BART, A Boondoggle Held Hostage

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), San Francisco’s version of a subway, has been unable to reach a contract deal with its employees.  They went on a short strike then returned to work and when they prepared to strike again the governor stepped in with a 60 day cooling off period.  That extension ended this past Friday. Still without a contract, the workers sought maximum disruption by putting off the strike till Monday, at the last minute they put it off one more day.

Despite being some of the highest paid blue collar workers on the planet, and having access to fat (and free) government pensions and ridiculously cheap healthcare; we, the cash generating public, are to believe that these civil employees are somehow disadvantaged. Of course, as in most such cases, management is corrupt and probably as much to blame for the fiasco we find ourselves in. Like everything the government touches, the bureaucracy is bloated and self serving.

I don’t have much to say about the present situation, there is enough virtual ink spread across the internet that I have nothing new to add. So let’s just move on by stating that management should be fired en-mass and labour should be ordered back to work with a 20% pay cut and a 401K to replace their fat pensions, let them keep their healthcare as that should be considered a human right.

From its inception, BART has been a boondoggle.

Boondoggle: (noun) an expensive and wasteful project usually paid for with public money.

The Bay area was blessed with a great hybrid bus/light rail system, The Key System. It was useful, it was efficient, and it was privately owned and operated. In the late 50s it was sold to AC Transit (a government agency) and promptly dismantled. And planning for BART began in earnest. The first BART lines opened in 1972, and the three and a half mile tunnel beneath the Bay opened 2 years later.

From the beginning BART was designed to move wealthy suburbanites into the city to work and then return them home. For proof of this one only needs to look at the station locations in the city, there are  four stations on Market Street, and two for the rest of the city. You can go anywhere you want in San Francisco, as long as it is on Market Street. Market Street is where the banks and corporate headquarters are, the fact that poor people get some limited use of BART is only incidental to its goal of moving the wealthy around.

At $100,000,000 per mile (3 times that for the planned Livermore extension), BART is not cheap.

Despite being designed for the wealthy, some blue collar Joes have learned to take advantage of it.  Of the 400,000 daily riders, only half cross the Bay. And that brings me to the point of this rant.

All (as in 100%) of the BART strike mitigation efforts are going towards the half of the ridership that goes to the city. Extra buses, extra ferries, limited (management operated) trains; all going to the mostly white, mostly well-to-do 50%. The other half? Sorry about your luck.

And BART’s next big push is Silicon Valley. This will allow the further gentrification of San Francisco as the wealthy tech invaders descend like locusts and eat up everything that makes this city great. And the working classes will be forced out or forced into the street and San Francisco will be just another city. But all will not be lost, $12 cups of coffee will be plentiful.

The average house in San Francisco costs $1 million, this will get you a smallish 2 bedroom 1 bath home; anything else will cost substantially more. Now imagine the scene when Silicon Valley has easier access to this market.