Funding for Bay Area's BART transit system threatened by tardy Clipper card integration 

The Bay Area’s lead transportation agency has warned BART that it will withhold millions of dollars in funding if the rail operator doesn’t do a better job of integrating the Clipper card into its fare system.

BART was supposed to begin offering Clipper cards to its youth, disabled and senior passengers by May 1, but the agency failed to meet that deadline. High-frequency BART riders who receive price reductions for automatically reloading their pass through their bank account were also supposed to be able to use Clipper cards by March 1, but the agency missed that date as well.

For its tardiness, BART has been threatened with sanctions by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional agency managing Clipper, the one-stop fare that eventually will be work on all 26 Bay Area mass-transit systems.

MTC spokesman John Goodwin said sanctions could include withholding, diverting or reallocating several sources of BART funding. It’s difficult to ascertain how much each funding source is worth to BART, Goodwin said, but a few carry a high price tag.

For instance, the MTC could withhold money from Bay Area bridge tolls that BART uses to pay for capital projects. BART’s proposed Oakland airport connector project is slated to receive $68 million in such funding. The MTC also could withhold state transit assistance funding, which is expected to provide $24 million for BART’s day-to-day operations this year.

On June 14, MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger sent a letter to BART interim chief Sherwood Wakeman, urging the agency to get its Clipper card program up to speed, or else face possible sanctions.

BART has since offered up a contingency plan that should meet the MTC’s criteria without sanctions being enforced, spokesman Linton Johnson said. The agency pledged to offer Clipper card technology for its youth, disabled, senior and high-volume discount riders by Dec. 31.

Goodwin said it is too early to tell what action would be taken if BART misses that deadline as well, but he said the MTC takes the delays seriously.

“We have made it clear to BART our ability to withhold its funds,” Goodwin said.

This is not the first time the two agencies have butted heads over implementation of the Clipper system. In 2008, BART Treasurer Scott Schroeder urged the MTC to drop an Australian company as manufacturer of the Clipper card, citing frequent technology failures. The MTC eventually selected Cubic, a San Diego-based company.

BART began offering Clipper cards to the general riding public in August 2009. Youth, seniors and disabled passengers receive discounts and have a different card structure than the general public.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 

Behind schedule

BART has missed the deadline for transitioning these discounted passes into the Clipper card program:

  • Youth Pass: 50 percent off normal prices
  • Senior, children’s, disabled passes: 62.5 percent off normal prices
  • High-volume discount cards: 6.25 percent off normal prices

Source: BART

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Will Reisman

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