County voters to decide on Measure B half-cent sales tax


Voters will decide next month on a measure that would raise billions of dollars to help address many public transportation issues throughout Santa Clara County.

Measure B, a half-cent sales tax for 30 years, would raise between $6 billion to $6.5 billion for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to extend BART into Silicon Valley, reduce crowded freeways and repair roads throughout Santa Clara County.

The measure, which needs a two-thirds majority to pass, would bump the sales tax to 9.25 percent in San Jose and Campbell and 9 percent in other cities throughout the county.

The projects it would fund are an effort to make sure the county's transportation infrastructure keeps up with the region's economic growth and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to improve the system as a whole, said Chris O'Connor, director of transportation policy at Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

The measure would help the county be competitive in receiving more than $3 billion in matching funds from state and federal agencies for the projects, O'Connor said.

An estimated $1.5 billion would help build the second phase of BART's Silicon Valley Extension with three planned stops in San Jose at Alum Rock and 28th Street, downtown and Diridon station and a fourth in Santa Clara.

Another $1.2 billion would be set aside for cities and the county that would make plans for street repairs and improving conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The money would also be divided for Caltrain's grade separation projects that space out the tracks from roadways, as well as work to ease congestion on county expressways and improvements on the Highway 85 corridor that includes a new lane from Highway 87 in San Jose to U.S. 101 in Mountain View.

Opponents of the measure include the Sierra Club's Loma Prieta chapter, BayRail Alliance and Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association that have argued many similar promises in Measure A from 2000 haven't been reached.

The 2000 measure aimed to construct a light-rail line between downtown and east San Jose that was later canceled, in addition to a new parkway and underpass at University Avenue in Palo Alto that was never built, according to opponents.

Measure A wasn't implemented until 2006 and many of the projects couldn't get built overnight, O'Connor said.

Opponents also argued that running BART trains between Santa Clara and the San Jose Diridon station would parallel service already provided through Caltrain that is under capacity.

O'Connor said running the parallel service will help build up Caltrain ridership and provide people with two connections to BART.

There are plans to build a maintenance yard at Santa Clara instead of running trains at the end of the day to the next closest yard in Hayward, and the infrastructure could make way for a connection to Mineta San Jose International Airport, O'Connor said.

The measure would also raise $750 million to help re-engineer highway interchanges instead of widening freeways, he said.

Another $500 million would be used to build a core bus network to serve people with low incomes and disabilities, according to O'Connor.

Related Weekly content:

Editorial: Yes on Santa Clara County measures A, B

VTA board OKs new sales-tax measure

Palo Alto seeks larger benefits from 2016 tax measure

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33 people like this
Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 20, 2016 at 9:37 am

NO on B!

VTA wants to gut North County bus service under its "Network
90" plan at the same time that they're asking voters to approve yet another bump in the sales tax. Santa Clara County residents are already paying three sales taxes to VTA, a permanent 1/2 cent that was approved in 1976, plus the more recent Measures A and B, whose revenues are mostly going down the BART sinkhole.
Plus, we're paying a Vehicle Registration Fee on top of that. Yet this is not enough, they want more tax money to flush down the BART toilet while eliminating local routes.

VTA is asking the voters for a fourth sales tax increase yet they refuse to “value engineer" their expensive projects. There is no reason
that the BART extension needs to duplicate existing bus and train service
between the San Jose and Santa Clara stations. And the proposed Bus Rapid
Transit on El Camino could be constructed at lower cost by eliminating the
dedicated center lanes and converting the curbside lanes to HOV use during peak hours.

Money saved from cutting the “gold plating" from big capital projects could be spent on supporting the bus system, including saving routes threatened under Network 90. Until VTA learns to use its existing resources more
efficiently, vote NO on more taxes.

This tax is being pushed by Carl Guardino and the grossly misnamed "Silicon Valley Leadership Group," whose rich corporate members stand to benefit most from the hugely expensive BART extension. Rather than increasing sales tax A FOURTH TIME, maybe these rich companies need to step up and pay higher corporate tax.

