Friday, February 25, 2011

Ignoring what needs to be fixed so that we can build what we don't need; high-speed rail

This article, below, is about the public mass transit system in San Francisco.  It's in deplorable shape.  It's also been grossly mismanaged.  Please feel free to generalize from this 'N of 1,' as researchers say, to many of the transit operations in the Bay Area, in California, and in the United States.  

Most of them, to varying degrees, are severely under-funded, struggling to stay afloat, way behind in their maintenance and repair schedules, and providing lousy service.  We also know of others in the Bay Area like Muni with excessive pay schedules that warrant a good house-cleaning of the executive teams. 

My point here is that these deficiencies persist because of highly misconceived efforts to pour funding into something entirely different and irrelevant; high-speed rail.  How is it possible that there can be that much energy for a highly problematic, super-expensive project of questionable value, and at the same time we have no problem ignoring the urban and regional mass transit services that we absolutely depend upon?  

What is the point of connecting major cities and travelling at great speed between them, so that, upon arrival, there is no adequate transit service to take us where we intended to go in the first place?

Where are those traffic congested streets, roads and highways? Not out in the hinterland of the Central Valley.  They are within and around the Bay Area, especially around commute times.  That's the problem.  Wouldn't common sense tell you that's what ought to be fixed first?  

Wouldn't you think that President Obama, a city boy from Chicago, would direct the Department of Transportation to draw up plans for repairing and maintaining the Nation's urban and regional transit as the highest priority?  Isn't this the promise of everything the Democrats can hope for; that is, opportunities for the unemployed, and investments in our failing economy within our major urban population centers?

I have to ask, where did this cockamamie high-speed rail budget buster come from? Apparently out of the blue.  Or the absurd envy of rail-dependent nations in Europe and Asia.  Of all the things in this horrendous economy we don't need, it's this HSR obsession, and it comes to us at the expense of what we really need, fixing our existing transportation infrastructure, which is broken.  Abandoning broken toys and lusting for an even more expensive new one. . . . Isn't that a definition of a spoiled brat?
Muni Chief Brags of "National Reputation"

Updated 5:00 PM PST, Fri, Feb 25, 2011

Track defects, deteriorating rail, train control breakdowns, sluggish response times, and a refusal to talk to regulators: all in a day's work for Muni.

A new report by the California Public Utilities Commission slams the self-described "transit agency" over repeated safety violations. Nearly two dozen inspections revealed numerous violations over the last year and a half, according to the Gate.

Muni officials, for their part, say that the problems are all fixed. It's up to you whether or not to take them at their word.

San Francisco's 145,000 daily subway passengers may be dismayed to read some of the accusations, which include terms like "resulting in unsafe operations and endangering Muni passengers."

But Muni's CEO, Nathaniel Ford, may not have to concern himself about such problems for much longer. Ford is currently in the running to jump to a new job, where he would run DC's airport transportation system.

As the SF Appeal points out, leaving Muni would allow him to eliminate his personal tax woes, which include state and federal liens, by cashing in his deferred compensation and vacation time. Ford is currently the highest-paid city employee in San Francisco, making more than even the Mayor.

Of particular concern: Duboce and Church, which is riddled with defects according to the SF Biz Times. A train control system is never switched on in one tunnel. Electrical cables rub up against "switch rods" near another tunnel. Citations from 2008 still haven't been fixed.

In addition, Muni has failed to file mandatory accident reports.

In several weeks, a judge will decide whether to issue fines for the infractions.

Meanwhile, Nat Ford has been bragging that the DC airport recruiters sought him out for the job, saying, "I have a national reputation." Yes you do, Mr. Ford, and it's well-deserved.

Copyright NBC Local Media
First Published: Feb 25, 2011 4:37 PM PST