Massive drop in sales tax revenues puts BART to downtown San Jose in doubt
In November 2008, Santa Clara County, California voters approved Measure B, which increased sales taxes in the county to pay for the extension of BART rapid transit service to downtown San Jose. The 16-mile extension is currently scheduled to open for service in 2018; it will cost upwards of $6 billion to build. It will run from Warm Springs, through Milpitas, Berryessa, and finally to Santa Clara, running in a subway under downtown.
Now, VTA, which is managing the project, will recommend building BART only about halfway – to the Berryessa area – delaying plans for downtown (and subway) service. This would decrease the cost of the project to $2.1 billion, as the subway is the major expense. Sales tax receipts have decreased dramatically over the past several months because of the economic crisis and made the funds approved by Measure B’s 1/8¢ sales tax less useful than originally envisioned.
I’m not a huge proponent of the BART-to-San Jose idea in the first place, since people will still be able to get from San Jose to San Francisco more quickly via the existing Caltrain service even when the BART extension built. Using the funds to electrify (and speed up) Caltrain and extend the trains to San Francisco’s new Transbay Terminal would be more efficient and improve service for the region as a whole. San Jose should focus on development around its existing and underused VTA Light Rail service and Diridon station rather than build an expensive subway for a not particularly dense downtown.
But building BART only to Berryessa is ridiculous. Not only would the trains fail to reach the county’s core, but there is little space to focus transit-oriented development in the largely residential areas around the proposed Berryessa station. The whole project should be delayed until Santa Clara County can get its hands on the funds to build all of it.