Three pro-transit and environmental groups, BayRail Alliance, the Sierra Club, and Silicon Valley Transit Users are urging a “no" vote on the upcoming VTA sales tax increase. VTA proposes to use Measure B funds to extend BART beyond San Jose Diridon Station to Santa Clara Station, completely duplicating existing Caltrain service. This is a clear example of VTA's poor decision-making. It explains why Caltrain supporters like BayRail Alliance still cannot trust VTA.

The groups believe that the funds to run BART trains between San Jose and Santa Clara would be better used to boost Caltrain frequency to a BART/light rail level of service between Palo Alto and San Jose.

Visit Web Link to read more and join the No on B Campaign.

26 people like this
Posted by Amy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:07 am

I looked at the "NO" site, and I have to wonder why VTA is insisting on building a redundant BART line from San Jose to Santa Clara. I also wonder why VTA wants to eliminate bus routes even if this tax passes. It looks like another bailout for BART; didn't we just pass a BART tax a few years ago?

12 people like this
Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:11 am

I don't understand opposition from the Sierra Club and the Bay Area Alliance.

After all, as Mr. Ly, above, eloquently stated, we're already paying lots in taxes to VTA, but aren't getting much in return. The odds of VTA actually provided any new services, rapid transportation, etc. are low.

However, given the #1 priority - ensuring the salary, benefits, and pensions of these bureaucrats - it is encumbent upon us to vote yes on this initiate.

23 people like this
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:48 am

stanhutchings is a registered user.

No on A and B! Enough taxes already! Federal, State, County, property tax, licence tax, school tax... And my social security is going up a puny 0.3-percent COLA increase is the smallest in history. Won't even cover the 0.5% Measure B tax.

2 people like this
Posted by Prop 13
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:00 pm

New to California and wondering whether modifying Prop 13 will even be on the table?

Older, limited income homeowners should be protected from increases, as is done in many states, but passing down 1970s-level assessed values down through generations for both residential and commercial properties seems criminal when our schools are so underfunded relative to other states. Seems like that would help w/infrastructure funding, too.

Re-assess when property changes hands.

5 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:26 pm

@Prop 13:

I don't know where you come from, but your impression about the level of state taxes in California is mistaken, as is your presumption about California school funding.

The fact is that the state and local tax burden on California taxpayers is the 6th most as a percentage of income of any state in the country. Other states which take much smaller portions of their residents' income have much better schools, roads and other indicia of good government.

You correctly state that California's school funding lags many other states - which might be a problem if there were some relationship between student performance and school funding. However evidence for this is scant. Notwithstanding this, even granting that the level of funding is relatively low, California teachers have the highest incomes of teachers in any state. So perhaps part of the problem is how the money is spent, not its absolute amount.

A lot of Californians detest Texas for good reasons and bad - Texans being among the good. But Texas which has the 5th lowest amount of spending among states has superb highways. It's student population roughly matches California's demographically, and yet on student performance Texas students vastly exceed California kids.

One thing Texas lags California on is government pension levels and the power of teacher and other public sector unions.....This might explain a lot.

2 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2016 at 4:21 pm

@Garden Gnome, I believe that the Sierra Club is opposed to this measure since it provides too much funding, in their opinion, to roads. The Club's view is that the money should be spent on mass transit and bike & pedestrian paths only.

15 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 21, 2016 at 12:21 am

If Measure B becomes law and the VTA no longer must be concerned about public opinion, the agency will surely resume its plan for seizing the lane lanes on El Camino Real for its infrequent "rapid transit" buses only - bringing traffic in the remaining lanes to a near standstill most of the day. Wake up Palo Alto. The bus lanes are already being installed in San Jose on Alum Rock.

7 people like this
Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 21, 2016 at 9:23 am

Enough is enough.

Santa Clara County residents are already paying three sales taxes to VTA, a permanent 1/2 cent that was approved in 1976, plus the more recent Measures A and B, whose revenues are mostly going down the BART sinkhole. Plus, we're paying a Vehicle Registration Fee on top of that. Yet this is not enough, they want more tax money to flush down the BART toilet while eliminating local routes.

People forget we just approved a VTA tax in 2008 and the Vehicle registration fee in 2010.

Vote NO.

6 people like this
Posted by Andrew Boone
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2016 at 12:47 pm

This article describes VTA's Measure B Sales Tax as if everything it would spend money on is a benefit. Well, a total $1.85 billion for highway projects, mostly which increase the maximum capacity of highways, are not a benefit at all but instead do permanent damage to our communities.

