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Old July 6 2013, 10:02 PM   #46
Mr. Laser Beam
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Re: Should Public Transportation Agencies be Allowed to Strike?

Saito, I'm curious as to what you think is idiotic about the BART expansion to Oakland airport...
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Old July 6 2013, 11:28 PM   #47
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Re: Should Public Transportation Agencies be Allowed to Strike?

iguana_tonante wrote: View Post
Saito, Thanks for the long, insightful post. You obviously know more than me about this particular situation, so thank you for giving the full picture of it. I agree the situation was badly managed on both fronts. What it prompted my reply was the implication that the right to strike is something bad and ugly, and the general tone of condemnation for workers and employees.
Thanks, glad I could be of some help in understanding things!

It is a strange situation with a lot of muddy, hard to parse elements, which is why I would say that putting the blame entirely on the unions isn't fair, either. But I do think they were simply asking for too much, both in terms of being reasonable (i.e. looking at their wages and benefits as compared to most Bay Area workers), and being realistic (i.e. the question of, regardless of who wants what, where is BART supposed to get this money to accommodate these union demands? There is only so much capital to go around). And this is all magnified by the fact that their salaries are essentially paid by the public, and frankly, there are a large number of BART workers who aren't that great at their jobs.
As for the first part of your post, obviously, I couldn't agree more.
Yeah, I really felt the need to say something to that. Conflating owning a business with hard work, implicitly... actually, it was pretty damn explicit, really... implying that if building and running your own business is the only truly respectable option here, is just outrageous.

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
Saito, I'm curious as to what you think is idiotic about the BART expansion to Oakland airport...
Okay, where did I put my transit geek hat... ah, here it is.

I actually should have used the word "connector", instead of "expansion", because the former is what it is; the latter implies that BART itself will extend to the airport, which is not the case. And it's officially called "Oakland Airport Connector" anyway (from here on, I'll call it OAC).

Their idea is to build an automated people mover in the form of a short, elevated railway connecting the Oakland Coliseum BART station to Oakland Airport. Now, I actually just looked up some information on the project which I haven't done in a while, and there is an aspect of it that I had wrong: apparently it will be cable-drawn, like San Francisco's cable cars (only fully automated). I had heard that they would be using diesel multiple units for the thing, which struck me as a terrible idea, but that's not correct. I had gotten the DMU idea from another proposed BART project, "eBART", and mixed it up with this one. So that mitigates it somewhat.

But only somewhat. It's still a $484 million project that has been controversial since day one. A chunk of their funding was pulled in 2010 when federal transportation officials concluded that BART hadn't done enough to solicit comments from the public and consider the long-term impacts of the project. It was mired in controversy, but BART found a way to just push ahead by using different funding sources instead.

They are projecting that it will cost $6 to ride it, which is steep. That's double the current cost of getting from the station to the airport via the AirBART shuttle (more on that in a minute). It's estimated that it will take 8 minutes to complete the trip via OAC. This is almost exactly the same as the time it takes to make the drive on surface streets. Of course, the problem with surface streets is traffic; the real travel time for AirBART usually ends up being 10-15 minutes. But you could easily get around that problem by simply using dedicated lanes and signal prioritization to allow a bus to zip through without having to worry about traffic congestion.

Which brings me to the alternative proposal: Bus Rapid Transit.

Currently, there are two transit options to get from the BART station to the airport: a local bus line operated by AC Transit, and a specialized bus called AirBART. They use basically the same route, but the AC line is slower (due to making stops in between; AirBART is express between the station and the airport) and doesn't have dedicated space for luggage, which AirBART does. However, AirBART also costs $3, whereas AC Transit costs $2.10. And the dumbest thing about AirBART is that the fare can only be paid on the bus, and only via cash, a specialized ticket, or a BART ticket containing exactly $3; for some reason, the buses don't accept Clipper, the regional transit smart card that nearly every Bay Area transit service now accepts (including BART and AC Transit).

The smart thing to do would be to create dedicated lanes for the AirBART route, and turn the entire operation over to AC Transit. Keep the express nature of it (few or no intermediate stops), and with its own lane, it would easily make the trip in 8-9 minutes and could maintain headways as good as those that OAC will have (every 4-5 minutes). Since the same buses would be used, they would have the dedicated luggage space of AirBART, but would be part of AC Transit's system, thus would only be $2.10 per ride, would be compatible with ACT transfers, and would take Clipper. Creating a rapid bus corridor would cost somewhere in the range of 50-100 million, at most (that figure would include procuring vehicles, which would not be necessary in this case).

