Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wanna Rip Someone a New One?

The Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission is the agency responsible for "Planning, financing and coordinating transportation for the nine-conty San Francisco Bay Area". Its reason for being is that the federal government requires some such agency to exist, not beholden to any one government, to propose the most effective and most equitable use of federal transportation funds.

The feds would like to know how good a job the MTC is doing. Since I signed up for something sometime, I just received this email:

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are reviewing the Bay Area's transportation planning process carried out by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and its partner agencies. To provide the public with an opportunity to comment, the two federal agencies are sponsoring a public meeting:

Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Time: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter, Dahms Auditorium, 101 8th Street, Oakland, (across from the Lake Merritt BART station)

Oral and written comments may be presented at the meeting. Written comments also can be sent via e-mail to or by regular mail to:

Jean Mazur
FHWA California Division
650 Capitol, Suite 4-100
Sacramento, CA 95814


Ted Matley
FTA Region IX
201 Mission Street, Suite 1650
San Francisco, CA 94105

Public comments will be accepted through Friday, August 17, 2007.

Please call MTC Public Information at (510) 817-5757 to request special assistance, such as an interpreter, at the meeting.

Thank you,
MTC Public Information

You might or might not care enough to blow an evening at some boring meeting--but it wouldn't take long to drop them an email with your opinion of how well organized, or not, you think Bay Area transit is.

So how do I think the MTC is doing? A few things to consider:

Pick two random points in the Bay Area. Try to get between them on public transit. How many tickets will you have to buy? Will the connections be coordinated, or you will blow half an hour at each transfer point. Is their even a map you can look at to figure out a route?

If the MTC were doing its job, you would neither need to know nor care what agencies operate what routes.

Are the MTC's favored projects of the past and future cost effective and fair? Or does the MTC just rubber-stamp the pet projects of political elites? Consider the cases of Muni's T-Third light rail line ($648 million, slower than the bus it replaced, but a fulfillment of Willie Brown's wheelin' and dealin'), and BART to San Jose ($6 billion for 17 miles, only eligible for federal funding because our local congressional delegation specifically exempted it from the FTA's cost-effectiveness rules, but the centerpiece of SJ Mayor Gonzales's hopeful "legacy").

Meanwhile, CalTrain's downtown extension never quite seems to make it to the MTC's funding A-list, since CalTrain is the unloved stepchild of Bay Area transit.

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