BCAG proposes spending millions for bus lines that are predicted to have a 40 percent return on fares – how about fixing our streets?

23 Jan

For some reason I have been placed on the notice list for the Intercity Transit Ad Hoc committee. I had not heard anything about this committee, and of course Ad Hoc committees raise my hackles, so I made time to attend this morning. The meeting started at 9:30, which gave me time to get a leg up on my chores before I left the house. It was an absolutely fabulous day to be on a bicycle, and I was able to throw in a few errands on the way home. 

I did miss a trip to the dump, and you know how I love to go to the dump, dammit. 

But I try to stay on top of how the suits spend our money, and I wish more people would pay attention – if more people could see what’s going on, I think we would have a revolution. What I got out of this meeting is, there are many “special districts” that are formed just to spend the ocean of tax money siphoned off the people of California and the rest of the nation. This morning I heard proposals from three special districts –  Butte County Association of Governments,  Shasta Regional Transit Agency, and  San Joaquin Joint Powers District – regarding a trial bus program that will essentially fulfill requirements for all three districts to get millions in state and federal grants.

BCAG’s proposal is a bus line running from Chico to Sacramento, with stops in Oroville and Marysville. Jon Clark, BCAG director, claims “we kept getting requests for commuter service to Sacramento,” but I didn’t see any of those requests or hear any names, and none of those people seemed concerned enough to attend a 9:30 am meeting, so I’m skeptical there.  I don’t see the demand. Clark presented numbers he’d got from the latest US Census – apparently, about 3,000 people commute from Chico every day to jobs in Sacramento County. 

Let me ask – would they all be served by two buses that leave by 6 am, with no returning buses until after 4 pm, arriving in Chico after 6 pm? Clark says the goal for the three year pilot program would be a result of 79 passenger trips per day – which would result in 40 percent of the cost being recouped by fares – even with fares at $12 one way, $24 round trip. Meaning, the taxpayers would be on the hook for 60 percent of the cost. And that’s what Clark would call “successful”, because that’s all that’s demanded by the grant programs. 

BCAG has made two grant applications.

  • $3.5 million from the Transit Intercity Rail Capital Program (The Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP) was created by Senate Bill (SB) 862 (Chapter 36, Statutes of 2014) and modified by Senate Bill 9 (Chapter 710, Statutes of 2015) to provide grants from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to fund transformative capital improvements that will modernize California’s  intercity, commuter, and urban rail systems, and bus and ferry transit systems to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by reducing congestion and vehicle miles traveled throughout California.)
  • $1.9 million from the Low Carbon Transit Operating Program (The Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) is one of several programs that are part of the Transit, Affordable Housing, and Sustainable Communities Program established by the California Legislature in 2014 by Senate Bill 862. For more information on the Transit, Affordable Housing, and Sustainable Communities Program. The LCTOP was created to provide operating and capital assistance for transit agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emission and improve mobility, with a priority on serving disadvantaged communities.)

These are state agencies too, so if you pay taxes in California, that’s your money. Do you have any need for a commuter bus to Sack-o-tomatoes at 5:55 am? If you do, you will pay twice – once in your tax bill, and again every time you board the bus – $12 one way!?! For a three hour ride through the countryside? 

Clark insisted that these buses would be “high-end”, with plush reclining seats, WIFI, and bathrooms. This in response to my question about the 40 percent recoup via fares. I just asked him to reaffirm that number for me, and he immediately got defensive. These busses, all brand new, purchased with the $3.5 million from the TIRCP, would not be like the buses that trundle around Chico, they would be very nice, attracting commuters who could afford that kind of stuff. But, the taxpayers will still be on the hook for 60 percent of the cost of those plush new seats, etc. People who have to drive around Chico, where the streets defy your padded seats and your expensive tires, will be paying for this. 

But what we’re really paying for, is the salaries and benefits at these agencies. I was looking at BCAG’s budget, here

Click to access 2016-17%20FINAL%20OWP.pdf

and I see, they lost a lot of revenues/funding between 2015 and 2017, their budget went from $20 million to about $6 million. But they still paid out $10,000 more in salaries – what?

You see a lot of that kind of stuff when you go to the meetings. Have you heard our city management crying poormouth? Can’t take care of the streets or the park, crime out of control, cause they don’t have enough money? Well, can I ask, why are they spending a bunch of money remodeling city chambers?

Look at all that new paneling – $$$$$$!

Here in Chico, we have streets that will void the warranty on your tires, but BCAG is chasing grants for buses to Sacramento. 

I was glad to see the local news reporters at the meeting, although, I can’t imagine what spin either of them will put on the story. 

From left to right, Hayley Skene of Ch 12 news, Greg Fisher of the Chico Airport Commission, Laura Urseny from Chico Enterprise Record, and BT Chapman, another airport commissioner.

Both airport commissioners seemed more than a little miffed that Chico Airport had been left completely out of the conversation. Chapman asked a good question – are these grants one time, or on-going?

Clark tried to dodge that question, even though Chapman asked it twice, and chairman Karl Ory let him do it. When I raised my hand, having asked another question already, Ory was a little terse with me – they act as though you are only allowed one question in these meetings, but I told him – Clark had not answered Chapman’s question. So, Clark had to admit – these are one time revenues, and furthermore, the very recent legislation that created the second program (the one that would pay toward three years of operating costs) “could be repealed tomorrow and then we’d get nothing.” 

