Thursday, March 08, 2012

MTA's budget problem: The Central Subway

"Now that I made you mayor, keep the $30,000 a month
coming for the Chinatown Community Development Center."

As the MTA grapples with its budget deficit, let's look at the main reason for all that red ink: the Central Subway project, a political deal disguised as a transportation project---and a poorly designed project at that.

According to Streetsblog, MTA's deficit is "19.6 million over the next fiscal year and $33.6 million in the following year---as well as a $120 million backlog in Muni vehicle maintenance and infrastructure improvements."

Those numbers don't look so daunting when you consider that the city is pouring $287,870,000 into the Central Subway pit according to page 4 of this city document. Since this document was created in 2009, the inevitable cost-overruns since probably make the total even higher.

The city pays the Chinatown Community Development Center, a strong supporter of Mayor Lee and the Central Subway, $30,000 a month do to "community outreach" on the project.

The MTA is considering thousands of new parking meters and activating existing meters on Sunday to raise more money from motorists, even though the city is already raising more than $170 million a year from parking meters, parking lots, and parking tickets. 

San Francisco isn't the only city pursuing foolish rail systems even as the bus system people rely on is cut back. Portland, our sister city in Political Correctness, has a transportation system that is drowning in red ink because of dumb rail projects:

...The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet), the regional transit agency that runs buses, commuter rail and light rail, faces a budget shortfall of up to $17 million next fiscal year. The Portland Bureau of Transportation, which manages the streetcar, faces a $16 million gap. Local officials are still crafting those budgets, but it’s virtually certain that leaders of a region long known for a commitment to multimodal transportation will have to increase fares and reduce service to balance budgets in 2013...

At the same time it works its way through seemingly intractable budget problems, TriMet is pursuing a massive expansion: A seven-mile, $1.5 billion light rail line to the suburb Milwaukie is scheduled to come online in 2015. That’s caused some observers to scratch their heads, wondering how the agency can have enough money for new projects but not enough to keep up existing operations. “They’re closing their eyes and jumping,” says Andersen. “They’re running on faith. And hopefully their faith is justified---it always has been in the past. I hope they’re right. I fear they’re wrong.”

Thanks to the Antiplanner for the link to the Portland story.

Thanks to Save Muni for the Epoch link.

The Matoff study mentioned in the Epoch story.

And the Grand Jury report on the Central Subway.

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