Here’s why MTC is a policy failure

By a convenient coincidence, The Chronicle published a chart entitled The Bay Area’s 11 biggest transportation projects that provides graphic proof of policy failure. A quick look at the list of projects is enough to show the absence of a coordinated strategy. What stands out instead is the prominence of extremely expensive yet low-public-benefit projects that are being pushed by powerful economic and political interests:

  • Central Subway
  • BART extension to San Jose
  • Caltrain electrification

An even bigger push from the Bay Area Council and others is promoting a project many times more expensive than anything that has ever been attempted in the region, primarily, TRANSDEF believes, to benefit the engineering and construction industries. It would have a timeline longer than the replacement of the Bay Bridge (!!), but does not first seek to implement faster, modest cost transbay projects like Dumbarton Rail:

  • BART Second Tube

Some of the biggest-dollar projects are a futile effort to postpone the day when implacable congestion forces a much larger percentage of the population to commute using transit (but the infrastructure won’t be in place because the funds that need to be spent now to build it are being wasted on preserving the status quo):

  • Highway express lanes
  • Marin-Sonoma Narrows

Some of the projects actually are strategic (because they will increase transit ridership at a moderate cost):

  • Bus rapid transit

While others pretend to be strategic (ferries’ much higher subsidies per passenger will benefit primarily upper income passengers):

  • Ferry expansions

And finally, some of the projects are quite minor in their scope, and will have no effect on regional mobility:

  • Two bike paths on bridges
  • SMART extension to Windsor

This random hodgepodge of politically favored projects demonstrates what happens when an agency with a mandate to solve a regional problem uses its funding to benefit insiders instead of developing an optimized response to those problems.

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