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Concerns About BART to San Jose
by Roy Nakadegawa

The following paper was written by Roy Nakadegawa, member of the BART Board of Directors, regarding the proposed BART extension to San Jose.  All views expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of the VTA Riders Union.  Please forward all comments on this paper to

Concerns on Extending BART to San Jose

Roy Nakadegawa PE

BART Director, District 3

June 13, 2001

I write this paper to express my concerns of extending BART to San Jose (SJX), and to provide alternative thoughts on what the cost of SJX could provide.


As a publicly elected BART Director, I feel it is a Director’s responsibility to administer BART in a sound rational, and cost effective manner. To do this, after months of meetings with the public, staff, and Board members, we developed in February 2000, a Strategic Plan that provides direction with cost-effectiveness. However, the San Jose BART extension developed outside of our Strategic Planning Process. Here we have an outside party obtaining State funding plus getting additional funding to partially fund this project from a County Sales Tax Measure A without a formal meeting or application with BART. Santa Clara County is basically is telling BART in a top down manner what we should do. There are still many cost and maintenance agreements that needs to be worked out which involves substantial sum.

Area Politicians pushed for this BART extension drawing on mythical perceptions rather than realistic ones without real professional analysis or review to win support. It is very costly as well as ineffective. BART Extension will not only be at least five times more expensive as other viable alternatives that can provide more convenient service with better access from wider origins and destinations. These lower cost options can easily be implemented in much shorter time than BART’s ten years.

Also, the voters were not fully informed of MTC’s analysis showing this extension will attract 11,500 new riders under status quo development and using FTA evaluation criteria computes out to; $100.49 per trip per new rider. The Proponents primarily keyed on congestion relief and need for BART ignoring costs. Then, Valley Transit Authority (VTA) then hurriedly approved Measure A plan that included BART and then placed it on the ballot with little public input. Actually they could have spent a full year to develop a comprehensive Measure “A” plan and then put it to a vote.

Basic Philosophy and Background

My Basic philosophy has always considered equity and cost-effectiveness for I believe the general public expects public funds to be spent in a cost effective manner that benefits the whole community, rich and poor alike. I retired after 40+ years as a Public Works Engineer involved in many aspects of public works including transportation, planning, building and maintaining public infrastructure, and traffic engineering. In all cases, I sought the most appropriate technology and projects most likely to prove cost-effective. I have been elected nine times to transit boards and have served as president of American Public Works Association’s Institute for Transportation, nominated to serve on 4 Transit Cooperative Research Projects, and appointed Board Member to the California State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors.

I have been involved 28+ years as a Transit Board member who has made extensive trips studying transit, so I do not want play a passive/reactive role as a Board member. BART is very nice, luxurious but costly system, and I switched from AC Transit Board and I ran for BART, primarily because I considered BART extensions are excessively costly and it was absorbing much of the Federal and State transit monies for our region.

This last November, I ran for re-election to BART for a third term and despite my well publicized position of opposing BART Extensions unless well warranted, charging for parking, and on better land use integration and development with minimal parking, I was pleasantly surprised, where I received the highest vote of 5 BART Board races. Also, I spent less than a penny a vote, the least of all successful candidates. This large vote gives me confidence to publicly oppose this San Jose BART Project despite its large appeal.

Stuttgart, Germany, a Comprehensive Planned City with good Transit

Stuttgart, a city of 550,000, where I visited May, 2000, developed a well thought out long-range transit plan with public input. The city spent a little more than $1 Billion over the last 10-12 years, and now has a 10 light rail transit (LRT) network serving their city. This network provides high quality accessible transit from most areas of the city. Most of these lines approach the city-center unimpeded as subways. They provide excellent speedy transit access to the heart of their city similar to a metro system. There are about 6 subway stations and with several lines converging and have in-town frequency of 3-5 minute service, like most metro systems. Santa Clara County with San Jose as the largest city in the Bay Region as its nucleus with comprehensive planning and commitment could develop a multi-modal transit network as effective as Stuttgart, Germany.

