure B Sales Tax on its website on Sunday, urging those eligible to vote NO. The all-volunteer group has lobbied for expanded bus and rail service since 2000, when VTA’s Measure A Sales Tax was approved by voters promising better bus service but delivering a series of cuts instead:

Since 2001, VTA’s buses have nearly 31.9% fewer riders now than in 2001.  Much of the bus ridership drops are easily traced to the fare hike/service reduction cycles VTA enacted in the early 2000’s.

In January 2008, VTA underwent a restructuring of its bus system resulting in an additional 9% overall service cut.  Now, VTA is undertaking a second transit network restructuring conceptually known as the “Next Network.”

One of the three concepts developed for bus routes pictured above – “Network 90” – suggests VTA to eliminate many “Community Bus” lines not on a main thoroughfare like El Camino Real or Monterey Highway.  The “Network 90” bus concept features no more VTA bus service in Los Gatos, southern San Jose, and neighborhoods off Monterey Highway in Morgan Hill and Gilroy.

So the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is planning to cut bus service even if Measure B passes. Why? Because Measure B wastes $1.5 billion on traffic expansions on expressways and highways instead of investing it in transit.

“Highway Expansion Does NOT Work” plainly states the Transit Users editorial, citing the $124 million reconstruction of the Highways 101 & 85 interchange as just one on a list of failed traffic expansions stretching back decades:

Despite their promise to provide “traffic relief” in 1984, their brand new freeway 85 took just two years for the traffic to return. In fact, the congestion on that route (or “corridor”) after two years was worse than it ever has been (according to the Mercury News). That’s because the subsidy for car commuting encouraged people to buy new tract housing in south San Jose, while working in north County (Sunnyvale, Mt. View, Palo Alto). Nobody benefits except the special interests wanting more car commuters from further and further away.

The Transit Users provide a convenient listing of what VTA has spent 2000 Measure A funds on so far. As you can see BART has consumed most of the money, and bus service is the absolute lowest of VTA’s spending priorities:

A breakdown of expenditures from the Palo Alto Daily Post article is below, using numbers they received from VTA.  Of the $1.4 billion in sales tax revenue raised by Measure A in 2000:

  • $642 million went to the BART project (extension from the East Bay to San Jose)
  • $53 million went to Caltrain
  • $29 million went to the VTA bus program
  • $99 million went to VTA light rail
  • $2 million went to the Mineta San Jose International Airport (proposed) tram
  • $235 million went to VTA for operating costs
  • $6 million went for miscellaneous operating expenses
  • $293 million went to pay off bonds
  • $81 million went to “fund exchange payments”

The Mountain View Voice detailed research by County Supervisor Joseph Simitian from the county and VTA.  Per Simitian’s research, of the $3.65 billion raised so far by 2000 Measure A and 2008 Measure B, nearly 80% of the money raised so far went to the BART extension into San Jose.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.  How to vote in Santa Clara County. The Transit Users conclude with an honest and refreshing assessment of Measure B:

It surprises us that VTA would propose another sales tax measure disguised as “relieving traffic” that further punishes middle-class and poor working families… Measure B as proposed does nothing to increase needed bus and light rail service in Santa Clara County… Our group would have considered supporting Measure B if the $1.5 billion proposed for “County Expressways” and “Highway Interchanges” went instead to funding expanded bus and light rail service.