Why California public transit is at a pivotal moment
BY SAMEEA KAMAL
... Since Jan. 1, 26 people have died on Metro buses and trains from suspected drug overdoses — already four more than the total deaths from any cause in all of 2022. And serious crimes — such as robbery, rape and aggravated assault — were up 24% compared to 2022.
Safety concerns add to the longstanding issues that discourage people from using public transit: how long trips take, the inconvenience of getting to a station and delays or interruptions.
It doesn’t help that some transit agencies are not being managed very well.
Recent probes of BART revealed conflict-of-interest violations, a BART employee who faked work hours and a $350,000 homeless outreach program with the Salvation Army that got only one person into a residential treatment facility after two years, according to local press reports.
In 2022, the Alameda County Grand Jury found the agency’s board, management and unions engaged in a “pattern of obstruction” against its Office of the Inspector General, which oversaw those probes.
The string of problems prompted State Sen. Steve Glazer, a Democrat from Orinda and a vocal BART critic, to resign from a legislative select committee that is advocating for more state transit funding.
BART, said Glazer, is beset by “a breakdown of all kinds of levels.”
“It’s not just about the trains, it’s a breakdown in their safety, a breakdown in oversight. It’s violations of the law.… it’s fake (security) cameras on trains, you know, massive overtime … the cost overruns, the delays,” he said.
“I’m not supportive of bailing out BART when they refuse to have fiscal oversight through a fully functioning Office of Inspector General,” he added.
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