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10Nov/09Off

1962: SAVE the BAY AREA from CHOKING to DEATH (with BART)!

BART Proposition A 1962, courtesy Prelinger Library

My favorite bit from this scan of an original flyer in support of Proposition "A": "All statements in this leaflet are accurate and factual." That reassuring disclaimer apparently made this passage adequately persuasive:

Who endorsed Proposition "A"? Taxpayer's groups... labor... doctors, lawyers, merchants, housewives, educators, Republicans, Democrats - everybody who wants a prosperous Bay Area. Opposition? Scattered, local, self-interested.

Indeeeed. The proposition required a district-wide 60% "yes" to pass; it got 61.2%, with the help of folks who cynically voted for it even though they wanted, and expected, it to fail. More after the jump...

As johnny0 over at Burrito Justice put it, "I’m constantly amazed that BART got built at all given the 50s freeway push."

One thing is for sure. There's no way something of that size and complexity could ever pass today. No matter how much you loathe BART for fare increases, declining service, and perpetual deficits - and I've probably got you all beat on the hate front - we almost ended up with nothing at all. It's hard to imagine how that would have been better for San Francisco.

BART's own website, after telling about the retreat of Marin and San Mateo counties from the plan, puts it like this:

The total cost of the system, as of 1962, was projected at $996 million. It would be the largest single public works project ever undertaken in the U.S. by the local citizenry.

After the election, engineers immediately started work on the final system designs, only to be halted by a taxpayer's suit filed against the District a month later. The validity of the bond election, and the legality of the District itself, were challenged. While the court ruled in favor of the District on both counts, six months of litigation cost $12 million in construction delays. This would be the first of many delays from litigation and time-consuming negotiations involving 166 separate agreements reached with on-line cities, counties, and other special districts. The democratic processes of building a new transit system would prove to be major cost factors that, however necessary, were not foreseen.

BART's 1962 Proposition "A", courtesy Prelinger Library

Related book: Historic Photos of San Francisco
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  1. I would have voted against BART in 62, if I had been alive and living in the Bay Area. The arguments would not have convinced me at all. Thank god the people here at the time voted for it.


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