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rounding out the fare debate

By enelson
Tuesday, September 26th, 2006 at 1:11 pm in BART, Fare systems, Funding.


Ok, I admit it. I should have never written about flat BART fares. There are more important issues we can pull out our hair over, like what to do with all of that Proposition 1B money. The State Senate hearing on the $19.9 billion bond measure on the November ballot starts at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the BART Board Room in Oakland’s Kaiser Center, 344 20th Street.

But to finally lay the flat fare idea to rest, I’ll put up yet another argument against it, this one by Roy Nakadegawa, director emeritus of BART. As you read this and previous posts and comments, you’ll see why this idea will never get out of a BART board committee:

To consider a flat fare for BART by paraphrasing that the Bay Area “is no less urbanized than New York Area” is a gross exaggeration. New York MTA serves a single city with 6 times the population of BART that serves multiple sprawled cites. NY began service 100 years ago and built within city limits BART is still expanding into even less dense cities. BART has far fewer stations that are widely spaced. NY does not have anywhere near the number of parking spaces yet it carries over 20 times BART’s daily ridership and their stations are rarely more that 1.5 miles apart. Moreover, their flat fare does not apply to the new rail service to JFK Airport that charges $7.

So, there is little comparison to say that since NY has a single fare,
BART should as well. BART fares are not complicated as some imply because when buying a ticket, the fare machines have a chart that tells you what the fares are from the station one boards to the desired station.

As BART extends out into distant suburbs, BART provides parking like commuter rail systems and they base their fares on mileage. BART is similar to Washington Metro (WMATA) with lots of parking (but charges for all its parking) serves multi cities and also continually considers expansions. BART and WMATA being more like a commuter rail, base their fares on mileage as well.

BART’s current base fare is $1.40 for a trip up to 6 miles, which calculates to 23.3 cents per mile but $1.40 is charged even though the trip is to the next station. If the trip exceeds 6 miles, the charge is reduced at 11.7 cent per mile and if the trip exceeds 14 miles the mileage, the charge is further reduced at 7.1 cents per mile. If the West Pittsburg/Baypoint (WPB) to Millbrae/SFO trip is charged the inner city mileage rate the fare would be $13, while current fare is $6.30.

The charge to SFO airport is $7.65 due to a surcharge required by the airport. So, distant trips are given a substantial discount. The great majority of BART trips are not long distant trips. So, a flat fare will be discriminatory to the majority riders that includes the low-income and disabled inner city users.

Two other benefits the distant rider currently receives should also be considered. First, there is the large subsidy one receive using BART extensions. Consider the Concord to WPB Extension, with a construction cost of $503 million and its projected ridership is 13,000 trips per day after 20 years. Taking the construction costs and operation/maintenance (O/M) cost, a rough estimate for each trip just for this section is costing the public about $10.50 per trip over 20 years. Since most of the trips currently made are beyond 6 miles and probably over 14, the fare collected for this section will be less than $1 per trip which means the overall pubic subsidy for each trip is $9.50+ across this section.

At $9.50 trip subsidy, the round trip will be a $18 daily subsidy! This is for the more affluent BART rider and is probably only half to third of ones daily household trips.

Second benefit is BART parking. Parking is predominately located at outlying stations and frequently used by distant riders. Only 30% of BART ridership uses parking. Parking was free up to 2 years ago. Since only 30% of BART riders use parking and 70% do not, for equity, the cost of parking the should be charged an amount where it pays for itself, which is at least $4 per day to cover its construction, land and O/M cost.

BART has finally begun charging for parking at few stations, the fees are still not revenue neutral. The distant riders uses these subsidized
parking free or may pay a fee that does not amortize its overall cost
but may barely pay its O/M cost. So, by BART providing subsidized
parking for the more distant riders who happen to be more affluent than the inner city user who has little or no parking, this is patently
unfair and discriminatory.

What is even sadder is the fares paid by 70% non-parking BART users, mostly inner city user, actually pays for part of parking’s O/M cost.

Adding all the benefits should be evident that the more distant rider gets considerable public benefits already. Therefore, to raise the inner city fare to accommodate a flat fare would be an immoral injustice.

