VTA Board to make Appearance on Dr. Phil

Constant Disagreement Attracts Attention of TV Therapist

Just several hours after a decision by the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to cancel a scheduled meeting on long-range spending plans for the oft-threatened BART extension to Silicon Valley, VTA General Manager Michael Burns received a call from Dr Phil McGraw, inviting the entire VTA Board to a session on the therapist’s hit show.

It seems as though the constant bickering, whining and name-calling between VTA board members has caught the attention of the show’s producers who think trying to work out their problems on national television will make for riveting drama.  The therapeutic session will be squeezed in between segments on the parents of chronic bedwetters, and controlling the urge to open cans of whoopass on your loved ones.

“Y’all need a big hug,” Dr Phil reportedly said to Mr. Burns in their conversation.

Many in the county have urged caution and think the stunt could backfire. “Dr Phil is going to look like a vibrant Jack Kennedy next to Supervisor Beall—I don’t care how much makeup you put on him,” cautioned county assessor Larry Stone.

But a majority of the VTA board disagrees with Mr. Stone’s assessment and sees their appearance as a positive step towards healing the nagging and selfishness that has paralyzed any progress.

“Plus we get a free copy of his book, ‘Stop Spanking and Start Living’ as a parting gift,” said supervisor Kniss.


  1. Comprehensive public transit is the answer now not BART

    Our local politicians and business people like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group ( who knows manufacturing but not transit ) clearly DO NOT UNDERSTAND how pubic transit works and what it takes to attract people who have choices out of their cars to use public transit to communte to work daily and need to get to work on time which is not possible except for a few now

    VTA has one of the highest tax subsidies in the county is THAT is a very clear indicator of very poor transit planning and operations by people who do not understand and will not have a fair open with all sides represented public debate on the issues

    VTA operations and the VTA Politician Board gets Failing grades by well known national transit experts and is the laughing stock of other transit systems

    Our Light Rail system is inadequate and not designed properly to encourage people to use it if they have any other choice

    Iit does not go to high volume destinations ( airport , shopping, most job locations within 1-3 blocks ) where the majoity of people want to go and will not for decades.

    Look at whers you live , work and shop can you get there by VTA in a reasonable time – See my point that our VTA Board is blind to and uses many excuses like we need more tax money

    If the current political run VTA Board’s plans are implemented to spend possibly ten billion ( due to gross underestimates of riders and costs used to politically justify it ) on BART RATHER THAN a well designed comprehensive light rail , buses and vans to connect high volume and home / work / leisure destinations we will wste billions of dollars and not have a good transit system that work for many people

    Often we publically plan well but don’t follow the plans and get below average results

    VTA is poorly planning with unrealistic estimates combined with very poor operations

    Nationally known transit experts have rated VTA a very poor planned and operated incomplete system with highest public tax transit subsidy in the nation due to low ridership

    We can’t do worst unless we build BART rather than a comprehensive public transit system that serves everone rather than a very small group on a single line BART is a heavy rail system designed fro heavy usage and it should bnot be use as a low volume transist system as currently proposed

    What we need is a comprehensive well designed fast intregrated light rail, bus and van system that will attract riders since you can get to your destination faster and easier tha driving your car like all the other successful transit systems

    It will have all the benefits – many contruction and public sector jobs, transist lines to be named for local living politicians who’s egos need a boost and federal transist funds plus substantially lower local public tax subsidies.

    More people will ride, pay fares and the cars will be fully utilized rather then our empty cars due to poor system design

    People want well designed transist systems that encourage them to use but our current VTA suystem and the proposed BART is not it regardless of local politican and Silicon Valley Leadership Group talk.

    Remember these are the people that designed and operate our poor transit system

    Challenge them to bring in nationally known transit experts that are fairly picked by someone other than them so they can not stack the debate to have a public debate at a time and place when voters can attend to debate our current VTA operatiosn and the proposed BART system

    They won’t since they KNOW they would lose the debate since they DO NOT UNDERSTAND PUBLIC TRANSIT but want to waste our tax dollars on more very poor transit planning and operations rather than a well designed system.

    Get the BART land and use it for Light Rail until BART is financially workable in 20-40 years when we have the supporting public system and density since the billions can be better used on build a comprehensive transit system now and BART later

    It is your tax dollars force the politicians to spend it wisely since their records of poor spendinf which would take dozens od pages to list speaks for itself

  2. #1 I don’t think your patrons are thinking this all the way through.

