An opinion piece by the The East Bay Leadership Council (EBLC):
Arousing fear and outrage has proven to be an effective strategy, especially during this political season.
The past few weeks have seen a great deal of hand-wringing and outrage in the media over BART’s woes. The service disruption between North Concord and Bay Point has brought back traumatic memories of the 2013 strike, and old animosities have resurfaced.
The East Bay Leadership Council (EBLC) hopes to put that animosity aside and focus on keeping BART running. But just as we get the government we deserve, we also get the infrastructure we deserve. Let us be worthy of the inheritance left to us by past generations and not squander it for the sake of pithy tweets or political posturing.
The system’s age is contributing to the current problems. Suggesting that this claim only serves some ulterior motive is false and is a distraction from the real issues.
The core BART system will soon be half a century old. The system suffers $9.6 billion dollars’ worth of deferred maintenance and critical components now require replacement. This work has to be paid for, and neither the State of California nor the federal government is likely to bail us out any time soon.
Whether you believe the system has been mismanaged or not; whether you ride along the screeching decades-old tracks or not; whether you personally suffer through overcrowded cars and service interruptions or not, we all benefit from a system that eases commutes, connects people to jobs, provides mobility to those with limited means, and helps keep our air clean.
The alternative is longer commutes, more polluted air, a weaker economy, and a diminished quality of life. This is our reality.
The EBLC believes it is reasonable to question labor practices and compensation at BART. We encourage the Board of Directors and senior management to work diligently to address these issues, and we call on the California legislature to contribute to a solution. It is our collective civic duty to hold our leaders accountable.
Broken infrastructure is just as bad for riders as a BART strike. We hope that BART and our region’s leaders get the message: come together and keep BART running.
We also hope that the region’s citizens recognize that investing in our infrastructure is responsible civic engagement when the system is in need of public investment. The Bay Area is among the world’s largest economies and requires a reliable world-class transit system befitting its status.
Ultimately, vilifying public servants is no more productive than vilifying elected leaders. Both result in a race to the bottom where the only participants left are those comfortable with a good public shaming.
It is ridiculous to think that choking off BART’s resources will lead to a better BART.