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25479SMCo.-SFO BART fares to rise $1; stations to close weekends

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  • 7/21 SMCo. Times
    Jul 21, 2005
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      Published Thursday, July 21, 2005, in the San Mateo County Times

      BART fare to airport may rise $1
      August hearing planned; change only would affect county commutes

      By Laura Ernde
      Staff Writer

      Starting in January, it could cost San Mateo County residents $1
      more to ride BART trains to and from San Francisco International
      Airport.

      SamTrans has proposed ending a subsidy, designed to encourage
      ridership, which has been in place since the airport rail extension
      opened two years ago. The $1 fare increase would only affect BART
      riders going between the airport and stations in San Mateo County,
      not San Francisco or the East Bay.

      The public will have a chance to comment on the plan Aug. 10, along
      with the proposed September elimination of BART service to the South
      San Francisco and San Bruno stations.

      The changes will save SamTrans more than $2 million a year,
      officials said Wednesday. SamTrans, which runs the county's bus
      service, has come under tight budget constraints.

      There aren't enough people riding the BART extension to cover its
      operating costs, and SamTrans is obligated by contract to make up
      that difference, which is estimated at $10 million next year.

      On top of that, revenue from fares is down $730,000 for the budget
      year, while fuel costs have soared, said Chief Financial Officer
      Virginia Harrington.

      Adding $1 to the cost of a trip between San Mateo County stations
      and the airport shouldn't be too much of a hardship to BART
      travelers when it is compared to the high cost of an airline
      ticket, said SamTrans General Manager and CEO Michael Scanlon.

      As an example, the cost of a one-way ticket to the airport from
      Daly City would go from $3.30 to $4.30 in January. That does not
      count a separate 3.7 percent general fare increase by BART, which
      is scheduled to go into effect at the same time.

      The weekend service at the South San Francisco and San Bruno BART
      stations is proposed to end on Sept. 12.

      Weekend ridership at those stations is fairly low, and those riders
      still will be able to use the Colma or Millbrae BART stations,
      Scanlon said.

      In addition to setting a public hearing on the money-saving changes
      Wednesday, SamTrans board members voted to move forward with
      refinancing the agency's $326 million debt, about one-third of
      which is from building the BART extension.

      Extending the length of the loan and lowering the interest rate
      from about 5 percent to about 4 percent would save about $10 million
      a year, Harrington said.

      Ridership on BART's airport extension is up about 1.2 percent over
      last year, but it's still not breaking even as BART had projected,
      said Rita Haskin, chief communications officer at SamTrans.

      BART spokesman Linton Johnson said those projections were made well
      in advance, before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

      "The main draw to that extension was SFO. With 9/11, that would have
      killed any ridership projection," he said.

      The public hearing is set for 2 p.m. on Aug. 10 at the SamTrans
      Administrative Office, 1250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos.


      Staff writer Laura Ernde covers county government and health issues.
      She can be reached at (650) 306-2428 or by e-mail at
      lernde@...