Published Thursday, March 11, 2004, in the San Mateo Daily Journal
BART-SamTrans feud erupts
By Dana Yates
BART officials announced yesterday they plan to sue SamTrans for not
paying $11 million in operation costs associated with the San Mateo
Bay Area Rapid Transit General Manager Tom Margro said SamTrans began
neglecting monthly invoices in October and stopped payments altogether
in January. SamTrans said it can't afford to pay for BART service
that exceeds the needs of its riders.
"We've been screaming from the beginning that this is too rich a
system for our blood," said San Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin,
also the chair of the SamTrans Board of Directors. "We said we'd pay
our bills if they reduce their services."
Representatives from both agencies said they don't want to move to
litigation, but no one seems willing to budge. The two agencies have
today to settle their differences. If no resolution is reached, BART
officials said they'll file a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior
Court tomorrow morning.
"We're hoping we don't have to go through with this and they'll turn
around and honor their contract," said Margro.
SamTrans expected to pay about $6 million a year to support BART in
San Mateo County, but declining ridership has increased costs to
nearly $24 million. SamTrans already paid $7 million and doesn't want
to pay more until BART agrees to roll back services to match the
declining need in the county, said Nevin.
Instead of cutting back, BART made changes to schedules to compensate
for the $40 million deficit it is facing and officials said they're
not willing to lower the quality of service to help SamTrans. Since
July of 2003, the number of riders using any one of the five extension
stations in South San Francisco, Daly City, Colma, San Francisco
International Airport and Millbrae has never come close to anticipated
numbers. In February, BART ridership was 52 percent lower than
expected at 24,624. The total number of riders dropped by over 1,000
[BATN: Ridership on the FOUR extension stations opened in 2003 is in
fact just 36% of BART's (never released in advance) "projections".]
BART and SamTrans entered into an agreement in the early 1990s
requiring SamTrans to pay operating costs at the Colma, San Bruno and
Millbrae stations. In exchange, BART covered the capital needed to
build the new stations. The building costs were paid for in part by a
half-cent tax from residents in Alameda, Contra Costa and San
Francisco counties. [BATN: Patent nonsense! In fact federal and
state taxpayers, regional bridge tollpayers, airline users, flood
control district ratepayers, Caltrain riders, BART district residents
and San Mateo County sales tax payers, among many others, all got
reamed to keep BART's contracting mafia comfortably occupied for a
decades.] BART officials said it's unfair to place the burden on the
residents in those counties.
Nevin argues the agreement also stipulated that if SamTrans was not
able to pay its bills, the two agencies would try to negotiate a
simple solution. BART is failing to live up to their side of the
agreement, added Nevin.
The two agencies were trying to settle their differences in recent
negations with Steve Heminger, CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation
Commission, acting as the third party. The negotiations went on for
four to five hours and Nevin said he was under the impression the
meeting went well.
Nevin suggested reducing or eliminating parking fees to encourage
riders. He also said SamTrans would provide express feeder buses from
East Palo Alto and Redwood Shores to stations if BART would offer
discounts to all airport employees.
SamTrans is expected announce the outcome of the last-minute meeting
4 p.m. today.
Dana Yates can be reached at dana@...
or 650 344-5200 x106