Stuttgart also provides an extensive integrated bus network serving some of the outlying hilly areas as well as one cog rail line. Several commuter rail lines are being considered for integration into their LRT network similar to what a neighboring city Karlsruhe has done.

Currently the commuter rail and intercity rail serving numerous outlying cities and countries are combined into a large integrated terminal, which has immediate connection to their LRT subway system. Since this Commuter/Intercity station access into Stuttgart is a time-consuming in/back-out terminal operation, they have plans to reconfigure the station to a pass-through operation.

Stuttgart currently is also converting an abandoned outlying US military base, Scharnhausen, into a planned transit-oriented community. The LRT is being extended to be the major transport mode of access to this area, and roads are neither being widened nor improved for access. The military barracks are being reconstructed into multi-family units. The city has built or is building mixed-use developments, such as a senior center with accompany living units, a sub regional shopping center, and business/office centers around the rail stations even before the LRT extension is completed. The community is committed to the concept of reducing auto use and enhancing livability. And yes, this outlying community voted to tax themselves to put the LRT extension underground to protect the traditional character of their community center.

Is Congestion Relievable?

The BART extension arises from concern about Santa Clara’s worsening traffic congestion, particularly from the East Bay, which was reported to be among the worst in the region for over 10 years. However, the traffic from the East Bay is only 8 percent of the trips into Santa Clara County, whereas more than 82 percent is generated within the County itself. According to the Mercury News, the greatest increase in traffic in the last 7 years --some 227 percent-- was from the West on Highway 17. The same article also mentioned that the traffic from the south has doubled in just the last few years as well. Reflecting this reality, ridership on Caltrain south of San Jose has increased over 50 percent in this last year alone. So highways from all directions to Silicon Valley are getting congested. Unfortunately most of the automobiles are not headed to downtown San Jose – BART’s principal focus—but to nodes or campuses several miles from downtown, which will remain far beyond the reach of BART’s service.

BART will be no panacea to relieving congestion, as many politicians say and as the public believes. Most Transit and Transportation Professionals know from studied facts that transit does not relieve congestion and BART is no exception. Did BART relieve congestion on the Bay Bridge? After BART started operating through the Tube under the Bay, San Francisco bridge traffic continued to increase.

With cities that are considered have the best transit, even here statistics show that the mode share of transit is losing over that of auto use due to the popularity and status of the auto. Singapore, even with extensive pricing on auto use; i.e. high taxation (where it cost over 250% to buy a compact car), have limited number of auto registration, charge a toll to enter their CBD, and having an excellent transit system, transit is barely holding its mode share. Curitiba, Brazil, where Prof. Cevero said in the 1990s, they have reduced congestion from their well integrated busway system, we informed in this last APTA’s South America Transit Study Tour that they too are losing mode share to the auto.

Transit is an alternative to congestion. As congestion increases, transit use also increases, as indicated with the increase in Caltrain ridership from the south. In turn, there are many who vote for transit in hopes that transit relieves congestion so that they can continue to drive.

Santa Clara’s Sales Tax Measure A, which passed last November with over 70% return, will raise $6 Billion over 30 years and should provide a decent transit system. Yet, a third of this $6 Billion will be spent just for the San Jose BART Extension (SJX). This allocation will fund an expensive non-standard gauge rail Metro/Commuter line, BART, which will cost well over $4 Billion. This $175 million per mile single BART line will provide a transit alternative for 8% of East Bay auto trips, a minor portion of traffic into/out of the County. And typically suburbanites who will switch from driving to BART will be no more than 3% of this 8%. So, BART will carry no more than 0.24% of traffic in/out of the county. Meanwhile in the 10 years before BART is completed, the buildup of traffic could exceed this expected BART ridership.

