BART offers early buyouts to avoid large scale layoffs, service cuts amid coronavirus pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- With a projected deficit in the hundreds of millions of dollars amid a deepening pandemic, BART plans to offer early retirement packages to as many as 40 percent of its workforce in an effort to avoid more drastic measures like layoffs.

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With ridership still down a staggering 87 percent, the BART Board of directors is moving ahead with a "Retirement Incentive Plan," an offer of early retirement for the system's eligible employees, up to 40 percent of it's existing staff.

"This is a moment in time, absolutely a crisis," said Lateefah Simon, BART Board President.

BART staff projects a deficit that could top $200 million dollars by the end of next fiscal year, when federal CARES relief money runs out.

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Those eligible for retirement must be at least 50 or 52 years of age, depending on position, and must have worked for BART for at least five years.

While more than 1600 BART employees qualify, the expectation is maybe three to four hundred would accept the offer.

The buyouts along with some cuts to weekend service starting next March, are designed to avert more drastic reductions, like layoffs and even station closures.

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"For all our BART workers, I want you to know we're doing everything we can to keep you," said BART Director Janice Li. "You are essential workers."

While fewer people ride BART these days, those who do...certainly worry about additional service cuts.

"It's the sign of the times that we're living in," said BART rider Ben Carver.

"Sometimes on the weekends, you'll miss one and you'll have to wait a whole half hour," said BART rider Rachael Marzoline. "If they cut back a whole bunch of employees, it's going to be even worse."

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