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MTC package to increase BART expansion projects

Submitted by Reporter on Wed, 06/28/2006 - 3:34pm

S.F. subway, smaller bus services also deemed worthy of funding

Erik Nelson

Subway, BART and bus projects, along with transit service for the Bay Area's lower-income riders, should get a boost from a $419 million funding package approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on Wednesday.

Much of the money — $347 million — will come from a $20 billion state transportation bond voters approved in November. Bay Area transit agencies, including BART and AC Transit, will also receive $922 million directly from the state under that Proposition 1B bond measure rounding out a total of nearly $1.3 billion for area transit.

About half the money will augment large mass transit projects: $100 million for the San Francisco MUNI Central Subway, $45million for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority's bus rapid transit project and $17million apiece for the BART extension to Warm Springs and eBART, a commuter rail link to BART's Pittsburg/Bay Point station from eastern Contra Costa County.

The $34 million for the BART projects will

actually come from Proposition 1B transportation bond funds that the state will give directly to BART, which has pledged the money to MTC to satisfy funding rules that require outside funding for extension projects.

Some advocates for poor and minority transit riders expressed disappointment that the package the commission adopted unanimously scaled back an earlier proposal for funding "Lifeline" transit services for transit riders who don't have other means of transportation.

The commission approved adding $143 million to the $91 million the commission had previously agreed to spend on the Lifeline program over the next 10 years. A proposal the commission considered in May would have added another $10 million to the program. Commissioners also agreed Wednesday to add that $10 million if state budget negotiators now meeting in Sacramento restore excess gasoline sales tax revenue, known as the "spillover," to a statewide public transit fund.

With that possible reduction, some advocates questioned whether the commission's priorities weren't skewed away from the kind of services that serve the transit-dependent.

"How is it that Warm Springs fits into the urban core?" asked Raphael Durra, chairman of the Minority Citizens Advisory Committee, which advises the commission.

Bob Allen of Urban Habitat, which advocates for poor and minority communities, echoed that doubt and lamented that the public had not had adequate chance to review the new proposal:

"We don't see how eBART and Warm Springs are going to benefit the urban core."

Commissioner Federal Glover, who is also a Contra Costa County supervisor representing the area to be served by eBART, took umbrage at the suggestion that the area was insufficiently urban.

"Next time, please make sure that you have your facts together when you come here," Glover said.

After the meeting, he explained that the area, which he represents on the county Board of Supervisors, has been accurately designated an "area of concern" by the MTC.

"If you look at the demographics, there are a lot of poor and minority residents that do not have access to transportation" in communities like Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood.

The package will also provide $32 million more funding for the Bay Area's smaller transit operators, such as the Livermore Valley's Wheels bus service and Contra Costa County's WestCat bus agency, down from the $41 million proposed in May.

Read Erik Nelson's Capricious Commuter blog at