BART budget sets groundwork for system investments and expansion
The BART Board of Directors has approved a $1.92 billion Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget that prudently controls expenses in the face of a 3% decline in ridership. The budget allows BART to integrate new rail cars into service starting before the end of this calendar year, gear up for the opening of two extension projects, and the full implementation of a major system reinvestment program while closing an estimated deficit of $31 million.
The new budget dedicates $671 million to system reinvestment including $171 million from Measure RR, which voters in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco Counties approved in November. Among the highlights:
$285 million towards the acquisition of 775 new rail cars for the Fleet of the Future.
$97 million to continue traction power infrastructure replacement to provide riders with more reliable service.
$71 million towards the Hayward Maintenance Complex, a new modern facility to maintain the Fleet of the Future.
$67 million for station modernization. That includes a major program to replace escalators and install canopies for station entrances along Market Street in San Francisco. Funding will also go towards station upgrades at Powell, 19th Street, El Cerrito del Norte, Downtown Berkeley and Concord Stations.
Two-thirds of the Capital Budget is directed towards system reinvestment.
$100 million for the Earthquake Safety Program of which $74 million is for Transbay Tube seismic retrofit.
Service and capacity enhancement
The budget includes $75 million dollars to improve access to BART stations and to add flexibility to the rail system. Some of the priorities include:
Addition of four station cleaners to improve cleanliness at the Civic Center and Powell Street stations.
Major investments in bus intermodals at Union City, Balboa Park, and Concord Stations.
Installing more user-friendly wayfinding signs.
The design of automatic train turnback capabilities at 24th Street Station and extension of tail tracks at Dublin/Pleasanton and Millbrae to make the system more resilient and flexible.
A new focus on fare evasion
BART is devoting $2.7 million to a strategy of enforcement, station hardening and education to limit fare evasion and assure our riders that we value their patronage. That strategy includes:
Hiring six Community Service Officers and one Police Administrative Specialist.
Raising barriers and service gates to a uniform height of 60 inches.
Eliminating all non-fare gates other than one immediately next to each station agent booth, while ensuring fare gates open to provide emergency egress capacity.
BART has experienced a 27% increase in ridership from 2009. But weekday ridership during FY17 was nearly 5% below initial projections with an average of 423,500 (year to date) on weekdays. Weekend ridership was down more than 7%. BART is expecting a modest increase in ridership for FY18 to an average of 431,709 on weekdays. That is mainly attributed to the expected opening in FY18 of the Silicon Valley Berryessa extension to north San Jose and the eBART extension to Antioch.
BART saw financial warning signs early on and responded by instituting a selective hiring freeze. The agency also reduced overtime and mandated a 10% reduction in professional and technical service expenses. The new budget builds on those initial steps by eliminating 15 positions without resorting to layoffs.
Youth discount raised to 18
Beginning January 1, 2018, the youth discount will be extended through age 18 (currently through age 12). To help pay for the associated cost, the youth discount is being reduced from 62.5% to 50%. Children under 5 still ride for free. The changes better align BART with the discounts offered by most Bay Area transit operators.
Paper ticket surcharge and scheduled fare increase
Over the next half year, BART will modify at least one ticket vending machine in each station to vend Clipper cards. To encourage more riders to use Clipper, the budget includes a 50 cents per trip paper ticket surcharge effective January 1, 2018. There will also be a 2.7% across-the-board, inflation-based fare increase that will take effect January 1, 2018. That increase is part of a formula that increases fares every other year to keep pace with inflation. Revenue from the inflation-based increase goes to BART’s high priority capital needs including new rail cars, a new automated train control system and improvements to the Hayward Maintenance Complex.
The budget also includes a late addition of $16 million in State Transit Assistance funding from legislation signed by Governor Jerry Brown that prevented the need for service reductions.
Despite the fiscal challenges, BART remains one of the few transit agencies in the nation that makes significant contributions to its capital program from its operating budget. In FY18 BART is devoting $127 million from its operating budget to capital projects.