BART deciding how to spend $5M surplus

BART expects to have an extra $5 million or so in its coming budget year. The board is in the process of deciding how to spend it, or a less likely scenario, save it.

BART staff is recommending to the board that whatever it does should be a one-time expense, not ongoing, because there are many funding uncertainties ahead.

Among the ideas are a temporary fare reduction, 3 percent for six months or 5 percent for three months.

BART estimates that could save riders anywhere from about $2 to more than $12 a month, depending on trip length.

"On the one hand you want to do something for the customers; on the other hand you want to do something for the entire district. We might get money from the state in 2012, we might not. It's just really complicated to try to make these decisions," says BART board president James Fang.

BART director Gail Murray worries that if the state continues to withhold transit funding, there could be a fare increase in 2012.

"And then do you think people are really going to remember that they got a six-month fair decrease in 2010 when it's 2012 and it may be even worse," says Murray.

Another proposal is a one-time blitz of cleaning and refurbishing for 240 cars. BART's fleet is aging and 39 workers who would be cleaning the cars have been laid off over the last few years.

"I like saving money, but if it really is that short of a term, I'd rather they spend it on upgrading and maintaining the system," says BART rider Joe de Larios.

"I truly believe everybody deserves a break. I don't care if they're saving $4 a month, it beats nothing at all. To tell the truth on refurbishing, it looks nice like it is," says BART rider Eunice Dixon.

While no decisions were made Thursday, the board appears to be leaning toward combining a variety of proposals, all with customer benefits in mind. There's a public hearing May 27 and the budget vote is June 10.

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