Published Friday, April 23, 2004, in the San Francisco Examiner
BART gets dirty
Train, station-stop sanitation to suffer because of cutbacks.
By Justin Nyberg
OAKLAND -- Dirtier stations and trashier trains is what BART riders
should expect as a result of the transit agency's proposed budget
BART plans to layoff 53 workers next year, including 16 service
employees who are responsible for mopping the station floors,
cleaning up spills and picking up after the more than 300,000 daily
For passengers, it will be the most noticeable aspect of BART's
belt-tightening plans to overcome a $41 million operating deficit
projected for next year, the third consecutive year of cutbacks,
transit officials said.
In order to meet its cleanliness standards with the diminished staff,
BART announced Thursday it is lowering those standards to more
"realistic" levels, according to BART Assistant General Manager of
Operations Paul Oversier.
BART unions said they plan to file a formal grievance in an attempt
to block the staff cuts.
At the BART board meeting Thursday, directors stressed that there
would be no fare hikes and no reductions to the number or frequency
of trains because of the proposed cutbacks. However, several were
uneasy about the sanitary side effects of their budget problems.
"I have a problem portraying this system as one that is more
reliable, but less clean," said BART board director Tom Radulovich.
The board will vote on the cutbacks May 27. They would go into effect
in the next fiscal year, which starts in July. To close the budget
gap, BART will also be running slightly shorter trains next year in
an attempt to save on electricity costs.
Even after factoring in the $41 million in spending reductions this
year, BART faces a projected $46 million deficit next year and a $396
million shortfall over the next 10 years, portending a similar round
of cutbacks in 2006.
The system is still waiting to collect $11.6 million from SamTrans,
San Mateo County's transit agency, for the unexpectedly high costs of
running trains on the Peninsula extension. The two agencies have been
working out a deal that could reduce service along the underused
line, as requested by SamTrans, which is responsible for its
In February, BART threatened legal action to recover the overdue
"We are a little farther away from suing them," said BART board
President James Fang.
Ridership along the Peninsula extension has been slowly, but
steadily, growing -- from 17,000 riders per day when the system
opened in June 2003 to more than 20,000 riders per day last month.
The system would require 50,000 riders per day to break even, which
is not anticipated until 2020.