    With mass transit, all the east bay hoods and rif-raf can take BART to SJ on weekend nights and spare the air and give a hoot by not pollute-ing.

    Just thinking about the low-lifes abandoning their gas guzzling low-riders for mass transit warms my heart.

    And at the end of the day, isn’t feeling better about oneself what it’s all about?

  3. BART and light rail are often considered an undiluted good, and the downsides that accompany them are often overlooked.

    Here is just one downside that supporters of BART and light rail should consider.

    A state law, signed by the governor about a year ago (AB 2817), provides procedures for VTA to create “special benefit districts” within 1/2 mile of any VTA rail station. Owners of property within the 1/2 radius will be taxed to pay off bonds sold by the VTA to pay for their nearby station design, construction, and maintenance.

    In addition, the property owners in the special benefit district will also be taxed to pay for “rail transit-related facilities” within the special benefit district. That is a shocker because the expenses associated with rail facilities could be extremely high, much higher than the expenses associated with the station itself.

    While these special benefit districts will start to appear around light rail stations soon, the huge impact will be on property owners around the Milpitas, Berryessa, and Five Wounds BART stations.

    So think twice before deciding a 1/4 cent sales tax doesn’t matter—it brings with it a host of special taxes and problems. The above example is just one.

  4. Dale,

    Good comments what are other examples ?

    1) Who votes in these new special transist district taxes?

    – many special districts vote on the basis of property assessed value where large companies / developers who build the property out and then vote in new taxes and then sell to new home owners. This method results in many long time home owners and senors not being able to pay the new transit taxes

    – voters in the district not home owners who pay taxes

    – or is it like redevelopment districts where only goverment officials vote and it is a done deal unless a protest is filed signed by the majority of the property owners based on assessed property values in 30 days?

    2) What politicians sponsored that state transit district law?

  5. Sounds like teh previous and new VTA Bart tax are only the tip of the poorly planned transit tax iceberg –

    – special transit benefit district taxes,
    – more taxes to fix daily commute congestion since most people do not use poorly designed public transit especially high priced BART
    –  more taxes to pay for parks, street repairs etc not paid by developers making very high profits from high rise / density residential development,
    –  converting commercial land to residential means less jobs – less business taxes / more home owner user fees, special taxes etc to pay for city and county services

    Sounds like Dumb Politican Planned Growth with more taxes

  6. BART extension coming to San Jose would be a tax hardship on businesses & property owners, and a long construction disruption to downtown & other areas, but in the long run would mean an economic boost bringing people from other cities to spend some cash…and what a convenience for commuters going in both directions!
    An enormous project & expense, but I think worth it!

  7. If the VTA board believes that a great big hug from Dr. Phil is going to solve all their problems, then they are more inept than any of you have aluded to thus far.

    Dr. Phil playing psychologist with our VTA board is like Baby Huey trying to care for his new pet puppy. Funny to think about, but nothing more than sad in reality.

    Are we really so pathetic that we would rather watch the dumb lead the deaf and blind over the edge of a cliff than actually hold these children of the VTA accountable for their actions (or lack thereof)?

    We know they don’t understand the situation. If they did, something would get done. Their lack of action is a direct signal of their unwillingness to serve the people. Instead, they would rather serve themselves and hedge their bets for some future political endeavor.

    The nagging and selfishness that is admitted by the VTA board itself is an embarrassment to us; but does anyone really think that the VTA board airing their dirty laundry for Dr. Phil’s ratings is going to do us proud?

    These children need a political spanking, one that reminds them of who their daddy really is…

  8. Imagine, all those ungrateful “lesser” cities in Santa Clara County that don’t want to pay higher taxes to bring BART to downtown San Jose! Who let them on the VTA Board anyway?

    Maybe if San Jose did something nice for them like a big dance party at the Ambassador?

  9. I’d much rather see the VTA board on Jerry Springer. 

    That alone might be worth the 1/4 point sales tax increase.

  10. Great comments on this by everyone.

    There are also several other blogs that tell you just what is going on at VTA, and how much they, the politicians, and their enablers at the Silicon Valley “Leadership” Group continue to lie to you about BART to San Jose:


    Think of them (and the group I head) as the “VTA Insiders.”

    Of course, the group I am head of has been watching this quite carefully, and wrote a letter to VTA regarding their latest sales tax scam.  It is on the Board’s record.

