Measure B ill conceived and out of step with commuters

There’s something disturbing about political leaders who
demonstrate the vision of Mr. Magoo while advising us to embrace
the same old tired transportation policy.
There’s something disturbing about political leaders who demonstrate the vision of Mr. Magoo while advising us to embrace the same old tired transportation policy.

Measure B, if passed by Santa Clara County voters on Nov. 5 would bind the Valley Transportation Authority into using state and federal discretionary funds for roads, bicycle and pedestrian projects until 2036.

The serious problem with this measure is it does not include mass-transit projects. Measure B was put on the ballot by South County Supervisor Don Gage and his cronies on the VTA board. The VTA, and particularly Gage, has shown a disdain for mass-transit programs by diverting funding away from expanded CalTrain service to Gilroy.

First off, ask yourself why the current VTA board would even want to handcuff the discretion of future board members. It’s political shenanigans at its worse. Proponents of Measure B promise safer roads without raising taxes. That’s like saying we are going to spend all of our existing environmental funding on water filters instead of correcting the root cause of pollution.

We all like our cars, except when they break down when you are already late for your meeting. But Gage and other supporters of Measure B apparently believe that the choking summer smog is an acceptable price to pay to ensure the convenience of our gas-guzzling SUVs, otherwise they would be encouraging more people to get off the road by funding mass transit.

As someone who has made literally thousands of trips into Silicon Valley during the past six years, I can attest to the need for additional mass-transit systems, not fewer. During the peak of the tech boom from 1997 through 2000, the only reason the hellish commute from Gilroy to San Jose was not impossible was the hundreds of us who got off Highway 101 and onto the train. The only reason more commuters didn’t take the train was because the lack of investment in an overall transit network left workers without a connection to their companies once reaching San Jose and the adjacent cities.

So what does Gage want to do? Invest even less.

Bay Area mass-transit systems are jokes when compared to those along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Eugene Bradley, founder of the Santa Clara VTA Riders Union, hails from New Jersey where he notes the investments in mass transit with state and federal discretionary funds have netted proven results for commuters there.

Yet if Measure B passes, it will put projects like BART, Light Rail, and CalTrain electrification at risk. Commuters from many outlying communities have no other choice but to drive, further congesting roads and making our air one of the most serious health risks in the state. Mass transit plays a barely audible second fiddle to highway spending. It’s time Santa Clara County begins a progressive effort to provide transit networks that provide efficient, cost-effective alternatives to automobiles.

I spend roughly $80 a month on unlimited CalTrain rides between Gilroy and San Jose. Before I discovered the train, I was spending about $140 a month on gas. But Gage wants us to believe the latter is better for us. In a pro-Measure B opinion co-written by Gage, the California Automobile Association is trotted out as a supporter. You do the math. Gage and the automobile lobbyist want us to adopt the same tunnel vision that created this traffic nightmare in the first place.

In the 1970s and ’80s when I lived in San Francisco and worked in the financial district, I literally left my car parked during the week. Trips to movies, theater and shopping were easily accessible through the network of BART, MuniMetro and bus service. The parking nightmare San Francisco is known for never affected me. It can work here, but not while backward-thinking politicians struggle to keep American transit systems locked in the 1950s.

What’s more, there are more red herrings buried in this measure than a dot-com stock prospectus. Proponents want you to think there is a grand plan for bicycle and pedestrian projects. Horse chips. Roughly 97 percent of the $2 billion in annual state and federal funding goes to highway projects, but proponents want you to believe they are turning Santa Clara County into a staging area for the Tour de France.

It’s the same old song and dance – what’s good for the automobile and oil industry is good for you. We need to send a clear message on Nov. 5 to the automobile special interests: We want effective mass transit now, not in 34 years when this ill-conceived measure would next allow us to use our discretion.

Vote No on Measure B.

Dennis Taylor is a long-time resident of Gilroy, an award-winning journalist and a member of the Sierra Club. His column is published by The Dispatch every Wednesday. You can reach him at: [email protected]

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