VTA removes promise to cut local bus service to pay for BART (for now)

At its last board meeting, VTA’s leadership agreed to withdraw a longstanding promise to cut local bus and light rail service in order to pay for BART service if other sources of funds run short.

Because the soon-to-open phase of the BART extension, with service to Milpitas and Berryessa has been delayed, enough funds have accumulated from a 2008 sales tax to pay for BART service without the previous backup plan to use Transportation Development Act funds. TDA funds are used by VTA to pay to run local bus and light rail service, so the “lien” against TDA funds was a promise to cut local bus and light rail service if BART ridership underperformed expectations.

However, the decision isn’t permanent, doesn’t apply to the next BART extension phase to downtown San Jose, and will be revisited again in 5 years when VTA and BART need to agree how to fund service to the next few stations. So transit advocates should watch in the future in case this idea returns.

A region that planned for sensible and sane relationship between backbone high-capacity rail service (such as BART) and connecting bus and light rail service would not think to have a funding arrangement to cut feeder service to pay for trunk service. A strong transit network depends on both working together.