BART looks for new inspector general amid criticism there's too little oversight of $2 billion annual budget

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- For the first time in BART's history, its total fiscal year budget is now more than $2-billion dollars. Some critics believe there is too little oversight of that money, but BART will soon have a new Inspector General who is supposed to increase accountability.

The job of Inspector General was approved by voters last June as part of Regional Measure 3, which also increased bridge tolls. BART has now posted a want ad for the position on its website.

State Senator Steve Glazer spearheaded the idea which he says is long overdue. "BART has been able to resist it and prevent it over the last 40 years" according to Glazer.

The BART job description says the inspector general will operate independently to ensure BART "operates efficiently, effectively, and in compliance with applicable federal and state laws."

"They are given a million dollar budget to audit anything that BART does" Glazer said.

BART has more money than it has ever had before and yet Glazer believes the system is "under performing."

Last year BART raised ticket prices 2.7 percent. But even though prices are up, the total income from fares will likely to be down this fiscal year because the number of riders is dropping, down 6 percent in the last three years.

BART's latest survey of riders shows just 56 percent are satisfied with service. All this week our ABC7 News team has been documenting what it's really like to ride BART - good and bad.

Bevan Dufty just took over as president of BART's board of directors in December. "I really appreciate KGO going out and giving riders a voice in what they want to see change to make BART a better part of their lives" Dufty said.

Dufty said he actually agrees with a lot of riders' criticism, but believes things are starting to turn around. "We have had a lack of investment in BART that has gone on for a couple of generations, and this is a system that is reaching fifty years old and it needs a lot of TLC" according to Dufty.

This fiscal year BART expects fares to bring in $486-million. That is less than a quarter of its total $2.3-billion budget for operations and capital expenses. But the system is getting an infusion of cash from other sources, including increases in sales tax and bridge tolls, and a $3.5-billion bond measure.

This year BART's budget also includes about $40-million in income from parking fees and tickets, $21-million from advertising, and $10-million from telecommunications contracts that lease BART's many miles of right of way for high tech transmission equipment.

When asked how he feels about BART getting a new inspector general, Dufty said "I think we are an institution that is strong in terms of financial capacity, but there is always room for improvement."

Dufty, who has actually cleaned BART stations himself, says BART has made important strides in the past year including: opening the new Antioch station, rolling out new cars and making the old ones quieter, adding homeless outreach teams, and working harder to catch fare evaders.

Dufty wants to keep hearing from you - about what you like - and what you don't. He said "an angry customer is my best friend because they are going to teach me how to fix things. And I feel pretty lucky as BART president, I get to talk to a lot of angry customers."

BART's board of directors is required to nominate three candidates for the new inspector general job. Then the final decision will be up to the governor.
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