Public and VTA Board Members Object to $100 Billion Mega Tax

Both members of the public and some elected officials who sit on the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Board of Directors sounded off on a $100 billion tax hike dubbed “Faster Bay Area” at the agency’s June 21 (9 am) Board of Directors meeting. This was the first public meeting for which the agenda stated that the tax proposal would be discussed – the item was entitled “Faster Bay Area” rather than “General Manager’s Report” as on the June 6 VTA Board and June 13 BART Board meeting agendas.

And what did The People have to say…?:

“The idea that buses are for the poor and desperate and that train are for people who are more well-off needs to change,” said Silicon Valley Transit Users (SVTU) Leadership Team member and San Jose State University student Monica Mallon. “I hope that you can change this not only through a funding increase for buses, bus also by integrating fares and providing seamless transfers.”

“Things that connect to Highway 101 are now automatically called transformative,” objected San Jose City Council District 6 candidate and longtime VTA critic Andrew Boone. “They are not transformative, they are entrench-itive; they would entrench us into the same failed transportation strategy of depending on cars for most of our trips.”

“The future of the highway and the car is not sustainable, and we really have to consider that we can’t just think of the automobile as all anymore,” implored resident Blair Beekman.

“More money really needs to go toward better bus, rail, and walking and biking for everybody,” said SVTU Founder Eugene Bradley. “Too often I see from staff and certain politicians here [the view] that buses are only for those who don’t have a car. This limits our ability to free ourselves from traffic that’s destroying Silicon Valley.”

“The shame of this is that Bus 22 is the only 24-hour line in the County,” said resident Kieth May of the aborted proposal by VTA staff to eliminate service on that route entirely from 1 to 4 am every night. “Excuses for this lack of late-night transit are only one part of a series of pathetic failures on the part of our public services organizations.”

VTA Board member and Mountain View City Council member John McCalister questioned the agency’s rushed timeline for helping compile a 2020 mega tax.

“This is being led by the coalition, not by VTA,” explained VTA Policy & Community Relations Manager Scott Haywood in response to questioning by Director McCalister, who asked why the agency was requested to provide a list of projects deserving of funding by such a $100 billion tax in just two weeks. “Once they do the [public] outreach they would then need to go to the state legislature to get state approval to [place the tax on ballot in all nine Bay Area counties] to be ready for November 2020 which is when most folks believe would be the ideal time to go,” explained Haywood.

“We need transparency, and we need a little more time to vent something out instead of throwing a number of projects through our TAC committee and not having the cities and the VTA Board get a full opportunity to discuss the projects that are moving forward.

“One of the things that continues to disturb me is that we’ve got the public who any time we mention ‘101 corridor’ that equals road expansion and more cars,” said VTA Board Director and Los Altos City Council member Jeannie Bruins. “I’m hoping that our position is trying more to look at what I would call ‘transit super-highways’ and those transit super-highway may be parallel to or on [Highway] 101, 85, 237, or what have you through the nine Bay Area counties.”

VTA Board Director and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo suggested that part of the Mega Tax’s proceeds go toward funding the construction of California High-Speed Rail to San Jose. Funding HSR with the proposed Faster Bay Area tax had not been proposed by any government official or advocacy group, nor by any representatives of the pro-tax business coalition (Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council, SPUR) itself.

While the Mega Tax’s proponents continue to promise a robust and inclusive public outreach process, not a single public meeting on the tax has been proposed. No city or county in the San Francisco Bay Area has yet determined or even discussed what public outreach they will conduct, if any.

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