    Remember: as a county resident, you already pay three (3) sales taxes to VTA:

    * a permanent 1/2-cent sales sales tax approved by voters as of 1976
    * a permanent 1/4-cent sales tax charged by the state but whose revenue goes back to the county, and thus VTA;
    * the current 1996 Measure A/B 1/2-cent sales tax; to be replaced on April 1, 2006 by the 2000 Measre A “BART Tax”.

    Given the current rift on the VTA Board, our group is advocating for a full rescinding of the 2000 Measure A tax for the March 2006 ballot.  This would be replaced by a formal, more cost-effective solutions such as more rapid express buses within the county; a return to the commuter rail solution between Fremont-San Jose as VTA originally promised in 1996 but never really delivered; and electrification of Caltrain.  The very comprehensive transportation solutions that are needed in this Valley NOW.

    I will personally go on record as being open to discussing the issue of the state of public transit in the Valley with any community group willing to listen.  Too often than not the “other side” of the debates of transit solutions for a Valley dependent on solo driving is rarely (if ever) told.  Given this latest sales tax debate, how can one claim to be “informed” when their transit options are based on proposals from the VTA/SVLG?

    Like everything that happens politically in the Valley, the key will be in ending the apathy and complacency that is too commonplace.  More people need to demand accountability at the Valley Transportation Authority at every Board Meeting, Workshop, and their local City Council meeting where many of these failed plans are hatched.  By remaining silent, the Vallley will continue to get the failed leadership, poor transportation solutions, and squandered tax dollars its residents truly deserve.

    Eugene Bradley
    Founder, Santa Clara VTA Riders Union

  11. Dear San Jose:

    It seems to me that the most practical solution at this point is to build BART just to North San Jose.  Connect it to the North San Jose development project that may or may not be built because they haven’t yet secured a sufficient water supply (reported by the Business Journal).

    Face the facts, BART is a glamorous make-work project that was seen as a need during the hey-days of the dot com frenzy.  There are far more efficient ways to move people, it’s just that they’re not as “sexy” as the BART line.

    Clearly the VTA doesn’t have enough money to run the buses, light rail lines, and build/operate BART.  Something’s got to give.  Unfortunately, it will likely be the taxpayers.

    P.S.  When will the mayor and council release the Norcal e-mails?

    Pete Campbell

  12. Pete,

    The council voted to not release the Norcal emails a few weeks back.  They said they would consider releasing the emails in the future if used by the investigator in his report. 

    Those against releasing the emails expressed concern about giving up attorney/client privilege.  I could not figure out why the privilege is an issue now but not when the investigator issues his report.

    Ken Yeager said in his comments he reviewed the emails and did not see why they should be withheld from the public.  Forrest Williams seemed to think he was giving up the privilege for all time.

    Only two residents spoke in the public comment period, one being the always present Russ Sig?????

  13. I am not a believer in BART, since I do not believe that any regional transit system with but one line that requires each train to stop at every station can ever be called RAPID transit.  It takes forever to get anywhere on BART.  And now they are charging for parking in many of the lots in the East Bay!!

    But one thing is for sure—if VTA has any hand in management of any phase of BART to San Hozay—from concept, to design, to construction, to operation—the system will fail.

    VTA has the lowest fare-box contribution to operating costs of any mass transit system in North America.  If BART indeed comes to San Hozay, VTA must have NOTHING to do with it from day-one.

    If Gavin Newsom in SF continues to get a handle on the mess that is SF MUNI, perhaps we need to look what he did to turn it around.  All I remember is the thug drivers who are never on time, may be stoned, and are always in your face.  But the union protects them.  So, who protects the hapless riders?

    I have rarely used VTA here—like ten times since 1977.  It may be a different riding experience here than SF MUNI, but I doubt it.

    Who schedules the light rail trains?  Today I was stopped eastbound on St. James @ Second Street about 6:45 a.m.  A triple train came by—that’s six cars.  I counted fourteen people riding in six cars!!  What a waste of $$$.  And that car held up twenty cars with twenty-five or thirty people in them.

    Leave dowtown Southbound any weekday between 5:00 and 6:00 down the Vine/Almaden corridor. [You have to take that since the six lanes into two on southbound 87 south of 280 is a parking lot].

    Anyway, once again the trolley trips the light @ San Carlos.  A light rail car with five people on board holds up 100 cars.  It’s completely upside down.  No-one’s on the bloddy trolleys, and they hold up dozens of cars with over a hundred people in them.

