Monday, December 2, 2019
[Santa Clara County] How much does VTA's board care about its own possible restructuring?
Even before a Santa Clara civil grand jury trashed the performance of the Valley Transportation Authority’s board of directors in a 61-page June report, Teresa O’Neill had set up an ad hoc board enhancement committee.
It was one of O'Neill's first priorities when she began her one-year term as chair in January. Now that the committee’s work is moving to the public sphere with an online survey and public meetings Nov. 20 and 21, one of the shortcomings the grand jury found is on public display. (More information on public outreach here)
The committee’s survey of the VTA board’s 20 members on their assessment of themselves produced only eight replies, four from regular members and four from alternates.
“As we try to assess how we can get the board better engaged, the lack of response to the survey is somewhat of a disappointing representation,” committee chair John McAlister, a member of the Mountain View City Council, told the board last week.
The grand jury criticized the board’s composition of elected officials from various cities plus the county’s board of supervisors, saying “their position on the VTA Board is clearly of secondary importance to most, if not all, directors.”
McAlister’s committee has been working with RSM consultants, which has reviewed June’s grand jury report as well as two previous ones plus investigating practices of similar transportation authority boards elsewhere. Pat Hagan, RSM’s project director, said he intends to present a report to the board enhancement committee next month.
“Part of what we want to do is provide recommendations for your consideration that could be adopted by policy change, secondarily through changes to the administrative code this board could approve and then thirdly through enabling legislation,” Hagan said.
He said the firm’s comparative focus has been on six other “benchmark” transit agencies: L.A. Metro, the Chicago Transit Authority, Portland’s TriMet, the Denver Regional Transportation District, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City.
Only VTA, of the benchmark agencies, has responsibility for bus, rail, highway and bicycle transportation plus serving as a congestion management agency. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), by comparison, serves a population 70 percent larger with an operating budget 370 percent of VTA $382 million but deals only with buses and rail.
The CTA’s board has only seven members, four appointed by Chicago's mayor and three by Illinois' governor. LA Metro’s 14-member board is comprised of elected officials from Los Angeles County and its 87 cities but they are vetted through a selection committee. The Utah Transit Authority has only three members on its board but they are full-time and nominated from county districts subject to approval by the governor.
“There is no standard formula for what transit boards should look like, and that is because so many — including VTA — are unique, with your multi-modal operations and other responsibilities,” Hagan said. “If you really look at peers, there’s a limited number of peers from a purely operational perspective.”
November 12, 2019
Silicon Valley Business Journal
By Jody Meacham