Obama Budget Proposes $200 Million for S.F. Central Subway

Categories: Transportation
Nat "Pro Shop" Ford
Muni boss Nat Ford on Monday praised Barack Obama for including $200 million in spending for the controversial Central Subway rail project as part of the president's federal budget proposal.

"The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency applauds President Barack Obama's proposed budget, which includes $200 million for the Central Subway and $30 million for Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit in Fiscal Year 2012," Ford said. 

Supporters say the subway will improve the city's transit network while setting the stage for an extension connecting North Beach with downtown.

But the $1.6 billion Central Subway, which would connect the Giants Ballpark to Chinatown, is denounced by critics as a boondoggle that will cripple the city's transit system with maintenance costs without speeding up commutes. And, critics say, there is no guarantee the line will ever reach North Beach.

Additionally, opponents contend that the city has exaggerated the feasibility of San Francisco's ability to pay for the project. Current proposals involve spending $1 billion of federal funds, $500 million in state money, and $153 million of local funds. Obama's move to propose an additional $200 in federal funding might be enough of a boost to allay concerns about the project cost and the city's ability to pay for it.

Workers have already started digging to move underground utility conduits to make way for construction of the subway. Still, opponents will have a chance to make their case on Tuesday at a 9 a.m. MTA Board meeting.

Any story that includes both Nat Ford and government money calls for a short tangent: He is known for a financial scandal in his previous position as the CEO of the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, where he used secret agency credit cards to charge $150,000 in expenses. That included $454 at a golf shop, and $335 at Men's Wearhouse. In addition, one of Ford's secretaries had racked up $6,000 in improper charges. Ford eventually had to pay back $1,000.

But back to the Central Subway. The additional $200 million in Obama's new budget recommendations "highlight the commitment and support for such important transportation projects, not just here in San Francisco, but across this nation. We will continue to work with our federal partners as the project moves forward," Ford said.

Update -- Feb. 14, 5:01 p.m.:

After we published this item, Ford's office sent us a copy of a Feb. 2007 letter from the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, regarding a public inquiry into Ford's expenses. The letter, from MARTA's CEO and General Counsel, says the inquiry had found "no illegal or improper payments." We have left messages with MARTA general counsel Charles Pursley, and with Atlanta attorney Elizabeth O'Neill, who was involved in the inquiry. We'll fill you in when they get back to us.
The full text follows:

Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
February 12,2007
Mr. Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr.
Executive Director/CEO
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
1 South Van Ness Avenue
7th Floor
San Francisco, CA 941 03

Dear Mr. Ford:
On behalf of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, we want to thank you for
meeting with Elizabeth O'Neill and Charles Pursley to assist MARTA in its review of business expenses during the time you served as General Manager/CEO for MARTA from December, 2000 through December 2005.
As you know, the MARTA Legislative Overview Committee has asked questions and
requested additional information about a number of your business expenses. These expenses were incurred under the provisions of your Employment Agreement as Professional Expenses or General Expenses. Under these provisions, MARTA agreed to pay or to reimburse you for (1) reasonable expenses for professional and official travel, meetings and other occasions appropriate for you to attend and for courses, instructions and seminars for your professional training and (2) other non-personal and generally job affiliated expenses.
Through document reviews by MARTA staff, the MARTA Department of Internal Audit
and the MARTA Board of Directors Audit Committee, the majority of these expenses have been matched to specific receipts or other records documenting the business purposes or documenting appropriate reimbursement to MARTA for non-business expenses incurred during a business trip. For a smaller percentage of the expenses that were reviewed, the MARTA files did not contain a complete record of a business purpose. You were given a list of these expenses.
It is in this latter category that your assistance was so helpful. The overwhelming
majority of expenses in this latter category were from 2001 and 2002. You have explained the procedures you used to document your expenses and the business purpose for those expenses, and you have identified the types of business purposes that were involved in the various expenses in this latter category. We believe that this adequately explains the expenses.
With this additional information, MARTA'S research and audit are completed, and
MARTA will report its final results to the Legislative Overview Committee at their request. We will report that your business expenses and your reimbursements to MARTA have been explained and that we have found no illegal or improper payments to you. MARTA will not require any additional information or obligations from you regarding those expenses. Again thank you for your assistance and cooperation in this matter.

Yours very truly,

Richard J. McCrillis
General Manager/CEO
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority

Charles N. Pursley, Jr., Esquire
General Counsel
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority

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Err wait that didn't quite work out. Well you get my drift. Worst. Subway. Line. EVER.

Patrick Connors
Patrick Connors

Officially known as the subway to nowhere. $200 million flushed away on a transit system that is broken and unrelieable. A subway to Chinatown when the overhead wires can disrupt a simple Friday commute - in the am and the pm. WASTE.


I'm a transit loving liberal, but without commitment to extend the line beyond Chinatown and make it a real subway line, I'd say this is a good place to start cutting the federal debt.


I agree. There are many ways to improve transit in Chinatown that don't require billions of dollars, much of it destined to line the pockets of political donors anyway. Any sort of Geary subway (BART, etc) would generate revenue faster and serve way more people. But this is what Rose and Willie want so we have to do it NO MATTER WHAT.


right as usual, man. a geary street subway would have been fantastic. and seeing as how this boondoggle will no doubt take many times as long and cost many times as much as it should to build, i can't really envision a geary street subway getting built anytime within the next two decades, especially in light of SF's impending bankruptcy. it's a damn shame

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