BART puts surplus into fare rollbacks 

BART riders are one step closer to receiving a temporary break on ticket prices due to the agency’s unexpected surplus.

In a 6-3 vote Thursday, the board of directors approved a budget plan for next fiscal year that tentatively includes spending $2.3 million of its $4.5 million surplus to reduce fares by 3 percent for four months.

BART has recently debated how to spend the extra money, which came about due to a surprise injection of $24 million from the state.

The idea for a temporary fare reduction was to thank riders for enduring fare hikes due to the recession. In July, BART increased fares 6 percent and added 25 cents to its base ticket cost to help make up a then-$22 million budget deficit.

The fare-break plan could be nixed or changed “pending the outcome of a series of public meetings” on the topic, spokesman Linton Johnson said. The agency must conduct 18 public meetings on the fare rollbacks as part of Title VI, an equal-rights statute, he said. It will cost the agency $800,000 to host the meetings.

However, there is disagreement on how a fare reduction should be implemented. Some board members support an idea to offer a handful of free-fare days rather than a four-month discount, such as more Spare the Air days or possibly several free morning commutes.

Other board members cautioned that spending money on fare rollbacks while the economy remains uncertain isn’t the right move and that more funds should be put into reserves. As part of the $4.5 million plan approved Thursday, $1 million is headed to rainy-day reserves.

Where money’s going

BART’s board of directors approved a plan on how to use a $4.5 million surplus for next fiscal year.

$2.3 million To be used for 3 percent fare reduction for four months*

$1 million To be put into rainy-day reserves

$750,000 To be used for deep cleaning of up to 50 rail cars

$200,000 To be used to defer hike in East Bay paratransit fares for four months

$150,000 To be used for emergency services

$75,000 To install real-time monitors showing train schedules at venues surrounding BART stations

* Plan remains tentative pending outcome of Title VI meetings.

Source: BART

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