BART Board Member Describes BART as 'Pyramid Scheme'

...Step three: Profit!
Like many transit advocates SF Weekly contacted this week, BART board member Tom Radulovich was relieved that the feds yanked $70 million from the controversial Oakland Airport Connector project, with the funds instead heading to Muni, BART and the Bay Area's other cash-strapped transit agencies.

But Radulovich, a BART board member since 1996, is hardly ecstatic. He figures it's just a matter of time before BART tries to ram through a project every bit as exorbitant and misbegotten as the airport connector.

The Feds "saved BART and the region from another boondoggle. This was not BART figuring out we shouldn't build boondoggles, but the people whose pockets we were trying to pick saying 'No, we're not that stupid,'" Radulovich says. "The 'culture of boondoggle' at BART hasn't gone away. Nobody seems to have learned any lessons here."

In fact, continues the outspoken board member, BART is run as "a pyramid scheme. The whole regional rail expansion deal BART and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission concocted is based on levels of growth we're not going to see, haven't seen in a long time, and is also based on wildly optimistic notions of what things cost and how much money it'll generate. The wheels are coming off of it." 

Per his pyramid scheme accusations, Radulovich bemoaned that BART has a tendency to cheerily predict that the profit from the current iffy project will help fund the next questionable one. For example, BART figured revenue generated by the extension to San Francisco International Airport could be applied to the Warm Springs line. "It was meant to be the golden goose," said Radulovich. And yet, far from generating half a billion dollars to pay down the projected $146 million for Warm Springs, the SFO extension has not yet operated in the black. The money to pay it off has, instead, been pulled from BART's operating budget.

Disturbingly, Radulovich notes that, even if BART weren't to extend the current system by an inch, its projected revenue over the next three decades indicates a $7 billion shortfall. That doesn't include mind-boggling extensions to Warm Springs or God knows where else that the system won't be able to afford to operate the moment it's done finding a way to fund their construction.

"This project is supposed to pay for the next project and the next project," said the board member. "The thing is, more [money] is not there. ... It's quite a big pyramid scheme and I don't think it's ending well for us."

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