BART board considers fare increases

January 22, 2009 6:35:55 PM PST
Bay Area Rapid Transit is facing a $90 million budget deficit over the next year and a half, and BART riders could end up paying more to help deal with it. The fiscal crisis comes at the same time the BART Board is responding to community outrage over the New Year's Day shooting of BART passenger Oscar Grant.

BART ridership is down and there are other problems, like severe cuts in state funding.

"It's the governor taking away money, it's the sales tax revenue going down, it's the reduced ridership. When you couple all of those, you realize we're in trouble. And it may not get better for awhile now," said Lynette Sweet, a BART director.

BART is facing a shortfall of up to $90 million over the next 18 months, so it's considering job cuts, service cuts, increasing fares, and increasing the price of parking by $1.

Fares are already set to go up 5.5 percent in January 2010 to adjust for the consumer price index. One proposal is to do that sooner and another would increase fares by 10 percent in May or July 2009.

BART Board member Tom Radulovich thinks they should suspend payments for the various BART extension projects.

"$70 million is actually going out of our operating budget to MTC to pay for extensions. And at this point, that is completely outrageous that we're doing that," said Radulovich.

Joe Keller, also on the BART Board, disagrees with slowing the projects, noting a lot of commuters have been waiting for those extensions.

"They pay week in and week out into a system and get no benefit and they're fairly angry about that," said Keller.

Also on Thursday, the board committee formed to work with the community after the Oscar Grant shooting met to set its priorities. Lynette Sweet is on that committee, and says job one is moving forward on forming a citizens' review board for BART Police.

"The police, a lot of them are great. Don't get me wrong, we have a lot of wonderful people, but we can't allow the police to continue policing themselves," said Sweet.

The board has no timeline for making decisions about possible fare increases.