The focus of San Jose developing a high-density city center plan is good for our environment and lessens auto use, but what is needed is a good transit network to serve the center, like Stuttgart. Even though Measure A includes additional LRT lines and extensions operating on standard gauge, all these LRTs will be unable to jointly use the subway tracks to downtown San Jose as Stuttgart due to the different track gauge. Stuttgart has 3-5 minute service in their downtown area. Whereas, San Jose will only have BART operating at 12 minute intervals throughout most of the day and 20 minutes early morning and evenings. While all of San Jose’s LRTs will be operating on surface mired in congestion and signalized intersection delays in the downtown area. How good transit service will San Jose get by spending over $4 billion for BART when one could achieve better service by combining their light rail operations? The downtown with 4-5 subway stations could have 4–6 minute service by combining their LRTs. Santa Clara County VTA with little public input hurriedly passed this non-integrated plan, ignoring issues of social equity, effectiveness and genuine public input, and promoted the false notion that rail, especially BART, relieves congestion.

A BART Project without BART involvement

How did this project come about? The Governor, with urging from area politicians, allocated $725 million from the state surplus without any BART involvement. According to a presentation by a San Jose City Planner at a recent APWA Luncheon BART was included on the Extension’s Policy Advisory Committee, but is not on the San Jose Extension’s Standing Policy Committee. BART is currently only on the Advisory Committee. After his presentation, with the 70+% vote for its funding, one got the impression that its implementation was almost a foregone conclusion. Yet, there are many large financial details of operational and financial responsibilities that Santa Clara must consider and negotiate with BART. This is now in formative stage.

BART’s immediate and growing needs --

This last year BART experienced a large increase of about 45,000 riders per day. BART is almost a 30-year-old system and has reached its life cycle and is need of extensive refurbishment and rehab but lacks the funds to undertake them. BART must acquire, upgrade or rebuild:

1 - upgrade the train control system 2 - acquire new train cars

3 - rebuild old cars 4 - enlarge the maintenance facilities

5 - rebuild or replace escalators 6 - rebuild or replace elevators

7 - replace fare-processing system and gates 8 - rehab our station interiors and lighting, plus

9 - seismically retrofit our core system

Santa Clara VTA needs to share costs

With SJX, Santa Clara County should realize there are immediate and future system upgrades needed to revitalize or rejuvenate the aging almost 30 year old BART system and, if SJX is connected, they will benefit from these needed upgrades, so they should share in its cost.

As mentioned, the BART Board has not been apprised of or consulted with throughout the evolution of this project from its inception. BART staff has been consulted about the determination of what the possible operating and maintenance cost that VTA should be responsible for in providing for this 22-mile BART segment. No formal action has occurred with the BART Board to date. Yet costs and funding are bandied about for this San Jose BART extension amidst several other interrelated projects as the ACE and Capitol trains, and Express buses. All the latter when in some combined could easily serve this East Bay link with as good or better access for many years to come at far less cost than BART.

Distorted Claims of Public distributed Information

The Parsons Binckerhoff Study (July 2000) on BART authorized by Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA) was never offered to the BART Board. (I only obtained a copy in March 2001.) This study as well as a published BART Note entitled “Why BART?” both claim BART to be: “the missing link in the regional rail transportation network between San Francisco, the East Bay and the South Bay” and “key to reducing congestion in the Corridor.” These are not facts, but what politicians want the general public to believe: that BART is the only link and will relieve congestion.

No mention is made in the PB Study or ‘Why BART?’ of the Capitol Corridor (CC), Altamont Commuter Express (ACE), LRT or Express buses, whereas in MTC’s Blueprint they are indicated to be viable modes to serve this link and can do so at far less cost.

“Why BART?” also mentions that BART will generate higher transit use than commuter rail because it provides more frequent service. True, but commuter rail could also generate higher ridership if it ran more frequently as well. This last year both the ACE and CC trains have experienced large increases in ridership. Reports are that there are more riders than the seated capacity.

Also, I experienced in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan and in Lisbon, Portugal commuter trains operating at intervals of 4-6 minutes during peak period. They operate trains based on the demand, making it far more cost effective and more frequent than BART. They get good ridership from well-integrated multi-modal transfers from subways, local and regional buses, and because there is considerable nodal density around the stations and corridors, which is lacking all along the Fremont-San Jose link. Japan even operates the Shinkansen, their Hi-Speed intercity train, for trips comparable to service from San Francisco to LA, at 6-10 minute intervals out of Tokyo during peak periods, again because there are high nodal density cities along the route.