Instead, they're spending $484 million to build a controversial overhead rail line that would be no faster and is projected to cost $6 per ride. 6 dollars to go about 3 miles. To put that in perspective: for 6 dollars, you can get from Millbrae to Walnut Creek - a thirty-five mile trip - on BART.

Of course, the rapid bus idea was, in all honesty, impossible from the get-go. Despite the efforts of some to try and make it a reality, it never had a chance. Because in the Bay Area, like most of the US, buses are considered inferior to trains (not that trains are then given much in the way of funding or resources to run efficiently, but buses are looked at as being clunky and smelly and for poor people), and the idea of creating more inconvenience to private automobiles by dedicating a lane for transit is met with shock and outrage.

So you end up with BART - despite having a myriad of operational problems of its own - getting approval for huge money wasters such as this, sucking up massive federal funding and often making it harder for other agencies to get as much funding, because they're BART. They're bigger and louder and - being a fast-moving railway rather than a bus system - sexier than other agencies in the eyes of the Metropolitan Transit Commission. Never mind that BART's own cars and stations are falling apart. Instead of spending hundreds of millions on OAC, or on extending even further into far-flung, sparsely populated suburbia, how about taking those millions and overhauling the escalators in the downtown San Francisco stations so they don't go down every other day? Among many other issues, of course.
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Old July 7 2013, 12:53 AM   #48
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Re: Should Public Transportation Agencies be Allowed to Strike?

^ I take it it's not realistic to ever expect BART itself to reach all the way out to the airport?
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Old July 7 2013, 02:47 AM   #49
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Re: Should Public Transportation Agencies be Allowed to Strike?

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
^ I take it it's not realistic to ever expect BART itself to reach all the way out to the airport?
Pretty much not, yeah.

Extending BART itself out to the airport would probably cost more than this connector thing. As an alternative to the connector, it's doubtful that it would have gained much traction, but it was theoretically possible.

However, now that they are going ahead with the OAC, there's no chance of BART itself ever being extended. Reason being that the infrastructure that is being built for the OAC is incompatible with BART's infrastructure - it's a cable-pulled short train (basically heavy trams that can be connected together) and will use standard gauge track as far as I know. So, the non-standard gauge, third-rail powered multiple units that make up BART's mainline service wouldn't be able to use the finished trackway. Now that the OAC is going ahead, connecting BART itself to the airport would require essentially building an elevated trackway AGAIN for BART trains, after having already built an elevated trackway for OAC vehicles. Not gonna happen.

That said, I'm not sure how much of an advantage it would have been vs. the OAC anyway. The only real upside is it would mean you don't have to switch vehicles. They'd still have massive costs to recoup, so the fare to get to the airport would probably be pretty high (I could see a surcharge like the one that applies for any trips to SFO, which is about $4 now IIRC. It used to only be about a dollar, but in the face of budget shortfalls and ridership to/from SFO being below expectations, they hiked it). Plus, again like with SFO, if mainline BART trains go straight into the airport, you end up with a kind of Bermuda Triangle of routes, where you have service that travels through the existing Coliseum Station (going north-south), and then this side track that juts off west and goes over to the airport; do north-south service trains simply go to the airport and then continue on their way, adding several minutes to the existing trip? Or does one line go to the airport while others don't, potentially undermining frequency of service? Or does it depend on line and time of day and whatnot, which just creates confusion for riders?

The physical configuration creates a problem in this case, and its effects have already been seen with the SFO line, which has the same problem - BART's approach to which lines go to SFO vs. which ones don't and how it all works has changed like six times since that station was built.
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Old July 8 2013, 03:10 AM   #50
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Re: Should Public Transportation Agencies be Allowed to Strike?

Carcazoid wrote: View Post
Over 50. Thanks for asking.
Really? Then prove it ...

What do you do?
Like millions of hardworking Americans, I work a full-time job, and I pay my taxes. Thanks for asking. I work in accounting for a public utility agency in the SF Bay Area, which isn't very different from BART in terms of my employer being a municipal entity or a special district. I (along with hundreds of other employees) am represented by a labor union, and I pay my monthly dues. What some people fail to understand is the concept of collective bargaining.