In lieu, BART should consider a zonal fare system that would be compatible and coordinated to the various local transit agencies like
how it is now with MUNI. With systems as AC Transit that covers such a large area, the joint fare with BART could be limited to a BART trip across 6+ miles (the base fare distance). This would increase transit use on both AC Transit and BART while encouraging less BART parking. The “Translink” Smart Card, could be programmed to reduce the charge per trip after using transit 30 workday trips within 3 week period, and then further reduced if the rider used transit in excess of 40 trips over 4 week period down to zero. The Translink Card would still allow BART travel beyond the 6+ mile or across the Bay by deducting additional charges from the card.

Another program that should be considered is for various evening and weekend events is to add a small additional fee to the admission price, such as 50 cents, that BART would receive. This would enable the ticket holder to go to a nearby BART station that has available parking and show the event ticket to the BART station attendant, allowing the person a free trip to/from the event up to 3-4 stations away. BART would gain supplemental revenue and lessen the usual congestion and demand for parking around the event area.

Whew! If you got through all of that, you’ve earned your stripes and may comment at will. But remember, I’m declaring this train officially out-of-service.

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20 Responses to “rounding out the fare debate”

  1. david vartanoff Says:

    Roy is correct on several counts–the present fare structure favors the east of the hills riders with lower rates and subsidized parking. The event surcharge is an idea I too have suggested over the years. The lack of joint fares with AC remains a ripoff. Waiting for Translink which is years begind amd millions iver estimate us a joke. The BART Plus worked well and should immediately be reinstated

  2. Frequent Amtrak Rider Says:

    Didn’t AC Transit kill the BART plus ticket to boost their operating budget? I thought this w as around the same time AC raised fares.

  3. transit-dependent Says:

    What happened at the State Senate hearing? Did backers of the tremendously wasteful Bart-to-San Jose line try to get funding for it, even though Santa Clara County voters rejected it in June? I don’t understand why people keep bringing it up as a possibility, even though its ineligible for federal funding, is trying up all of our transit money, and has no funding mechanism from the South Bay. Why can’t we move on and work to beef up Capitol Corridor service to San Jose?

  4. Bob Franklin, BART Board Says:

    BART Plus is still offered with most bus providers, except AC Transit. AC Transit understandably pulled out of the BART Plus program because people were buying it instead of an AC Transit monthly pass. Since AC Transit’s monthly pass costs $70, AC Transit was getting less than $46 per pass through the BART Plus program.
    BART Plus will go away when Translink comes on line. A joint fare instrument should be considered to encourage people to use both bus and BART. Perhaps if people were to buy a monthly pass on both BART and bus, they would get a compounded price break. This could be technically possible through a smart card, which could offer discounted/free rides after a threshold of 40-44 trips is met.

  5. transit-dependent Says:

    The state senate hearing was just for show, wasn’t it, with a long list of every conceivable transit project on the MTC’s long-term wish-list. My friends want to know whether to vote for the bond or not based on what projects in the Bay Area wlll actually get the funds. Are Bart-to-San-Jose and some trophy SF project going to get all the money, or will it actually make a difference in providing lots of good transit?

  6. Frequent Amtrak Rider Says:

    Vote for 1B. There is significant capital funding for each transit operator in the Bay Area. No funds are earmarked for any particular project. Transit operators have the discretion to spend the funds as they choose. Most operators will spend it on much needed capital improvements. There is funding for transit, for streets and roadways technology to relieve congestion, which helps transit. There is a partnership program that transit will be likely be eligible for.

    1C is the housing bill that would fund transit oriented development and fund the infrastructure improvements needed for infill housing development, another plus for transit.

  7. david vartanoff Says:

    yes Bart Plus still exists, but AC riders were AFAIK the majority of users–the earliest tickets were AC BART –Muni was only added after Loma Prieta. Bottomline, eastbay transit patrons are double fare redlined and as Roy pointed out suburban BART riders already get a 50% discount relative to the urban riders who are by far the more frequent users.

  8. Harrison Corridor Biker Says:

    BART board, PLEASE get together with MUNI and AC Transit and come up with some kind of transfer system! I HATE HATE HATE having to cough up $1.50 change when I BART into the City and then transfer to Muni.

    We live in California the home of the high tech industry. Is this the best you can do ??????????????????????

  9. david vartanoff Says:

    RIGHT ON!!!
    See that’s what BART Plus was until AC gave ruders the finger. It wasn’t perfect but for many riders, it covered 90% of their trips. The dirty reality here is that AC has been slowly asphyxiating since they lost their real estate tax base. “Choice” riders have exaporated as service has become skeletal and less reliable w/ rising red ink.