NO Country outside USA would ever consider building a BART (Metro) to serve intercity commute service. It simply cost too much! Their Metro lines are seldom over 10 miles in length. San Jose BART Extension will be 22 miles and its total length will be over 55 miles! The trip time with BART would not necessarily be faster but overall public costs surely would be far greater.

Many say conditions in Europe and Japan are different culturally and socially, but they do have greater congestion and have considerable sprawl. So in this respect its similar. In Japan they have about 2-2.5 times more using Commuter rail to commute than those using Metro. Osaka, Japan has around 350,000 per hour, not per day, using Commuter rail, versus 150,000 per hour using their metro. Even Lisbon, Portugal has commuter rail carrying over twice BART’s highest carrying line. They operate 4-6 minute headways and include express service providing faster service than BART. Why the high ridership? Because their sprawl is more oriented around transit centers

SJX BART’s service is slated to operate at minimum 12-minute headways. However, most Metro system around the world usually operates at intervals of 5 minute or less. Even several Commuter rail lines as mentioned operate at about half the frequency of BART’s current highest carrying line and carry more than twice the passengers of BART’s highest carrying line, Pleasant Hill to San Francisco, which only operates at 7-8 minutes. Stockholm, Sweden has several commuter lines that operate at 15 minutes during the peak, the same as most BART lines, but then drops to 30 minutes during the off-peak, again to be more cost effective. How productive will BART’s service be when operating at 12-15 minute most of the day, when mid-day ridership will be 1/8 to 1/5 of peak period? SJX’s annual operation and maintenance subsidy will range from $24-39 million per year according to PB’s study. This does not include the capital cost that will be at least $4 billion and this amount will be a total 100% subsidy.

‘Why BART’ goes on to say that commuter rail and buses would require transfers, implying that with BART a transfer would not be required. However, a good portion of San Jose bound BART riders would be from Livermore valley and East, and they would have to transfer at Bay Fair. It is very unlikely that there would be direct BART service from this area to San Jose. So in the course of making the transfer, they would have backtracked towards Oakland to San Leandro’s Bay Fair station before transferring to go south to San Jose, making at least 12 stops along the way. The ACE train would be more direct with about 4 stops. With some track upgrade on the ACE and Capitol routes, the trip could be as fast as BART from Fremont to San Jose.

It also mentions that buses would be stuck in the same traffic as autos. However, it does not mention that most freeways will be widened with a High Occupancy Vehicle (Pool-car) lane that the buses would use to bypass the congestion. The HOV lane would probably not reach capacity with pool cars for years, which buses would use and speedily transport riders also for years.

Then “Why BART?” goes on to say “BART will provide more convenient regional access to the entire Bay Area”. This is an obvious exaggeration since BART does not serve all the nine Bay Area Counties, nor does it serve all of San Francisco, Alameda, or Contra Costa Counties since it is essentially a single line service in these counties. If BART did serve all these areas, would it be worth the public cost to provide an expensive BART network for such a large an area with such few riders?

‘Why BART’ continues and criticizes Commuter rail as having grade crossings inferring it causes auto congestion. The time it generally takes for most commuter trains to cross at grades will however cause less delay than suburban arterial signalized intersection, which we continually add as sprawled development takes place. Also there is little we can do to minimize congestion for auto registration has increased more than five times the roadway capacities we provide, so it will get worse no matter what we do. Railroad grade crossings will have little effect on adding to auto traffic congestion.

Cost of Transit Modes and Development

Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) developed a Cost Effectiveness Index, to measure the cost of transit that includes the total cost of the project including capital, operation and maintenance to the new riders the project attracts. Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) using FTA’s cost-effectiveness index determined the cost per new rider for various modes of transit for the Fremont-South Bay Corridor as follows.

* Rapid Bus from San Joaquin County, Tri-valley, Hayward, Fremont to Santa Clara County at $9.68;

* VTA’s LRT from Fremont BART Station to San Jose at $21.55;

* Expanded Interim VTA Commuter Rail at $34.76;

* BART Warm Springs at over $72; and

* BART San Jose Extension (SJX) at $100.49.

