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Hold your nose and open your wallet for higher BART fares

By dcuff
Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 12:20 pm in BART, Fare systems, Misc. Transportation, parking, rail.

BART Board member Joel Keller called it a “hold you nose” kind of vote when his board agreed yesterday to become the latest transit agency to raise fares in the midst of a recession.

The message from the board: Don’t hate us. We hate doing this to you as much you will hate paying for it.

Local public transit politics these days is about allocating pain. This was evident in BART board’s decision to raise basic fares 6.1 percent July 1, and also raise the minimum fare by 25 cents and the price of tickets to San Francisco International Airport by $2.50. The board also agreed to begin charging a $1 parking fee at eight more stations.

Perhaps surprisingly, the diverse BART board agreed on most aspects of the fare increase with a minimum of discord. 

Suburban board members like Keller of Brentwood and Gail Murray of Walnut Creek agreed to accept $1 a day parking fees at more stations even though they are no big fans of parking fees.

Board members from more urban areas in San Francisco and Oakland agreed to accept the 25 cent increase in the minimum fare for trips 6 miles of less even though that change will have its biggest effect on inner city residents who ride short distances. (The one dissenter in two of the four related fare votes was Tom Radulovich of San Francisco, who opposed  the 25 cent increase for the minimum fare and  the higher surcharge on travel to SFO.)

Board member Lynette Sweet of San Francisco initally denounced the $2.50 increase on trips to SFO has too much of a burden to the many airport workers who don’t get commute travel subsidies from their employers. When her turn came up to vote, Sweet paused a long moment and then voted for the surcharge after getting assurances that BART will try to get airport bosses to provide some relief for the workers.

Board members said BART is struggling financially because of plunging sales tax revenues, state raids on transit funds, and rising costs for worker health and pension benefits.

BART directors used the fare vote as an opportunity to send some political messages. They want state lawmakers to get their budget act together and stop raiding local governments and transit agencies of funding to bail the state out of its budget problems.

“They’re acting like buffoons up there,” Murray said.

BART board members also said they want BART employee unions to be willing to share the pain of the recession and accept some $100 million in concessions over four years as part of the current contract talks.

BART contracts with five employee unions expire June 30.

Several readers have called or emailed me at the newspaper with messages similar to this one today, “The people of the state are tired of paying for BART’s continual increases. When is BART going to tow the line and make the necessary cut-backs to keep their costs in line?”

 For their part, the unions have grumbled that BART’s upper management are handsomely paid and should make sacrifices.

To make their point, the BART employee unions have posted salaries of top BART managers who made more than $200,000 last year at the Web site.

BART managers have created the Web site to make their case that BART union members should pay more for their health and pension benefits.

To be sure, it looks like a tough year for BART contract talks – which will determine how the pain of BART’s troubles is allocated.

Share you views below on how you think BART should cope with the hard times.



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11 Responses to “Hold your nose and open your wallet for higher BART fares”

  1. david vartanoff Says:

    So sharing the pain equals raising the minimum for those short trip riders who already pay the highest per mile and are the cheapest to carry? And as to the airport surcharge–just another reason to use Oakland, BUT the real victims are the airport workers, Thanks Lynette!

  2. Chris K. Says:

    Oh, no! Higher fares! Public transit it doing the opposite lately than what it should be. They should find ways to increase service and decrease fares.

  3. Queen Says:

    So, David, I guess you don’t believe those assurances that BART will try to get airport bosses to provide some relief for airport workers?

    Chris, I agree. But how can they do it?

  4. Scott Mace Says:

    One thing the board didn’t demand and didn’t get was a rigorous staff analysis of the notion to charge market-rate parking. Tom Radulovich was the only board member who demanded more from staff. It’s a shame since staff bends over backwards to study so much else it proposes, and directors admit that the idea of market-rate parking has been discussed at the board since the early 90s…but staff refuses to pony up hard data to help the board make an informed decision.

