BART increasing focus on maintenance to meet customer needs and employee safety
An early peek at BART's priorities for the 2014-2015 budget shows an increased focus on employee safety and keeping aging equipment well-maintained for reliability and passenger safety.
BART riders have probably noticed more and more track maintenance being performed during service hours, especially during non-peak hours and on the weekends. This is because BART currently has extensive track work projects that require more time than is provided in the few hours we are not in service. Each night there is a rush against the clock to get the needed maintenance done to allow for morning service. There is not enough time when the system is shut down to fit in all of the vital projects that help keep our system safe and our trains on time, such as replacing aging tracks and track components.
BART riders may have also noticed that trains are moving at reduced speed while operating near maintenance work. This is because BART now requires trains to travel at reduced speeds when workers are on the track. This change has lengthened the delays that customers may experience during maintenance but help ensure the safety of our workers. Previously, the work would get done without interfering with train operations and without slowing down train traffic. The bulk of the work done was invisible to the customers with little to no impact to their trip. This is no longer the case with trains sometimes needing to hold and then move forward at a reduced speed for what can be a long distance.
In order to meet the demands of record ridership, aging equipment, and new employee safety regulations, BART staff intends to ask for several dozen new maintenance positions and additional funding for its Maintenance and Engineering, Safety, and Transportation Departments. “These additional resources will not put an end to delays and maintenance during service hours but they will help ensure we do not fall behind on the work that needs to get done each day while protecting our employees working on the tracks,” said BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost. "The additional costs, which will be covered by existing funds, will be the centerpiece of next year’s budget and are absolutely necessary to keep pace with the service expectations of our riders while keeping our staff safe.”
For the past three years, BART has been working side by side with the California Public Utilities Commission as they crafted comprehensive rail safety regulations impacting all rail transit agencies in California. These requirements which are still evolving and have not yet been finalized, will add extra layers of protection for trackside crews during both operating and non-operating hours. Protections include better communication between the Operation Control Center, train operators and work crews on the track; safety measures and reduced train speeds when workers are close by; and a mandatory watch person even during non-operating hours when maintenance vehicles are on the tracks working. Currently BART requires a watch person only when trains are in operation.
“We know it is frustrating for riders to get caught in delays,” Trost said. “Customer satisfaction surveys over the years have repeatedly shown safety and reliability as top priorities with BART riders. BART is entering into a new phase of improved worker safety and major overhauls of aging equipment. We will keep the public aware of planned track maintenance on our website, www.bart.gov, through BART Service Advisories, which the public can sign up for at www.bart.gov/alerts, and paper Passenger Bulletins available at stations. We will also continue to schedule planned maintenance for times that are least disruptive for commuters.”
BART staff is currently working on budget proposals for the 2014-15 Fiscal Year. A new budget must be voted on by the Board of Directors by June 30, 2014. As always, there will be a series of public meetings where public input is welcome.