Why is BART so costly? The prime reason is BART is costing $175 million per mile for a 22 mile line that carries a low daily new ridership of 11,500. The low usage is due to the corridor in which it traverses has few sizable dense communities or developments.

To gain new riders in this low-density environment, BART will have to develop large car parking facilities. Auto access is bad for our environment, encourages more auto-oriented sprawl, requires more access roads, is very poor land use around stations and is not in keeping with BART’s Strategic Plan that emphasizes Transit Oriented Development (TOD). More auto use creates the same convoluted vicious cycle we confront today. We widen roads because of congestion, but continue to build auto-oriented developments and in a few years the roads show greater local and regional congestion. Building an auto-oriented BART will mean more congestion at BART’s parking lots and in the vicinity of the stations, since a great majority of the parking use is for commuting, it negates good mixed-use development around stations. There is no midday activity generated from commuter parking and since all the parking is used, it thwarts added midday ridership for a balanced use and better fare recovery like most Metros. Meanwhile, these parking spaces get fully utilized and commuter parking demand escalates, so we foster this continuum for the auto!

PB’s Study came up with more riders, resulting in lowering the cost to $55 per trip per new rider in what they call the Base Case, with status quo development. I wonder what model they used that results in such large difference in projecting the ridership that differs from MTC’s $100.49 cost per trip per new rider. Also, PB’s projected cost per new rider with their TOD alternative that generates even more riders reducing the cost to $22 per trip per new rider. PB’s daily ridership is 44,815 for the Base Case and 77,950 for the TOD option. These estimates are for year 2020.

Also, I wonder how valid PB’s 20 year projection would be since BART was planned to serve more dense areas of downtown San Francisco, and Oakland and it took BART 25 years to develop its current ridership. For SJX’s Base Case, the stations with little developed nodes except in downtown San Jose will require 6,202 parking spaces that provides 7.23 trips per parking space. Under the TOD option, downtown San Jose is proposed to have a 3-4-fold area increase with greater density to its downtown area as well as more dense nodes around new stations, but proposes to have 9,492 parking spaces, much of it in structures, which provides 8.21 riders per space. One would think that TOD would reduce parking and develop more riders but the difference is only 13% greater riders per space with the TOD. Again foreign Metros do not provide parking but have more dense development have much higher ridership throughout the day and much of it is not just for commuting because of the density.

It also take years for any amount of TOD development to take place, therefore, one should not consider the TOD option plan to be a matter of fact unless there is a committed regional master plan with zoning that mandates dense mixed-use development around stations. The ridership figure that is generally used to justify SJX of 78,000 per day assumes the full TOD nodal developments at all stations by year 2020.

Los Angeles Red Line Metro

In November 2000, I visited and reviewed Los Angeles’s 17 mile $4.6 Billion Metro Red Line that was just completed in September. Two years earlier however, Los Angeles voted to restrict any further metro subway lines because the voters considered Metro Subway too costly. LA’s Red Line serves a far denser developed corridor and generated around 120,000 trips a day within a month after it was opened. In comparison, SJX will cost at least $4.3 Billion when including an amount for buy-in. Assuming the imagined year 2020 projection of 78,000 riders, SJX will be at least 2.5 times more costly as LA’s Red Line, based on ridership. Incidentally, during in my visit, I made three trips on the Red Line along the newly opened section shortly after the noon hour and noticed that it had a ridership of around 30-40% seated capacity. What do you think the ridership of SJX would be a few months after opening with TOD in the planning? BART’s $500,000,000 Extension “West-Pittsburg to Concord” in the same midday period after 3 years of operation has far less riders today than LA’s Red Line since there is little corridor density or station area development.

BRT (Bus Rapid Transit)

Another mode of great success is LA’s recently inaugurated Metro Rapid Bus on Wilshire Boulevard. Costing less than $10 Million it generated a ridership of 56,000 per day within a couple months of operation. Its cost per new rider is $0.61! It operates at 3-5 minute intervals during peak. This line’s 56,000 trips is over three times the combined ridership of BART’s West Dublin/Pleasanton and West Pittsburg/Baypoint lines combined, which together cost the public over $1.1 Billion.

