BART passengers could soon be experiencing cleaner trains, quieter rides and more reliable escalators and elevators, thanks to a budget surplus that will allow the agency to invest more money in improving the commuter experience.
Depending on how much funding the agency receives from the state, BART has projected a budget surplus of $10 million to $28 million for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts on July 1.
With the extra money, the agency plans on investing $20 million on long-term improvement projects that currently have no identified funding. One of those plans would be to replace and refurbish seat covers and cushions every three years. Currently seats and cushions can take up to six years to replace. Replacing the seats twice as fast would cost the agency $1.8 million.
As part of its preliminary budget recommendations, the agency also would invest $200,000 into improving its rail-grinding program, a development that would make BART’s shrieking vehicles a little less painful on the ears.
And more than $4 million would be directed toward improving the reliability of BART’s escalators and elevators.
The remaining $8 million of the surplus would go toward hiring new mechanics, cleaners and technical workers to carry out the improvements.
Loud trains, malfunctioning equipment and dirty vehicle conditions are some of the top concerns for BART passengers. According to the agency’s latest biennial customer survey, which came out in February, passengers showed the greatest dissatisfaction in those aforementioned categories.
If the budget recommendations are approved by the agency’s board of directors, BART will begin implementing the programs after July 1, spokesman Jim Allison said.
BART board member Tom Radulovich, who has frequently lobbied the agency to invest more into its existing facilities, said the agency’s budget recommendations were a promising start, particularly since they seemed aimed at addressing passenger concerns.
“Hopefully we’ve moved beyond the old BART model of spending extra money on boondoggle projects,” Radulovich said.
The agency’s budget situation is still tenuous, due to the uncertainty of state funding allocations. BART was set to receive $18 million in state funding sources this year, but with the uncertain budget situation in Sacramento, the agency isn’t ready to assume that money is guaranteed. If state funding is cut, the agency will adjust its surplus recommendations, Allison said.
BART’s board of directors will have about two months to review staff proposals before it has to authorize a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. By June 9, the date the board is scheduled to approve a budget, the agency hopes to have more information about its state funding allocations Allison said.
Even if the state funding does not come, BART is in much better shape than its fellow transit agencies in the Bay Area. On the same day that BART released its budget surplus projections, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, released its preliminary outlook, that forecast a $21.3 million shortfall.
$10 million to $28 million: BART’s projected budget surplus
Items BART hopes to address: