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VTA tells stadiums: pay up or else

written by andy on

This is what VTA telling Sharks fan this season:

VTA will no longer offer direct service to or from Santa Teresa light rail station to San Fernando and Diridon Station for special events and games at SAP. In June the VTA Board of Directors adopted a Special Events Policy for event venues to reimburse VTA for services requested beyond its regular service. SAP has chosen not to request the additional service for Sharks games. There is still direct service to and from Winchester, although no extra trains post event.

This is part of an ongoing pattern for the last 17 years: Want more taxes but don’t want to spend the money on services.

Operating a sporting or entertainment venue is all about extracting as much revenue from the customers. That’s why the prices for food, alcohol, and parking is much higher than what you normally find outside.

The venue could say, why should they pay VTA when VTA is unwilling or unable to maximize the revenue from the riders? It is like VTA selling hot dogs at Levi’s for $2.00 (rather than $8) and bill the venue for difference.

And why should they pay VTA when there are private bus companies that are willing to charge premium fares for a service that will cost nothing for the venue. It seems like VTA is pretending that it has a monopoly on transportation service and thinks they can determine the service level and charge the other entities for the cost.

10 years ago, before FTA revised the charter bus rule, transit agency could charge premium fare on buses to offset the cost to provide service. FTA revised the rule because FTA thinks the private sector should have an opportunity to provide service rather than having these events reserved for the benefit of transit unions (they get paid at overtime rate rather than a normal rate for a private company). But such rule does not apply to rail and ferries.

For the final 49ers season at Candlestick, Muni for whatever reason decided to eat the extra cost (and loss of extra revenue) for the football service when FTA told them that they could not charge a premium fare (Muni continued to charge a premium rate for a few years under the argument that it was the normal fare for the cable car). Other companies obviously wanted to provide substitute service, but SFMTA doesn’t want private services because they would have to use Muni stops and other issues such as “labor peace.” They rather pay for the service themselves.

VTA, with the reputation of having the “worst light rail system in the nation,” is one more step closer towards irrelevance. The middle-class suburban folks that provide tax revenue to the agency would have fewer opportunities to see how their tax money is being spent. May be they are wealthy enough not to take transit to work or to school, but they may want to take transit to events that they know traffic will be a nightmare and parking will be expensive.

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