BRT is one transit mode that America has long ignored and is just beginning to be consider as an alternative that has been employed for years since the 1970s in South America from where I just returned on an APTA Study tour. They have been using BRT at great advantage and have daily capacities of up to 200,000 per day or 25,000 per hour on a two lane busway which exceeds some of our Metro lines and all light rail lines. Curitiba, Brazil has devised a busway system network that one prepays their fare prior to boarding to facilitate dwell time and speed service. Santiago, Chile with serious air pollution conditions have emphasized the use of transit by providing bus only lanes on several major streets that have three lanes for buses and only two lanes for autos in each direction and on some of these streets buses are carrying up to 60,000 riders per hour.

In terms of the cost for BRT it varies considerably to the extent of busway improvements from less than 1% to 5% of a Metro like BART.

Cost with Other Transit Modes

MTC’s Phased Implementation Plan recommends the use of less sophisticated modes of transit for this corridor and their estimated cost per trip per new rider as mentioned earlier were: Express bus at $9.68; VTA’s Light rail from Union City to San Jose at $21.55, expanded commuter rail from Union City at $34.76, and BART at $100.49.

Another stark comparison is when the Governor allocated transit funds, he stated “state intercity rail operations would increase to $75 million, up from $64 million in the current year”. This additional $11 million, the Governor said, “will make permanent two additional daily round trips for the Capitol Corridor for an eighth and ninth train from Sacramento to Oakland, a fifth and sixth train from Oakland to San Jose, ...”. These funds are operational costs. This added service totals to around 1,300 additional miles of daily intercity service for $11 million. The Oakland to San Jose service is 13.5% of the total mileage, so roughly apportioning this added cost of two additional trips would be about $1.5 million. If we gradually increased this existing service by adding two round trips every year over 20 years, there could be 46 round trips. Also assuming there is a need for making track and station improvements of $360-400 million, it would total for upgrade, operation and maintenance around $650-700 million. PB’s estimate just to operate and maintain BART would require an annual subsidy of $24-39 million and over 20 years totaling $480-780 million, which would about equal the upgraded 46 round trip commuter rail total cost, so most of BART’s $4-$4.3 Billion in Capital cost would not be needed. All the while, if BART was the choice, it would not be in service before 2008 or 2010 so, what would VTA provide for this needed service in the meantime?

Also, if SJX requires an average of around $31 million per year to subsidize BART’s operation and if $1.5 million would add two commuter rail trips, then one can provide the 20-year increase in one year. However, ridership would not build that fast, so it would be prudent to gradually build up the service in accord to its use.

Housing Alternative

Current regional public polls has expressed concern of our housing problem and now place about as much importance on housing as transportation. So rather than considering an overly expensive BART Extension, I propose an alternative that combines housing as well as transit. If we provide some public funds for housing and scale back the expensive BART alternative and provide cost effective Bus Rapid Transit plus local buses. The present worth of SJX including annual operating subsidies it will total to $4.37 Billion without a “Buy-in”.

If VTA allocated 10% of $4.37 Billion, or $437 million to above mentioned bus service, an amount I believe would provide decent transit service over 20 years. Then, with the remaining $3.933 Billion, subsidize the much needed affordable housing, mixed together with other housing, averaging $360,000 per unit, within a planned Transit Oriented Community (TOC). To develop a sense of place and a sense of ownership, have the low/moderate income purchasers pay an average of one third of the cost ($120,000) of the units. At $3.933 Billion, one could build over 16,000 units. With subsidy varying from 50-75% based on income. Assuming there will be twice the full mortgage units combined with the subsidized units in the TOC, it would total 48,000 living units. Along with some of the existing development, there could be 3 or 4 decent half mile radius sized communities that could be evolve on this scheme.

As a condition of the grant subsidy, have the householder promise to join the car share group and use transit 4 trips per unit (2 round trips) per day one could build even more units. A well planned TOC with BRT buses using HOV lanes or exclusive busways connecting to downtown San Jose and outlying campuses would lessen the need for the car, so housing cost could be reduced up to 10% by reducing parking and promoting a Car Share operation.

