Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Pull the plug on the Central Subway"


Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2011, 1:00 p.m.
Location: St. Francis of Assisi Church, 610 Vallejo St. (at Columbus Ave.), San Francisco

Central Subway Project Unraveling
Despite all the recent adverse news about the Central Subway Project, San Francisco officials have unaccountably decided to plow blindly ahead with a $246 million tunneling contract, which would immediately drain $57 million of scarce local transit funds from the citywide Muni System. Board member Bob Feinbaum points out that “if either state or federal cost-cutters decide not to underwrite the project, San Francisco would wind up with a large hole in the ground, and some very expensive tunnel boring machines to unload on eBay.” 

For the following reasons, recent Central Subway decisions by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFTA) make no sense:

1. On July 1, 2011, the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury issued a scathing report on the Central Subway, citing Muni’s financial and operating difficulties as strong evidence that the SFMTA is in no position to operate an ill-conceived, money-losing subway. Here are two of the report’s many criticisms:

The Central Subway would result in the elimination of “direct connectivity from the T-Third line to the Muni Metro.” 

With the Central Subway, “Riders not only lose the direct connections. They face "The Walk." According to SFMTA, "To get from the Union Square/ Market Street Station to the Powell Street Muni Metro Station is about a thousand feet."

2. Governor Jerry Brown has just cut $27 million from State Proposition 1A allocations to the Central Subway. Another $34 million in Proposition 1A funds is potentially also on the chopping block. A State Proposition 1B allocation of $308 million could also be in jeopardy.

3. The House of Representatives is targeting pork barrel projects, threatening significant portions or even the entire New Starts program. Co-founder Howard Wong notes that without the full $983 million New Starts grant, the Central Subway project would “just drain state and local funds from the citywide Muni System.” He adds that the Grand Jury’s conclusion, "Central Subway---Too Much Money for Too Little Benefit,” succinctly crystallizes the problem.

4. Opposition to the Central Subway in Chinatown and within the Asian community is growing. As San Francisco organizer David Tse puts it: “We are convinced that this [Central Subway] is more a developer’s dream than a transportation project. And they are using a flawed transportation analysis to make way for the wholesale alteration of everything along the route of the subway. If this project goes forward, I am especially worried over the irreversible impact on San Francisco’s historic and still vibrant Chinatown, where my sister and I grew up with many happy memories.”

5. On May 9, 2011, the 70,000 member Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club acknowledged new factors by passing a resolution encouraging the SFMTA to “pursue alternative uses of the state, regional and local funds programmed to the Central Subway but not yet spent.” urges the City and County of San Francisco to pull the plug on the Central Subway. 

By freeing and recovering existing state/local funds and future savings in operating subsidies and capital renewals, over $800 million can be invested in the citywide Muni System, transforming transit corridors on Stockton Street, Geary Boulevard, Van Ness Avenue, Mission Street, Judah Street, Taraval Street, Third Street, Market Street...

Howard Wong, AIA
415 982-5055

Gerald Cauthen, PE
510 208-5441