Almost any transit project is eligible to apply for Federal funds.

(Quick clarification – the Bay Area gets a lot of “formula” funds for transit.  How they are used are up to MTC and the transit agencies, but, in general, these are all spoken for – if they were transferred for other purposes, such as a major capital project, then that means a whole lot of over-the-hill buses would not be replaced at the ends of their useful life, a lot of rail lines will not be given required maintenance, etc.  In addition to the transit programs – of which 49 USC 5307 is by far the largest – there are also three highway “flexible” funds, with CMAQ and STP being the vast majority.  These can be used for transit, again, pretty much at the option of MTC, but, given the extreme underfunding of Bay Area road maintenance, unlikely to occur.  What we are probably talking about is the Federal discretionary capital grant program for transit, which is mainly 49 USC 5309 “new starts.”)

Since the Obama administration has pretty much changed the rules so that factors like ridership, etc., aren’t really part of the evaluation process any more, so, if the Bay Area made this a high priority, it would likely have a chance.  However, there is only so much money to go around nationally, and there is a limit to how much money any region is going to get, and there is an unlimited amount of other requests for this funding, so the real question is, how far up to the top of the list this will be.

The other interesting factor is that it is getting real questionable how much money for transit programs there is going to be.  With the Republicans controlling both houses, and the D’s not really into the program, there hasn’t been a new transportation authorization bill for quite a while, just short-term extensions and, right now, it is difficult to see how there will be a long-term extension any time soon.  Without that, not a whole lot of money for any new projects.  Not saying impossible, am saying makes it more difficult.

OK, let’s step back and take a wild turn.  Let’s say that the objective is to create a transit system that will carry the most people, get it done the quickest, and do it at the lowest cost to taxpayers.  Not really the way things are done, of course, particularly in the Bay Area, but, just as a thing to think about.  OK, going down that road, the way to go is to run long-haul commuter buses on an I-580 HOT lane from the Central Valley to the existing BART end station.  Such lines can be started within two years (the biggest time-taker is getting the buses delivered, now that the roadway is getting close to completion), there are just about no costs for the right-of-way, and this is the type of transit service that has the highest farebox recovery ratio – over 90% is not at all uncommon, although I’m not going to make that kind of prediction without a lot of study.

This would have also been the right way to go before BART went over the hill to the Tri-Valley.  Of course, it was never even considered as an option.

– TR, Transit specialist

This pretty much back up what many of us have been saying for some time. The SFMTA and other municipal transit authorities are not in the transportation business, they are in the construction business. They are also in the empire building business. The more the construct the bigger the public debt to the industry grows since the maintenance and operations costs escalate accordingly. This is why many people are saying NO MORE MONEY for the bottomless pit that claim, “if we build it they will come.”

To the desert valley where there is no water?

DTX RALLY: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 11AM at City Hall Steps

Join Rail Pak, Livable City, Coalition for SF Neighborhoods, Friends of Caltrain, Sierra Club, Transit Riders Union, SF Tomorrow, Bay Rail Alliance, TRAC, SaveMuni, TRANSDEF, BATWG and others.

A UNITED FRONT TO ACCELERATE DTX AND A REGIONAL TRANSIT HUB

▪ Prioritize and complete the region’s highest transportation priority!

▪ Fulfill the voter mandate of 1999 Prop H to extend Caltrain to the Transbay Center.

▪ Alleviate traffic gridlock and pollution—by reducing the projected 320,000 daily car trips from the south peninsula (more than car trips of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridgecombined).

▪ Offset diminished streets, sidewalks, utilities, Muni transit and environmental quality caused by upzoning and increased density—originally predicated on the promise of DTX.

▪ Fulfill the promises of an integrated regional transit hub, connecting Caltrain, BART, Muni Metro, Muni buses, AC Transit, SamTrans, Golden Gate Transit and other transit modes. No more delays!

A Grand Central Terminal of the West—not more traffic gridlock and a choked Muni system.

How to make the Bay Area’s tangle of public transit options less chaotic

By Cory Weinberg : bizjournals – excerpt

Have you ever tried to transfer from BART to Muni downtown, entering and exiting separate gates after you walk up and down two sets of stairs? Or made the same maneuver transferring from Caltrain to BART in Millbrae? The transfer takes minutes when it should take seconds — and that’s just one way the Bay Area’s transit system can bewilder riders.

SPUR, the region’s urban policy think-tank, just released a hulking 51-page report on how to make the Bay Area’s transit systems less chaotic. Much of the conversation surrounding public transit woes centers on funding shortfalls and overcrowding.

There’s been a 14 percent drop in public transit usage per capita in the Bay Area since 1991. Aside from Dallas, Houston and Atlanta, that’s biggest decrease among large metro areas. That’s bad company to be in if you care about transit-oriented development, traffic, the environment and making life better for 29 percent of Bay Area commuters who pass a county boundary to get to work every day..

The report doesn’t just call for all-out consolidation among agencies because that could be onerous. It does call on state legislators to think of ways to provide financial incentives for just that. SPUR’s interviews found “some apathy among stakeholders about” solving the problem because “state and federal transit funding programs have not emphasized integration.”… (more)

Suit says SamTrans retaliated against ex-employee for questioning accounting practices

By Bonnie Eslinger : Bay Area News Group – excerpt

Accountant claims she ‘suffered’ after raising concerns over practices; is second former employee to do so. Ling La, who sued Wednesday in U.S. District Court, worked for SamTrans between May 2011 and July 2013 as a senior accountant. She names as defendants the San Mateo County Transit District, SamTrans CEO Michael Scanlon and her former supervisor Sheila Tioyao.

“If you stand up and do the right thing, you’re supposed to be rewarded in our culture,” said La’s attorney, Dow Patten. “She’s suffered a lot from it.”

SamTrans Communications Manager Jayme Ackemann said she couldn’t comment on La’s allegations, citing the pending litigation. But she did provide a copy of the investigative findings into La’s complaint, completed in May…

West also concluded that La’s interactions with vendors created “tension” and that she was disciplined for her “harsh and inappropriate” tone, not her whistle-blowing activities.

“I do not find the request” to attend training was in any way retaliatory for coming forward with her concerns about the shipping charges,” West wrote.

Patten said that although La’s specific accusations are different, her concerns about the agency’s accounting practices were similar to those of David Ramires, a former SamTrans accountant who told NBC Bay Area last year that the agency created fake and inflated expenses so money could be secretly set aside. The agency has said its own independent auditors have found nothing illegal with the bookkeeping.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said his office is investigating Ramires’ accusations as well as those subsequently made by the NBC affiliate. SamTrans officials told Wagstaffe they’ll cooperate with the investigation, which he said will be “lengthy.”

“A complete forensic audit is necessary,” the district attorney wrote in an email Friday…(more)

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