Within this TOC, add some private partnerships for commercial, work and office facilities, and there could be a decent sized walkable Transit Oriented Communities of 25,000 to 35,000 in population similar to those I have viewed in Stockholm. This type of comprehensive integrated development would generate more transit trips than the 78,000 estimated in PB’s BART TOD alternative.

VTA’s PB study estimates the need for 13,300 of added low income housing units within a half mile of the stations, but does not mention how the units will be funded. It also estimates their TOD alternative requires 52,572 parking spaces (this will cost ~ $60+ million), most of which are in expensive structures.


People have asked my meaning in the use of the word ‘access’. My use of access is the manner of how people approach or manage to get to use transit. Generally the shorter distance with ease of traverse that one has, the better the access. With TODs, much of the access will be by walking or biking, which will be better for a sense of neighborhood and the environment. There would be less noise, less parking problems, less pedestrian hazards and less use of resources, as compared to an auto oriented development.

Speaking of walking, a paper presented at this year’s Transportation Research Board meeting mentioned that a large growing sector of our society are now becoming obese (30 pounds overweight) and much of it is attributed to auto use versus physical activity as walking, especially with the youth and elderly. Obesity with its various related health problems is costing the nation over $8 Billion per year.

Another problem of access is that we generally only develop a single line rail system as metros and keep extending it, which does not improve access. All large foreign city metro systems have a network of short multiple metro line, seldom exceeding 10 miles, providing good access without parking problems and integrated to dense multi-use developed areas. Because of this, one generally does not need a car to access the system for their day-to-day needs. BART is trying to incorporate this in our Strategic Plan that promotes TODs as a policy. TODs provides greater access within dense mixed-use development with walkable access.

In Fremont there is a very large land development proposed by Catellus which the city recently approved that is located to the west of I-880 that will have difficult access problems to reach the proposed BART alignment. The present commuter rail alignment would provide better access to this development.

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice not only includes the environment but social inequities as well. This last year BART experienced a 45,000 trip daily increase. Most of this increase occurred in San Francisco, where there are only 54 parking spaces in the entire city. Balboa Park Station without any parking had an increase several times greater than outlying suburban stations. As a matter of fact, San Francisco stations have more riders paying an extra fare on local transit to use BART than those who use BART’s free auto parking at most outlying suburban stations, and auto users are generally more affluent. Valley Times’ news distribution area’s average household income is over $100,000, whereas Oakland’s Vice-Mayor Brunner in her recent talk said Oakland’s overall household income is only $47,000. It costs BART about $1 a day per space to maintain, light, and provide security on surface lots. Structured parking is 40% more. 65% of this cost is subsidized from the fares while the remaining 35% is from sales tax subsidy. Only 26-28% of BART trips are from parking. Should we spend more to subsidize free parking to satisfy the more affluent? BART’s San Jose Extension service area, which is not well developed, will also require extensive parking for riders to gain access.

Property values adjoining BART stations are appreciating dramatically where property around the Dublin station is now being purchased at $80+ per square foot. Yet the majority of BART Board still wants to maintain free parking to satisfy the suburbanites plus build more parking. Should the less affluent central city users without parking pay a portion of their fare to and subsidize BART parking? The Federal Government and the courts are placing more importance on Environmental Justice.

Right of Way Impacts

The Capitol and the ACE trains operate on private freight rail company trackage and the companies usually treat passenger rail operation secondary to freight. Union Pacific owns the existing rail Right of Way (R/W) of both the ACE and the Capital Corridor lines. ACE has contracted with UP as a commuter service and pays a higher use fee to operate than the Capitol Corridor, which is classified as an intercity service, where the federal government has imposed controls on intercity rail charges. The Governor has allocated $35 million to purchase the rail R/W from Eastbay to San Jose. Once the R/W is acquired, there will not be the problem of negotiating fees or coordinating freight to passenger service, as some critics mention for upgrading commuter rail. This portion would have the greatest use when combining the Capitol and the ACE commuter rail operation. One could gradually upgrade this portion to a full grade separated system if it becomes necessary. This could be done on a pay as you go basis without the use of bonds, and with bonds it could increase public cost 40%.