From the link that I posted:

At a workplace where a majority of workers have voted for union representation, a committee of employees and union representatives negotiate a contract with the management regarding wages, hours, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment, such as protection from termination of employment without just cause. Individual negotiation is prohibited. Once the workers' committee and management have agreed on a contract, it is then put to a vote of all workers at the workplace. If approved, the contract is usually in force for a fixed term of years, and when that term is up, it is then renegotiated between employees and management. Sometimes there are disputes over the union contract; this particularly occurs in cases of workers fired without just cause in a union workplace. These then go to arbitration, which is similar to an informal court hearing; a neutral arbitrator then rules whether the termination or other contract breach is extant, and if it is, orders that it be corrected.
When management and employees fail to reach an agreement during contract negotiations, the employees have a legal right to go on strike. And as mentioned, going on strike is not all about salaries and benefits. In the case of the BART strike, the employees have also addressed safety concerns. Granted, what the local unions are asking for--a 5% increase every year--may just be a tad much.

But the economy is better now compared to a few years ago. Three years ago in the midst of the recession, our local unions voted to extend our labor contracts through 2013, which meant we got to keep the current benefits we had but also meant there were no cost-of-living increases. We have been negotiating with management since March, and it's been an exceptionally difficult process, as management refuses to accept reasonable proposals from the negotiating team and only counters minimal provisions. They expect employees to pay more towards their retirement benefits while--at first--not offering any CPI+ increases, at the same time tripling employees' medical copayments for doctor's visits and prescription drugs. Those are just a few examples.

Going on strike is not about being greedy. Employees are not out to get rich; they just want decent compensation and benefits for the work they do, along with a safe and healthy work environment.
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Old July 8 2013, 10:30 AM   #51
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Re: Should Public Transportation Agencies be Allowed to Strike?

Coming from someone who has suffered lots of days without public transport during the past years (living in Athens, Greece), I say that everyone has a right to strike. Workers have no other solution when the company (either private or public) chooses to ignore them.
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Old July 8 2013, 11:50 AM   #52
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Re: Should Public Transportation Agencies be Allowed to Strike?

Not sure what's it's like in other countries but in the UK in terms of numbers of days lost the Public sector seems to have a far higher percentage than the private sector

On average over the last decade or so in terms of total days lost about 80% are down to the public sector whilst only 20% are down to the private sector. The number of industrial actions however is roughly the same .


http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_316634.pdf


Of course when the public sector strikes it has a direct impact on the private sector.

If Teachers go on strike, workers might not be able to work due to having to look after their children.

If public owned transport goes on strike workers migh not be able to get to work.

In the case of buisness in the private sector going on strike, people potentially have a choice to take their buisness elsewhere.

Public finances aren't a bottomless pit, they are funded via taxation. Most people want high wages and low taxes which are two opposites.

In the case of the private sector wages are funded via the services/goods that buisness sells, and people working in that sector high wages, and the consumers want low prices. Once again two opposites.

Now of course some are willing to pay preimum prices.

We can't always get what we want, sure I would love a 5% pay increase every year, but over the last few years given the economic climate what we got offered was a modest pay increase but in line with what I thought we would get.


But I'm not arguing that the right to strike should be removed.
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Old July 8 2013, 10:06 PM   #53
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Re: Should Public Transportation Agencies be Allowed to Strike?

Saito S wrote: View Post
iguana_tonante wrote: View Post
Saito, Thanks for the long, insightful post. You obviously know more than me about this particular situation, so thank you for giving the full picture of it.
Thanks, glad I could be of some help in understanding things!
You're welcome. As I said, labour is a complex topic, there are many grey areas, and every situation has to be judged on its own merit.

Saito S wrote: View Post
As for the first part of your post, obviously, I couldn't agree more.
Yeah, I really felt the need to say something to that. Conflating owning a business with hard work, implicitly... actually, it was pretty damn explicit, really... implying that if building and running your own business is the only truly respectable option here, is just outrageous.
Yep. But what do you expect from someone whose contribution to this thread so far has been like these?

Carcazoid wrote: View Post
Not a popular opinion, but I'm used to that.
Carcazoid wrote: View Post
And I do have a grasp of labor issues. I work for a living.
Carcazoid wrote: View Post
Saying that not everyone can be self employed is a self-defeating attitude. If that's what you believe about yourself, then you are destined to live at the station in life you have chosen.
Carcazoid wrote: View Post
You're looking at this all wrong.
Carcazoid wrote: View Post
Again, missing the point. As I've come to see is the norm in these forums.
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