  10. Bob Franklin, BART Board Says:

    You can get a bus transfer in the BART station when your are transferring to Muni. It doesn’t address your point, but it still lowers your fare to $1.25 each way.
    I am proposing having a monthly pass that is triggered after you ride so many rides. If you also ride by bus, a monthly pass on both systems would give you a compounded price break. This could be more easily implemented with smart card technology. BART and bus operators will all also have to agree upon a solution that is at least revenue neutral, to protect current levels of operations. This does preclude seeking other sources of funding to make up for shortfalls in the near term, until such a program becomes successful.

  11. Bruce De Benedictis Says:

    I had been pushing for a higher BART Plus ticket price for a few years before AC Transit left the program. It made no sense for them to sell a $49 monthly pass when you could buy BART Plus tickets for as little as $56 per month. For that, you got $30 worth of BART rides. I assume that BART got most of that $30, but I do not know what the actual cut is. My assumption is that the other operators, mainly BART, refused to allow a fairer cut for AC Transit, so that they are the ones really responsible for forcing AC out of the system.

    You can tell how much BART does to encourage other transit systems from Mr. Franklin’s comment. AC and Muni riders get a parsimonious $0.25 off their bus trip each way. On the other hand, if you drive a car to a BART station, you get a full parking space, worth at least $30,000, to use all day long. Maybe they will charge you a bit for using it, but it is much less than the $5-15 per day the interest and taxes on that money would cost if the parking were to be provided privately.

  12. Doug Faunt Says:

    Where can I find out how the money flows when I pick up a Muni, AC or other discount coupon in a BART station?

  13. Terry Says:

    What happened to BART/TRANSLINK?

  14. Capricious Commuter Says:

    BART/TransLink doesn’t exist at the moment. Golden Gate and AC Transit are supposed to be starting another TransLink trial, which I have been invited to participate in.

    It won’t, however, include BART. The new smart cards that BART is also about to test are being touted as TransLink-ready, but connecting the fare accounts, that’s the hard part.

    I haven’t been around that long, but from what I’ve seen, an end to the war in Iraq will probably come sooner than a viable multi-system fare collection system.

  15. Bruce De Benedictis Says:

    I have a friend who works for the company that makes the Translink system. He said that the company that is making the new BART fare gates is a rival, and is not cooperating to make the gates compatible with Translink.

    The AC Transit Translink is very close to trials before complete implementation now, according to one of my AC Transit directors. There was still some unreliability with the wireless connection between the buses and the network to be worked out, plus training of the drivers. But I do use my trial card occasionally on AC Transit buses, and it seems to work OK.

  16. Bob Franklin, BART Board Says:

    In response to Doug Flant’s question on transfer payments between BART and the bus operators, here is what I found out:
    Both Muni and AC Transit receive transfer payments from BART, however, the amounts for most arrangements are not based on number of transfer tickets.
    BART pays AC Transit via MTC. For FY07, this is projected to be $4.6M. BART also transfers $0.4M to AC Transit as part of the Dumbarton Bridge Consortium.
    In FY07, BART will also pay $4.9M to WestCat, ECCTA, CCCTA, and LAVTA, via MTC.
    Under the Muni Transfer Agreement, BART pays Muni directly. For FY07, this is budgeted at $2.8M. BART also pays about $0.4M to Muni for the free Muni transfers issued at Daly City Station. This payment differs from the others in that it is tied to the number of paper transfers issued by machines in the BART paid area.

  17. Doug Faunt Says:

    Thanks Bob,
    I wonder if MTC sets those payment levels on the basis of transfers issued, in the long run, though?

    And Bruce, is that one of the Translink pilot program cards? Or something else?
    I have one with very small useage, that has an expiry date of July 2004.

  18. TransLinkInsider Says:

    If you have a TransLink card with an expiry date of July 2004, contact the TransLink Customer Service Center (877-878-8883) to get a free replacement. The customer service center will transfer your balance.

    Also, the two companies responsible for TransLink and the BART fare system, respectively, ARE working together to incorporate TransLink into BART’s faregates. This is a key piece of the TransLink systemwide rollout on BART, which will likely occur next year.

    Finally, the coming rollout of TransLink on AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit is not a “trial.” It’s the full systemwide deployment. Similar to many software programs, TransLink will be pre-launched to a small group of people for a short period to make sure that there are no surprises. (The earlier Pilot Program included only limited routes and stations for the participating agencies.)

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