BART approves new budget, millions of dollars in cuts, additional spending in preventing coronavirus spread

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The BART board approved a $2.4 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1, and it shows the scars left behind by the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be millions of dollars in cuts and additional spending on preventing virus spread. These changes are forced by a drastic drop in ridership.

"Our ridership went from 405,000 to 24,000. And since the low of 24 thousand, we've now inched up to 45," said BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost.

Fewer riders meant less revenue for the agency. And that's what shaped the budget, which includes an extra 44 million dollars for cleaning and disinfecting.

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"It's not just cleaning the stations, but it's disinfecting the train cars every single night," Trost said.

There's also $146 million in cuts made by eliminating unfilled jobs, and reducing operating expenses like putting off a return to ending service at midnight. But there are no layoffs planned.

"You're going to notice things like the 9p.m. closure in the middle of the day, you should expect 30 minute frequencies," Trost said.

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BART rider Ellie Fisher of Lafayette is not surprised.

"The economy is struggling, I know. BART's losing a lot of money. Everything's losing a lot of money," she said.

The budget plan assumes that at best 50 percent of riders return this year. But that number could be as low as 15 percent. BART customer Adrienne of Walnut Creek is betting that riders will come back and service will be restored.

"It's a temporary fix. When you get the riders back, it will change and amend the budget," she said. The BART board may amend the budget as soon as October when members revisit ridership and revenue numbers.

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