Silicon Valley Leadership Group representatives deny that any projects are highway "widenings" but instead they are only "re-engineering the highways." Wrong. Several of the projects will widen sections of Expressways and Highways including widening Highway 85 from 6 to 8 and install "Express Lanes" which are Toll Lanes for solo drivers.

Other highway projects don't add traffic lanes but increase rush-hour traffic capacity with underpasses or by rebuilding bigger interchanges. It's all to "relieve traffic" congestion by trying to "build our way out of congestion"! But the result in the end is induced demand and bigger traffic jams!

Pouring nearly $2 billion into highway projects is money we're not getting invested in VTA bus or light rail service. It's money we're not getting invested in better infrastructure for walking and bicycling. Fixing hazards from decades of car-centric street design. VTA Measure B would only put 12 percent of revenues into bus, light rail, bicycling, and walking combined!

Not only Palo Alto but everyone in Santa Clara County loses with Measure B's wasteful highway expansions and pork-barrel transit projects.

We need a New Directon for VTA.
NO on Measure B.

2 people like this
Posted by Scott L
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Scott L is a registered user.

Nice to read a breath of fresh air on here. VTA and their corporate partner/PR person has been instrumental and marshalling the creation of this Inverse Robin Hood Tax Plan, a plan to get union support due to all of the massive road projects and to buy off cities, county, politicians and non-profits support based on future monies that they will get.

Contrast this with non-profits that can decide in an unbiased manner or like the De Anza Associated Students Body and they'll not vote for it. DASB voted to "Defer Indefinitely" after Carl G/SVLG had a presentation followed by Sierra Club members and a supposedly high level approach by Carl but sure seemed like "artful smears" to me!

That was a game changer for me. Seeing how a person that gets paid a ton of money to make sure that businesses will only pay for 1/4 of yet another sales tax and that residents (especially the lowest incomes) pay 3/4 of this additional sales tax!

This is on top of a permanent sales tax for VTA, in addition to the 2000 Measure A and the 2008 Measure B taxes!

The Feds didn't want to give BART money because they didn't think VTA had enough money to operate and maintain BART extensions into San Jose.

The 2000 Tax that started in 2006 has had much of it's projects nixed and reallocated the money for other things. Which is why the Sierra Club calls it a "Bait and Switch."

So I understand why Sierra Club, Bay Rail Alliance, Transdef are on one side as they are independent and can't be bought off. I realize non-profits and cities are starved for money. But it's sad that they've not forced businesses and the region as a whole to solve this issue. (Yes, as well as closing the loophole in Prop 13 that major land owners/developers can fly a 747 through!)

So please VOTE NO on VTA Measure B!
And share your views with your friends, neighbors and coworkers!

We need a better solution in 2017-2018 as well as forcing VTA to get DIRECT ELECTIONS for VTA Board Members so that they can be directly facing the music on all of this as well as more fairly representing ALL of Santa Clara and take away San Jose's overarching control of VTA.

Plus VTA needs to change their culture. They had scathing reports from a 2004 Grand Jury as well as a 2007 External Audit! Nothing has changed and the VTA culture needs to change as well as the Board.

Thank you!

Like this comment
Posted by No on B (bus lanes)
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2016 at 6:17 pm

Vote No on B or get ready for VTA bus-only lanes and center-island bus stations on El Camino Real. Remaining traffic will come to a standstill most of the day. Good luck even crossing El Camino. If Measure B is approved, voters have no more leverage and the VTA will not care at all about public opinion.

The bus-only lanes and stations already are being installed on El Camino in South San Jose (Alum Rock). It is part of a larger plan for El Camino called the GRAND BOULEVARD INITIATIVE. Of course, construction in San Jose is taking forever and the price has doubled.

Like this comment
Posted by VTA Grand Jury
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 28, 2016 at 6:51 pm

The Grand Jury looked at VTA TWICE, both in 2004 and in 2009. They were highly
critical in both analysis by a different set of jurors.

VTA has NOT change. VTA is wasteful and inefficient. No on B.

Web Link

Web Link

and so on...

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