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Measure B Passes; MTA in a Huge Hole; Driving Decreases Nationwide

Today’s top news:

Santa Clara County‘s Measure B, which is intended to authorize funds for the expansion of BART service to downtown San Jose, now looks almost guaranteed for passage. Unless the last few ballots to be counted go against the measure, the current 66.74% in favor of the provision (66.67% needed to pass) is enough. This would be a $6 billion, 16-mile extension of the train system.

New York City‘s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is finding itself in a bigger and bigger hole. Today, the New York Times reports that there is little funding available for the system’s next 5-year plan, which funds capital improvements. The MTA needs about $30 billion to pay for it, and now that it faces a massive debt load of $27 billion and it has little incoming tax revenue because of the fiscal crisis, people are raising questions about whether the capital improvements that have been scheduled will actually happen. We raised this issue a few weeks ago, and the question remains: will the Second Avenue Subway project be cancelled?

Meanwhile, nationwide, people continued to drive less than they once did, even as gas prices have gone down substantially. There was a 4.4% decline in September from the previous year, probably due to declining economic conditions. One wonders whether this decline would be even more precipitous if gas prices remained at their summer peaks. That said, the Los Angeles Times reports that some transit agencies in the L.A. region have seen drop-offs from their high ridership this summer. Even so, in Los Angeles itself, Metro ridership has increased by 4% on buses and 17% on rail lines in October as compared to last year. This is good news for a system that just won another half-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation projects, Measure R.

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