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 BARTs 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.
BARTs 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 parkings 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.