BART looks at raising fares, cutting service

January 18, 2009 1:54:55 PM PST
Faced with a projected budget shortfall of up to $90 million over the next 18 months, Bay Area Rapid Transit officials are considering service cuts, higher fares, higher parking fees and other options as a way of balancing their budget.

The transit agency's staff will present a budget update to board directors at their meeting on Thursday but a decision on what actions will be taken will be made at a later date.

BART is being forced to re-examine its budget because the weak economy has resulted in reduced fare revenue due to falling ridership as well as lower-than-expected sales tax revenue.

In addition, the transit agency expects to receive less funding from the state than originally projected.

BART now anticipates having a $35 million deficit for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and a deficit of between $45 million and $55 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

BART administrators previously floated the possibility of saving $3 million a year by reducing the frequency of service on nights and weekends by running trains every 20 minutes instead of every 15 minutes.

The transit agency's fares already are scheduled to increase by about 5.5 percent in January of 2010 based on a system in which fares are increased every two years based on the consumer price index.

But BART is now considering imposing the 5.5 percent fare increase early, either in May or July.

It's also looking at imposing a higher fare hike of 10 percent in May or July in lieu of the January 2010 increase.

In addition, BART is considering a 5-cent or 10-cent surcharge on all trips.

As for parking, BART is looking at adding $1 to the existing parking charges, beginning to charge a $1 fee on weekends and extending paid-parking hours on weeknights.

The transit agency also is considering basing parking fees on demand, charging more when the lots begin to get full and less when many spaces are available.

In addition to reducing the frequency of service on nights and weekends, BART is looking at starting service an hour later in the morning and ending it an hour earlier at night as a way of saving more than $2.4 million.

BART officials also are studying closing "select" stations on weekends, but that proposal isn't likely to go anywhere because staff estimates that closing them would cost the agency a net total of $1.6 million annually due to lost fare revenue.

Another proposal BART is considering "train wraps" in which trains in effect become moving billboards. The transit agency's staff estimates that BART could gain $500,000 a year through such advertising.