Tag Archives: BART

Former Mayor Speaks Against Measure RR

The CEO and board of directors of Caltrain are doing a major “dis-service” to the residents of San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties with Measure RR.

Their proposal to address and remedy the Caltrain loss of revenue problem is to place on the backs of the total population another tax initiative, while only a limited few will directly benefit if this measure passes.

One, the tax is regressive and negatively impacts the families with household incomes of $50,000 or less, which is more than two-thirds of families in these 3 counties, significantly harder than the families who are directly benefiting from this measure passing.

Remember Caltrain ridership, 80% of those individuals have a household income greater than $200,000.

Two, the measure is asking the public to commit to this tax for 30 years…..Caltrain, is dying, a dinosaur, even before the pandemic, ridership has been steadily decreasing….now after the pandemic, the world has changed….we work from home, our bay area’s companies will never return to employment levels pre-pandemic, and ridership will never approach yesterday’s numbers.  

The bottom line is, the board and CEO have failed their fiduciary responsibility……they should have foreseen this coming at least 5 years ago ……they did not and did nothing…now with their backs up against the wall, they offer a remedy that lacks any strategic thought, does not consider today’s technology direction, no consideration for the existing and future work patterns,  and chose to ignore the impact another tax has on the lowest wage earners, to name a few. One question I have is why no reduction in headcount, salary expense,  or their fully paid pensions and medical benefits?

We should not suck out of the public another $100,000 million annually,  taxes to provide a service for less than 1% of the population….let me remind you that 1% are the wealthy 1%……and again,  make this law for 30 years!  This board and CEO have not demonstrated they are worthy stewards the public can trust….and the measure has no allowance for independent oversight and reporting back to the public.

Think of the impact these tax dollars could have on improving our school, housing, health care, youth employment training, and programs, etc.

Before I close, let me address the key selling point of this Measure…….”it will result in less traffic on our freeways”.  An empathic No, Caltrain’s impact on reducing traffic congestion is and will be very minimal, less than a 1% reduction may be achieved if this measure passes. It is expensive to ride and inconvenient, for the majority of us to even consider.

In closing, the proponents of this measure were also not transparent in the pre-work/surveys that they used to gauge the level of public support…they did not inform the public they were seeking approval of a measure that will be the law for the next 30 years.  Why place this tax on the backs of our children?

I hereby humbly request the board to have the moral compass to withdraw this request to the public.

Sincerely yours,

Jim Lawrence

Former Mayor, Foster City

Jim Lawrence is the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Expertus Inc. A change agent by definition, is active in his community, having served as Mayor of the city of Foster City, appointed to numerous county & Statewide boards and committees, and elected to the board of several nonprofit organizations. 

Featured image found here and license here.

BART and Trump: The Untold Story

BART and Trump: The Untold Story

I am one of the thousands of people who ride BART regularly. One particularly cold morning, as two trainloads of people tried to stuff themselves into one train, I took to my favorite pastime on the train, when not being able to read or write: people-watching. As I watched others, I mused on the different experiences that riding BART has given me.

I see people from different backgrounds, religions, ideologies, skin tones and economic levels rubbing shoulders with each other. All of us murmur “sorry” and “don’t-worry” good-humoredly when the train pulls an unexpected stop making us bump into each other.

The train has provided opportunities for conversations with travelers setting out on long journeys. As they clamber on with suitcases and strollers, it is hard to not share their enthusiasm. When they get off, you give them a quiet smile and wish them a happy vacation: they smile back happily and go on their way. The experience of travel has already started as far as they are concerned; they got to smile at strangers, got to ask directions from people whom they had never met before.

If you truly want to experience life by meeting people from vastly different backgrounds, riding public transit is a good place to start. Let me start with the conman who asks for precise and exact amounts of money every few weeks. “Good morning all. I need 89$ and 27 cents to save my son – I would appreciate anything you can help with. Thank you, thank you, God bless.” “Didn’t you ask for $137 and 25 cents last time?” asks an exasperated regular, and the conman disappears to try his luck in the next compartment.     Then, there are the prattlers who take care of business on the phone; the readers, the coders and the writers all shake down together in a tiny space for the time that they are on the train.

On these trains and platforms, I have been transported to small villages in Africa, sympathized with people living in war-torn regions, listened to the lilting tones of foreign languages, seen and heard people share stories about Egyptian mummies, been wary of conmen, and talked to erudite riders who shared a drop of their wisdom on the way.  I have also edged away discreetly from people who are stone drunk at 8 a.m. rearing for a fight, and seen people injecting themselves with drugs. I have seen policemen and policewomen go about their duties of ensuring a safe transit for all with a smile on their faces. I have talked to riders who wondered about whether they could afford health care, laughed with pregnant mothers, and then congratulated them months later as we croon over the baby’s pictures. I have listened to music that I otherwise might not have listened to, because some quirky character decided that his or her fellow riders needed to enjoy his or her favorite musicians too!

I encounter street musicians in the underground stations reaching out to a seemingly uninterested audience. But, belying their uninterested looks, I have noticed a little spring in their step as they near the musicians, and a slight smile even as they move away.

I may not know people’s names, I definitely do not remember every interaction, but as I start writing, I realize that there is so much that I have absorbed about the diverse peoples of the world, just by riding public transit. Therefore, I was doubly pleased to see BART tweet out in response to Donald Trump’s first ban on immigration that everyone is welcome on BART.

“All races, colors, religions, genders, ages, disabled, veterans, orientations, sexes & those of foreign national origin are welcome on BART.”- BART Tweet.

Thank you, BART.

Saumya writes regularly at nourishncherish.wordpress.com. She lives with her family in the Bay Area where she lilts along, savoring the ability to find humor in everyday life.