This acquired portion from San Jose into the Eastbay could be connected at Fremont or Union City as a rail hub to integrate the North and East Eastbay service of the Capitol, ACE and BART services. This rail hub could be cost effectively developed in shorter time and could function adequately as a hub easily for several decades, accommodating the gradual increasing commuter rail ridership. This cost again would be a small fraction of the BART SJX.

Federal application for Funds

SJX still lacks around $800-1,000 Million in financing, and VTA is hoping for Federal or State funding. However, there are a growing number of other competing transit projects nationwide applying for Federal New Start funds that are more cost effective and less costly in magnitude than SJX and serve a better cross section of society in keeping with Environmental Justice.

In addition, an application in conformance to the revised version of TEA21 under Planning Factors, the project would have to provide data for:

* Increase in accessibility and mobility to people [not cars] and for freight,

* Enhance the integration and connectivity of the transportation system, across and between modes,

* Promote efficient system management and operation; and

* Emphasize the preservation of the existing transportation system.

In an overall assessment, it appears that in providing some of the above data for SJX would not place this project in a very good competitive position for a new start grant After 30 years or so when corridor density develops and potential transit ridership builds, VTA will gain a better likelihood for Federal funding.

Noise Problems

Another misconception of why many opt or push for BART is their belief that BART is quiet. This is true if one compares conventional Diesel Tractor powered trains, but many may not be aware that there are other rail systems that are quieter. I rode the FlexLiner Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) in Denmark that was less noisy (interior and exterior) than BART except when accelerating. And there are the Electric Multiple Units (EMU) that are even quieter. I recently checked with Peter Stetler, Executive Vice President of Adtrans, whom manufacturers the FlexLiners, about exterior noise and he basically agrees that other than when FlexLiner is accelerating, it is as quite as BART is. Another asset of the FlexLiner is that it can couple and decouple units automatically enroute where our DMU and EMU from Copenhagen coupled over a trunk line and decoupled as our train continued north to Frederikshavn

Where BART is elevated, on curves and at many of its over crossings, it will probably be nosier than a DMU. Also most LRTs are as quiet or more so than BART. So the general public’s perception that BART is quiet mode of rail is not true.

Fuel Cell powered locomotion is a promising development to power transit vehicles that will be as quiet and less polluting than electric powered vehicles. There are also Natural Gas and Diesel powered buses equipped with auto guidance system operating on an exclusive transitway or guideways that are being constructed in several cities in Europe at lesser cost than even LRTs. These buses can be converted to Fuel Cell power that will make them quieter and they will be able to operate in subways without the problem of harmful emission in exhaust.

If we planned and developed with newer type DMU or EMU based on standard gauge trackage or even utilize guideway buses, one could develop a network of transit lines to various parts of the city comparable to the system that Stuttgart developed. All this will be much more cost effective than building a non-standard gauge single line BART system and would provide transit access to far greater the number of riders.


In summary, we need to approach this whole matter of building transport infrastructure in a more rational, holistic, studied and adaptable manner. Politicians rather than promoting popular projects based on personal bias should consult objective research groups and academics who have studied the impacts of what transport projects have made on our society, quality of life, and environment and then promote transport projects with this comprehensive view. We risk wasting hard to garner public money that should be spent on cost effective projects that will benefit the maximum number of people as well as aid in improving our environment and social condition. We need to consider cost, adaptability, appropriateness, viability, environment, livability and social impacts. San Jose could have a decent transit network with the funds that will be raised from the recently passed sales tax. The San Jose BART Extension, generated primarily by politicians, will be very expensive, provide limited benefits to few people, do nothing on relieving congestion, exacerbate our environment, and widen social disparities. We should proceed with better planning and analysis with genuine public input in an overall comprehensive context of land use controls that incorporates housing, jobs, industries and transportation within a comprehensive Regional Plan.

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