Furthermore, if we got the first grant but failed to get the second grant, we’d be stuck with these new “high-end” buses and have to come up with other funds to operate them – you know, hire drivers and pay their salaries and benefits. 

It’s all pretty sketchy, is what I’m saying. 

Which is how Chico City councilman and ad hoc committee member Randy Stone summed it up, in his own words: “this proposal is dizzing…the inoperability of all these transit systems…” Because the other systems (San Joaquin rail and Shasta bus) are depending on Butte County to cooperate with their programs so they can get other grants, millions and millions in taxpayer money up for grabs, but they have to cooperate to get it. 

Meanwhile Glenn County and Yuba County have their own successful transit lines and are apparently worried that Butte County will steal from them. It’s all about the grant money –  they all want it, bad, but if they don’t cooperate, they’re competing. Reminds me of an old story.

Image result for images from original little black sambo book


Who is going to pay for all that butter? 




9 Responses to “BCAG proposes spending millions for bus lines that are predicted to have a 40 percent return on fares – how about fixing our streets?”

  1. Jim January 24, 2018 at 8:34 am #

    What is this about remodeling the Council chamber? First I’ve heard of this. Does this have anything to do with the $150,000 upgrade to the TV equipment?

    • Juanita Sumner January 24, 2018 at 8:44 am #

      Yes, I believe so. That’s been the excuse for everything the clerk has fucked up lately too.

  2. Jim January 24, 2018 at 2:11 pm #

    You know the irony is that we had an electric railway down to Sacramento a hundred years ago. Heck you can take it all the way to Oakland. Once the Bay Bridge opened, you can take an electric train into San Francisco.

    Here is California we have crummy mass transit. If you want to take the bus across Chico it’s an hour ride, 15 minutes if you drive your car. At lest we got a bus, many places don’t.

    I’m not an expert on this, however we already have both Greyhound and Amtrak buses to Sac. Why do we need a third system? It makes no sense.

    • Juanita Sumner January 24, 2018 at 2:53 pm #

      In Chico we had an electric train, at the turn of the century, you could get a ride all the way across Old Chico, which was better than walking, not many people had cars. As soon as people had cars, I think they rejected mass transit for the same old reasons – you can’t go directly where you want, you have to take the tour of town. It takes forever because you have to make stops all over town to accommodate everybody. When I commuted by bus in Sacramento it cost me hours of my time, and if I made a miscalculation or one bus was late, I might be stuck in some nasty part of town until I could find a phone booth. That’s just not practical for most people.

      And here I’ll say, you meet some real creeps. I rode the Sacramento RT system for about 5 years to school and work. Drunks sit next to you, even though there are other empty seats on the bus, maybe put their greasy hand on your knee, making inappropriate suggestions – and the bus driver will tell you it’s not his job to protect you, that’s it’s your fault. You’ll be standing at a bus stop waiting for a bus that’s behind schedule – you know how many times I watched my bus speed by, driver was late and didn’t want to stop? I’ve been on buses as they passed a designated stop and other passengers would yell out, “hey, there’s somebody there waiting!” and the driver would just stare straight ahead like he didn’t hear.
      And, you are out there in whatever weather, often times alone – I’ll never forget the night in Downtown Sacramento, waiting for the last bus to my part of town after a late class at city college, 9:30 at night, dumping rain, and the guy at the other end of the bench put his jacket over his lap and started masturbating.

  3. bob January 25, 2018 at 6:20 pm #

    Geez, how many airport commissioners are there and how much are they costing us? And what’s the BT stand for? I’m guessing Big Time as in Big Time Pension.

    • Juanita Sumner January 26, 2018 at 5:41 am #

      I think there’s 5 commissioners, not sure. They meet every three (or four?) months, and the staffer who handles them is paid about $65,000 (salary,)/year, just to facilitate the meetings. I haven’t seen her benefits package.

      I don’t know what Chapman did for a living, but now he’s made it a point to get himself on any commission he can get appointed too. He was on the Sustainability Task Force when I asked them to force the Enterprise Record to put opt-out information on that junk mailer, “Market Value Place,” he’s the one who said, “we don’t want to offend the Enterprise Record…” But, I’ll say, he’s sharper than Ory, and asks good questions. Here’s why – he’s pissed that they want to provide a bus line to Downtown Sacramento, from where you can hop on a bus to Sacramento Metro Airport. He thinks Chico Airport should have been included in this conversation. Both he and the other airport commissioner present are bent on getting commercial air service to Chico, that seems to be the only reason to have an airport commission. They certainly don’t give a whit about the tenants out there.

  4. bob January 25, 2018 at 6:26 pm #

    Sounds like yet another boondogle. The bureaucrats couldn’t care less how impractical or uneconomical it is. Just as long as the grant money comes in or absent grants, tax increases.

    • Juanita Sumner January 26, 2018 at 5:33 am #

      Boondoggle – there’s the word I was looking for. A boondoggle through the boondocks. And all because none of the three agencies can continue to feed off grants until they hook up.

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