    The social engineering experiment called light rail is a complete and total failure. Proof—the transit junkies finally gave up and are expanding 87 to three lanes at great expense, since the choke point they designed just south of 280 to force people onto light rail has failed miserably.  We’d all rather drive than get stuck on light rail…and for good reason.

    BART will simply be a more expensive complete and total failure than light rail.

    Let’s face it, who rides mass transit in a horizontally built area like this—tree huggers and those who have no affordable alternative.  What percentage of the population are they?  Almost too small to count.

  14. Once they run lightrail to ‘Mineta International’ it will all be better.  You’ll see.

    Just look at the smashing success that the BART line to SFO turned out to be.

    The problem with VTA is it’s run like some kind of oligarchy – citizens have absolutely no say in how it’s run.  But wait a second, we have no say in how anything is run around here.  Never mind.

  15. JMO, your are so correct.  Try turning left from NB 1st onto River Oaks any morning.  Between the trolley favortism and the pedestrians crossing, you sit through an extra cycle instead of getting your green arrow as soon as the trolley passes, which is what the sequencing should be.  Traffic stacks up, frustrated drivers steam up.

    My dad wasn’t driving much by the time the first trolley line was done, but he always maintained that the line should have been built the old fashioned way where cars can drive right onto the tracks and share the road with the trolleys as is the situation in SF.  None of this high curb restricted right-of-way BS like we’re having to deal with.  Especially when you consider the point you made about how many people are on the trolley and how far more are being made late for work in the interests of a very few. 

    And what’s up with the Campbell line?  They spent all that money and yet they stopped about a mile short of the true end of the line, Vasona station.  There’s a whole extra town there that they could have drawn riders from if they had built it out to Los Gatos like it was supposed to have been done, and I’d probably be using it.  But not if I have to drive to Cambell.

    This half-witted half-assed leadership across the board in this town and this county has got to be voted out first chance we get!

  16. #14:

    Did you actually board the light rail car to count only 14 riders in all thee cars total?  (each light rail car bends in the middle, making a single car appear like two cars.) Or did you look froom the outside?  Like many of the buses, the new light rail cars have seating below the window line in addition to the above-window level you likely counted. 

    From riding light rail myself from Winchester up to Old Ironsides last week at the same time you rode, there were about 70 people in the car I was in after the Santa Clara stop.  It really started getting crowded at Convention Center.  I was one of 10 people that got on at Winchester.

    I have seen light rail cars run at most only 1/4 full at noon at the Tasman West line in Santa Clara.  Then again, the trains only running every half-hour on non-peak hours does not help.

    The 25% increase in light rail ridership VTA claimsis mainly due to forced transfers Before light rail opened along Capitol Avenue, you can take the 74 bus directly from anywhere along Capitol Avenue to Eastridge in East San Jose.  Now that same trip requires you to take light rail to Alum Rock station where you transfer to the 31 bus to Eastridge – a bus that runs every 15 minutes during peak hours, every 30 minutes during non-peak and most weekends, and every hour late nights until 10:00pm weekniights and 9:00pm weekends.

    In case you do not know, Michael Burns, former general manager at SF MUNI, has replaced Peter Cipolla as VTA’s General Manager.  Whether or not he will be effective on anything remains to be seen.  Our group will be reevaluating his performance in February 2006.

    Now that Santa Cruz METRO is running again I will be back on the Highway 17 Express Bus to San Jose.  Afterward I will take the 522 rapid bus to Santa Clara, then transfer to the #60 bus to my sysadmin job.

    On a final note: a new area of my web site has more information on BART to San Jose.  It includes articles on a history of fthe cost overruns on the history of many BART projects and why they occur. 


    Give it a read sometime.


  17. It’s so crazy, it just might work!

    In talking with my taxi customers some have expressed that they do not want more Light Rail or BART.  They would prefer a better bus line. More buses that run every 15 minutes and more routes. Better service on Sundays.

  18. Dale,

    Does this mean that the Voters and Property Owners get NO vote unless they file a protest within 30 days after the conclusion of a required public hearing, for a transit tax for up to 40 years

    What happened to Proposition 218 – “The Right to Vote on Taxes Initiative” ?


    “This bill would delete the provisions requiring an election to form a benefit district and to levy a special benefit assessment. The bill would authorize the board to levy the assessment if there is no majority protest to its imposition. ”