Candidates for BART Board Q&A

 

QUESTIONS
Anu Natarajan
 
ANU NATARAJAN

Liz Ames

               LIZ AMES
The current BART board has had some successes and some challenges. Briefly speak to one success and one challenge and how you feel your experience and perspective might add to the overall outlook of the BART board on these issues.
The passage of Measure RR was a success for the BART District, and for Bay Area commuters. As the Chair of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, I understand the dire need for system maintenance to keep the aging system a viable transit option for the Bay Area, and the critical importance of funding those needs.
BART is accused of a culture of being insular and an inward looking bureaucracy. A lack of transparency and clear communication has led to a level of distrust. I would open lines of communication within the agency and to stakeholders, and community partners and enable meaningful dialogue and collaboration
The current BART Board finally realized the gravity of the public safety issues and has started to address some of these concerns through a number of safety initiatives, such as replacing analog cameras with digital ones.  BART still has many infrastructure needs that should be addressed before considering further expansion. As a licensed CA civil engineer, I know how to prioritize spending to improve operations and make certain our stations and trains are clean and safe.
There is tension between BART and cities on how and where to build more housing (TOD) near BART or on BART property. What approach would you advise management to take to try to lessen the tension and increase the odds of a successful dialogue between BART and cities?
 
AB 2923 was intended to address the housing crisis and sunsets in 10 years, with a limited scope affecting BART-owned properties. The bill includes height restrictions and requires parking that is displaced by development to be replaced.
As a planner and a former Fremont councilmember, I understand the importance of local control of land use. My approach would include forming a Joint Powers Authority to include two councilmembers and two BART Boardmembers and staff, similar to the existing structure for the South Hayward BART station to consider solutions. I strongly believe in authentic community engagement in developing guidelines for each community.
An open dialogue is essential.  The cities themselves have much more land use experience than BART. They know the local stakeholders that need to be involved in any such discussions, BART does not.  As director, I would work with our local communities on mixed development around BART stations that is appropriate for their communities and meets the needs of all residents, no matter what their level of income.
Do you think that BART is currently doing enough to address safety for passengers, cleanliness of the stations and the use of BART stations by the homeless community? What suggestions or processes would you direct to BART management to further address these issues?
A long-time daily BART commuter, I share the safety concerns, frustrations with dirty trains and stations, and the impact of the rising homeless population at BART.
We need a more robust plan to keep riders safe—one that includes coordination with partners, engages riders, and the community, assistance of community service officers and exploration of using technology and its unintended consequences.
We need a public “Clean BART” campaign, and an evaluation of current processes for maintaining cleanliness on trains and at stations.  Partnerships with local agencies, such as the one with San Francisco, can assist with garnering assistance and supportive housing and services for the growing homeless population.
 No. BART is not doing enough.  This is why I am running for BART District #6 director.  I will focus on hiring more BART police officers at truly competitive wages and hiring more Public Safety Community Service Officers (CSO’s) at stations where most of the public safety issues are occurring, including the downtown SF and Oakland stations.
Describe your solution to the continuing conundrum of BART providing access to transportation to the underserved communities?
 
The conversations around BART to Livermore surfaced issues of tradeoffs between BART’s ability to maintain its core infrastructure and its promise to complete the system. The outcome of that discussion was a potential partnership with the San Joaquin Rail Transit Authority. The extension to San Jose is a partnership with Valley Transit Authority (VTA).
For transit to succeed, it needs to be easy, seamless, frequent, clean and safe. With twenty seven transit agencies in the Bay Area, it is imperative that all agencies collaborate to align their services to provide a connected transit network, and collectively explore new concepts such as “mobility as a service” to ensure underserved communities have access to service.
BART today provides access to underserved communities in SF, Oakland and the East Bay.  The only gap in the BART line is the City of San Jose, and this planned to be solved in the next five years or so.  BART should work with the local communities to improve accessibility to all stations, whether it be through a more modernized, efficient parking system, improved drop-off areas or more locking stations for bikes and other private means of transportation.
Closing Statement
Summarize why voters should vote for you for the BART board.
 
As a daily commuter on BART, I share the frustrations of delay, unsafe and dirty trains. As Chair of the Measure RR Bond Oversight committee, I bring a solid understanding of the funding needs to maintain BART’s core infrastructure.
 
A former city councilmember and an urban planner with extensive experience facilitating community engagement, I understand the role of a BART Director is to set policy and vision as an advocate—not an activist.
 
I bring first-hand professional experience addressing the intersection of land use and transportation at the regional level, focusing on issues of smart growth and sustainable regional planning. I am ready to put this experience to work on the BART Board.
 
BART needs leaders who have the technical background to understand the intricacies of BART system, operations and infrastructure requirements. BART needs someone on the Board who understands what it means to be a commuter in the Bay Area. I am this person.
 
BART does not need another planner on the Board.  I am a licensed Civil Engineer who has managed and executed several multimillion-dollar transportation infrastructure projects to a successful conclusion.   I understand how to get complex projects completed on time and on budget.
 
I have been able to organize and educate diverse coalitions of people to support positive public policy in our communities (e.g., preservation of open space, creation of trails in Niles Canyon and Union City, community redesign. )
 
BART needs someone who keenly understands the transit rider’s needs, that is why I propose improving safety by hiring more BART police and Community Service officers. Transit cars and stations must be clean, and we must pursue basic infrastructure improvements so BART is well maintained and riders can know they will arrive on time to their destination.
 
BART needs smart transit orientated development, not just housing. Cities build housing. BART should not.   BART should collaborate to create a job-housing balance so we are not building more housing for jobs elsewhere.  BART needs to work closely with the communities where BART stations are located to create non-residential development and create new jobs.  Businesses that create jobs near BART stations mean workers can walk or bike to transit. Shorter work and trip commutes will prevent traffic and negative climate impacts.  Nonresidential uses also generate more revenues than expenses, unlike housing.  BART needs to foster smart jobs development around stations. This is a new narrative to improve our quality of life, reduce commuting distance and time to work.
 
As a daily transit rider, I understand that it is our riders, our customers, we should be focused on and not developers and their monied interests.  I support and will represent first and foremost the customers of BART, the riders.  I ask for your consideration and vote. Thank you.