BART budget prioritizes increased passenger and employee safety, maintains flexibility


BART budget prioritizes increased passenger and employee safety, maintains flexibility

The BART Board of Directors has approved a $2.42 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) which begins July 1, 2020. The budget was developed during unprecedented shelter-in-place orders that have resulted in significant ridership decline and revenue loss.

The budget focuses on increased investment in passenger and employee safety and provides the ability to adapt train service levels to match changes in ridership. The spending plan also leverages reduced service hours to accelerate important capital rebuilding projects where safe and feasible. The budget does not include a fare increase and uses a combination of expense reductions and emergency COVID-19 response funding from the federal government to balance the budget.

“Coming up with a budget in these uncertain times has been like walking a tightrope,” said BART Board President Lateefah Simon. “It has been a true team effort, with BART’s labor unions working very hard to partner with management to find solutions along with federal emergency funds helping to keep trains running.”

“The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges and we have a tremendous lift ahead of us to regain riders and navigate the future,” said BART General Manager Bob Powers. “This budget prioritizes safety, stable service, and positions BART to be part of the economic recovery of the Bay Area.”

Aggressive cleaning protocols

COVID-19 related expenses add $44M to the budget in added costs related to enhanced cleaning regimens, purchasing of hand sanitizer, investing in personal protection equipment for employees, and increased communication and education to the public about new protocols.

Flexibility a key component

The budget acknowledges a great deal of uncertainty in the months ahead, including the timeline for easing public health restrictions, and volatility in income from ridership, sales tax and outside assistance.

To manage some of the unpredictability, BART has developed two scenarios for ridership guided by the pace of our region’s recovery and a range of epidemiological and economic outcomes. The scenarios have ridership for the year averaging as high as 50% pre-pandemic levels and as low as an average of 15% of pre-pandemic levels. The budget assumes fare revenue based on the midpoint between the two scenarios at 122,000 daily riders. For context, the FY20 adopted budget passed in June 2019 assumed an average weekday ridership of 404,900. 

Because ridership and other revenue sources are expected to remain highly variable, BART staff will revise the budget in just three months if necessary. The Board will be provided with regular updates throughout the course of the year, outlining the current status of revenues and expenditures. 

Emergency funds critical component of Operating Budget

Emergency funding from the federal government, obtained thanks to the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Bay Area Congressional Delegation, is a critical tool in balancing the budget. 

The FY21 Operating Budget uses approximately $251M of CARES Act funds for its intended purpose: to maintain appropriately robust service levels, avoid transit worker layoffs and to purchase personal protective equipment.

Additionally, the Operating Budget estimates BART will be eligible for $20M in reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for COVID-19 related expenses.  

The budget includes $146M in cost reductions from eliminating vacant budgeted positions, reducing non-labor expenses, and scaling back operating allocations, which primarily fund capital projects.

Seizing the opportunity to rebuild

BART’s Capital Budget is much less affected by the pandemic than the Operating Budget thanks to dedicated funding sources so the important work of system reinvestment, core capacity enhancement and replacing the rail car fleet continues.

BART’s reduced service levels, instituted as ridership dropped by more than 90%, have allowed BART to accelerate system reinvestment projects. For example, before BART moved the end of service from midnight to 9 pm, workers were replacing 100 feet of running rail a night. With the earlier closing time they are now replacing 500 feet of rail per night. 

Electrical cable replacement, station modernization, escalator replacement and construction of canopies at the entrances of downtown San Francisco stations will continue to be funded during FY21. As service levels change in response to ridership levels, staff will pursue strategically accelerated work wherever possible.