  5. Mike Says:

    As a regular flyer, this $2.50 surcharge is such a ripoff. Why do I have to pay so much more per mile than anyone else?

    I feel really bad for the employees who have to pay this daily. I’ll only have to pay it 6 or 8 times a month.

  6. Chris K. Says:

    If fares are reduced, more people will ride. If more people ride, BART will get more money. If BART gets more money, they can spend money to increase service!

  7. Michael Krueger Says:

    That would be a lovely plan if BART fares actually covered the cost of providing the service. Unfortunately, they do not, and cutting the fares would only widen this gap.

    BART is in the same position as “Merchant #3″ in the old joke:

    Merchant #1: “I have the lowest prices in town. I sell everything at 10% above cost.”

    Merchant #2: “Are you kidding? Those aren’t low prices. I always sell at just 5% above cost.”

    Merchant #3: “You two clowns call those low prices? That’s nothing. I sell everything BELOW cost.”

    Merchants #1 and #2 (in unison): “That’s crazy! How do you make any money?”

    Merchant #3: “VOLUME!”

  8. david vartanoff Says:

    1. the pic in another thread is of the plastic platform edging.
    2. As to airport workers, there was a very ugly story some six months after the SF airport extension opened. A worker was profiled who had commuted by SamTrans express bus using a ST monthly pass thus a fairly civil and affordable commute to his low wage job @ SFO. after BART opened the express bus was cancelled, and the only way he could AFFORD the commute changed to a very long trip by SamTrans local buses–time door to work either doubled or tripled. So unless the airport can FORCE BART to GIVE any airport worker a real pass, these low wage guys will just be squeezed harder.
    3 As to pricing/volume/profits, unlike the merchants, BART is a PUBLIC SERVICE–sorta like the Fire Dept. We do not expect the FD to show a profit, we DO consider HAVING a FD a mark of civilised society.

  9. Queen Says:

    David, I’m only now catching up with your comments – thanks for #1, I thought the angle the photographer used and the lighting made it look like an extremely chrome yellow moonscape 😉

    I think that’s an excellent point about BART and the Fire Department, since BART is publicly funded and provides an essential service.

  10. Michael Krueger Says:

    For the record, I agree that transit should be viewed an essential public service, not something that’s expected to pay for itself. I included the joke only to drive home the point that fares don’t cover the cost of operations, since I have seen a number of people respond to the current budget crisis by asking transit agencies to increase service in order to increase their fare revenue.

    In fact, the joke applies equally to roads and airports, which don’t pay for themselves, either. No, gas taxes, tolls, and parking charges don’t cover the full cost of roads and parking, nor do air fares and passenger facility charges cover the full cost of airports and air travel.

  11. Bay Area Rapid Taxation Says:

    Need to get a clue here folks.

    Read stats in BANG editorial.

    Michael – That other forms of public tranport are subsidized is not a rationalization for the lax management of contracts/salaries and benefits.

    Take a look at what’s going on around you in the private sector. Cuts, Cuts, Cuts, Cuts Cuts – – – – and it’s about time that those who are in the public sector OR THOSE WHO ARE SUBSIDIZED BY THE PUBLIC begin sucking their fair share of the same economic swill the rest of us are drinking.

    This is NOT purely an hourly salary rollback, retirement and health/medical benefits need serious cuts as well.

    Loads, and loads, and loads of intelligent and educated people are out of work right now and, trust me, they can quickly learn how to safely operate (or clean up) a BART train and handle the very difficult tasks you ask of current employees. It aint rocket science.

    While we’re at it – all of this talk about the rising costs and increasing/decreasing services has me thinking that if the trains truly can’t pay for themselves – maybe its time to start thinking about REDUCING or ELIMINATING services ! Who knows – maybe once all of the numbers are brought into daylight, we’ve got another mis-managed General Motors situation on our hands. Just maybe the larger community is paying to subsidize a wonderful transit benefit for a relative few.

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