BART’s fare reduction off track 

More than 75 percent of BART riders are opposed to temporary fare rollbacks, according to a new survey, and that level of dissatisfaction could free up millions of dollars to fund train cleaning, vehicle improvements and longer service hours, among other proposals.

Due to an unexpected allocation of $26 million from the state in March, BART will start the 2010-11 fiscal year with a $4.5 million budget surplus, an enviable position that’s in stark contrast to other local and state transit agencies.

As part of its budget-approval process in June, BART’s board of directors dedicated $2.2 million of the extra money to cleaning cars, deferring paratransit fare increases, improving customer service and several other measures. The rest, about $2.3 million, was slated to be set aside while a passenger survey was conducted to get feedback on two separate fare-rollback proposals.

According to results from that survey, the first proposal, a 3 percent reduction in fares for four months, was supported by only
20.5 percent, or 68 out of 332 passengers. The second option, a 5 percent reduction for three months, was backed by 23.9 percent, or 79 out of 330 passengers. The poll was split up evenly between online and print respondents.

In lieu of the fare rollbacks, BART passengers would prefer longer service hours, cleaner cars, more-advanced vehicles and further investment in rainy-day reserves, according to comments gathered by the transit agency.

Jurgen Siemens, a Brentwood resident who commutes to San Francisco daily on BART, said fare rollbacks wouldn’t be a good investment for the budget surplus.

“I’d rather see this money go to improving service and security,” Siemens said. “Those improvements would be a little bit more worthwhile than temporary fare reductions.”

On Thursday, BART directors will vote on how to use the full $4.5 million surplus.


How to spend surplus

Ideas being considered Thursday on how to spend the projected $4.5 windfall:

  • $1 million for BART’s rainy-day reserves, bringing total to $25 million
  • $750,000 for replacement of seats and deep cleaning of rail cars
  • $200,000 to defer an increase in East Bay paratransit fares for four months
  • $150,000 for emergency operations facility
  • $100,000 to improve station agent customer service
  • $75,000 for real-time information monitors to be installed in venues near BART stations
  • $62,476 to convert four part-time utility workers to full-time employees

Source: BART

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Will Reisman

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