BART outlines 7-point plan for responding to budget crisis


BART outlines 7-point plan for responding to budget crisis

The path to regaining ridership will be a slow climb and the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact of our short and long-term operating budget shortfalls.

As of mid-January, BART ridership hovers at 11% of pre-COVID levels. Ridership drives our operating budget because BART relies on fare revenue more than most transit agencies. About 70% of our operating revenue comes from fares. To ensure that BART is on the strongest fiscal footing possible, BART General Manager Bob Powers released a 7-point plan on October 20, 2020 with concrete steps to reduce costs annually and maximize efficiencies to address anticipated short-term and long-term deficits quickly, equitably, and strategically. 

“The 7-point plan is a critical part of our effort to keep cost reductions as far from the riders as possible and to support our workforce,” BART General Manager Bob Powers.

The 7-point plan includes steps we will take to maximize efficiency and find savings before cutting service:

  • Pursue efficiencies around contracting and other reductions to BART’s non-labor budget
  • Continue hiring freeze; eliminate most current vacancies
  • Seek Board approval to negotiate a retirement incentive program with union leadership
  • Re-assign or re-train staff wherever possible to fill critical gaps created by departures
  • Fill critical capital budget vacancies with operating staff wherever possible
  • Load shed service dependent staff to capital projects to accelerate capital program delivery
  • Explore additional cost savings measures with labor partners and non-represented employees

The 7-point plan will be reviewed during the October 22, 2020 Board of Directors meeting. View the presentation.

BART’s current fiscal year funding gap is $33 million. Federal CARES Act funding, in addition to the immediate cost cutting measures BART implemented at the onset of the pandemic, has helped stabilize our cashflow through Q3 of FY21.

The savings from the 7-point plan will help us close the current year gap and become leaner in future years, but we must have contingency plans in case there is no more help from the federal government or other emergency aid. We also must address long-term budget shortfalls because we know ridership will be impacted possibly for years to come. 

Five priorities to balance tradeoffs in service changes

As part of our contingency plans, we are considering a number of scenarios and options. Some are painful, including closing some stations and closing on the weekend. This is something we will fight to prevent. We will continue to advocate for emergency funds and work with our labor partners to find cost savings to prevent cutting service.

BART is using five priorities to balance tradeoffs in service changes

  • Ridership- How can we maximize resources to attract more riders as people return to work and make transportation decisions?
  • Financial- What service is the most cost effective for BART’s limited budget while minimizing impacts to labor?
  • Equity- How can we minimize impacts to protected populations?
  • Capacity recovery- How responsive is the service plan in preserving the capability and expertise necessary to scale-up to assist in the economic recovery of the Bay Area as counties re-open and ridership potential grows?
  • Health Guidance- How well do service levels meet public health guidelines and aid in regaining confidence from riders and employers contemplating bringing workers back into the office?

BART has consistently taken a data-driven, transparent approach to service changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve continued to prioritize our riders and employees. Over the coming weeks, BART staff will continue to cost out savings achieved from the 7-point plan and various service scenarios. Staff will provide an update to the Board of Directors on November 19, 2020 when staff will review a preferred service plan that would take effect in February 2021.

Our commitment is to do all we can to serve the region and support the Bay Area economy and our workforce while also making sure we appropriately respond to the immediate fiscal crisis and the longer-term deficit COVID-19 has exacerbated.

*This article was published on October 20th and has been updated.