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BART to halve service on failed SFO/Millbrae extension

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  • 12/23 Contra Costa Times
    Published Tuesday, December 23, 2003, in the Contra Contra Times BART makes service to SFO easier for Contra Costa riders By Lisa Vorderbrueggen Contra Costa
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 23, 2003
      Published Tuesday, December 23, 2003, in the Contra Contra Times

      BART makes service to SFO easier for Contra Costa riders

      By Lisa Vorderbrueggen

      Contra Costa County BART riders rejoice: A one-seat ride to San
      Francisco Airport on every train will arrive soon.

      Starting Feb. 9, BART will shift direct airport service from the
      Dublin-Pleasanton line to every Pittsburg-Bay Point line train and all
      rush-hour Richmond-Daly City line trains.

      Today, Contra Costans have the choice of only six direct airport
      trains -- three in the morning, three in the evening. All other
      airport trips require a transfer.

      "It sounds promising," said Doris Penico, an Alamo resident who vowed
      earlier this year that she would never step foot on the new line again
      after a bad experience. "Now, if they could kindly drop the parking
      charges in Walnut Creek so that it is less expensive than what you
      would pay at a lot near the airport, we would seriously reconsider
      using BART."

      BART staffers hope a lot more folks like Penico will flock to BART.

      They launched these schedule changes and others in the hopes it will
      beef up flagging ridership on the $1.5 billion Peninsula extension and
      ease a mounting operating deficit.

      In other changes set to go into effect Feb. 9, BART will:

      * Restore timed transfers for San Francisco-bound riders on the
      Richmond-Fremont line who switch at the MacArthur and 12th Street
      stations in Oakland. Trains will wait across the platform.

      * Cut the transfer wait from 11 to four minutes for Dublin-Pleasanton
      line passengers bound for Berkeley.

      * Add a few minutes on the schedule for each train to turn around at
      the end of the line. It will allow BART to recover more easily from
      delays. BART's timetable will shift as much as six minutes on select
      routes.

      * Provide direct airport service during rush hour for Capitol Corridor
      train passengers who board BART at the Richmond station.

      * Eliminate the little-used shuttle trains between Millbrae and the
      San Francisco Airport. Instead, the Pittsburg-Bay Point and Richmond
      lines will loop through the two stations.

      While BART periodically adjusts its schedule for operating reasons,
      lackluster performance on the Peninsula extension has driven the
      latest changes.

      The line logs 25,000 trips a day, slightly more than half what
      planners projected. BART staffers blame the poor economy and improved
      traffic conditions on Interstate 101.

      The rider shortage has left the San Mateo County Transit District, or
      SamTrans, with a $15 million to $18 million operating deficit, two to
      three times estimates. Its officials have warned that the agency
      cannot withstand such a massive fiscal hit.

      Ending the shuttle will shave about $2 million off the shortfall.

      BART and SamTrans staffers hope the rest of the cash will come from
      more riders. The line needs 50,000 a day to break even.

      To lure more local folks, the agencies slashed parking fees in half at
      Peninsula stations three weeks ago.

      But staffers will also look across the Bay to suburban Contra Costa
      County where the market for airport-bound travelers proved more
      substantial than anyone expected.

      If they make airport service more convenient in Contra Costa County,
      BART can pull in travelers who have been reluctant to schlep luggage
      through a transfer.

      "With six months of service behind us, we are seeing a much larger
      demand for airport service from Contra Costa County than we
      anticipated," said BART operations chief Paul Oversier. "So, we've
      doubled our direct service -- people with luggage are more sensitive
      to a transfer."

      Every Pittsburg-Bay Point train will travel to San Francisco Airport,
      eliminating the transfer time.

      The Richmond line that serves El Cerrito, Berkeley and Oakland will
      carry riders directly to the airport weekdays from 6-9 a.m. and 3-6
      p.m. All other times, this line will end at Colma.

      Under the new schedule, the Dublin-Pleasanton and Fremont trains will
      end at Daly City.

      If this doesn't work, the economy fails to rebound and the operating
      deficit continues to mount, it's unclear what BART and SamTrans will
      try next.

      BART General Manager Tom Margro stressed the need for joint
      cooperation.

      But that offer does not include cash.

      BART's nine-member elected board has consistently stated that it will
      not bail out the extension.

      "I cannot support the use of district funds to subsidize the airport
      extension," said BART Director Joel Keller of Antioch. "The primary
      beneficiaries of this line are the people of San Mateo County. We have
      our own financial problems."

      [BATN: No, the sole beneficiaries of the line are the engineering and
      construction consultants who prepared studies for, lobbied for,
      designed it and constructed it, often out of BART's own offices,
      actively aided by BART executive staff, by a 7-2 majority of BART's
      board, and by regional and national elected officials.
      When do the criminal prosecutions begin?]


      Lisa Vorderbrueggen covers transportation and growth.
      Reach her at 925-945-4773 or lvorderb@...
    • 12/23 SJ Mercury
      Published Tuesday, December 23, 2003, in the San Jose Mercury News BART to reconfigure routes to SFO By Kim Vo BART officials are rejiggering service to San
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 23, 2003
        Published Tuesday, December 23, 2003, in the San Jose Mercury News

        BART to reconfigure routes to SFO

        By Kim Vo

        BART officials are rejiggering service to San Francisco International
        Airport, after realizing that the new route was most popular among
        riders from north Contra Costa County.

        Beginning Feb. 9, the Pittsburg/Bay Point line will offer direct
        travel to the airport. Currently, the Dublin line goes directly to the
        airport but will no longer do so after Feb. 9.

        During rush hours, the Richmond line will also extend to the airport
        instead of stopping in Daly City.

        The changes will essentially offer East Bay travelers two train routes
        to the airport during rush hour.

        Bay Area Rapid Transit officials hope the changes will boost ridership
        on the commuter line. Officials had anticipated that there would be
        42,000 daily trips along the BART-to-airport extension, which includes
        stops in Colma, South San Francisco, San Bruno, San Francisco Airport
        and Millbrae. So far, ridership has fallen short, with nearly 25,000
        trips on an average weekday. BART needs 50,000 trips to break even.
      • 12/23 SF Examiner
        Published Tuesday, December 23, 2003, in the San Francisco Examiner More changes to Peninsula BART service By Sara Zaske szaske@examiner.com With commuter
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 24, 2003
          Published Tuesday, December 23, 2003, in the San Francisco Examiner

          More changes to Peninsula BART service

          By Sara Zaske
          szaske@...

          With commuter ridership down and costs rising, BART officials
          announced sweeping changes to the Peninsula extension service on
          Monday.

          Samtrans, which is expected to pay $15 million to $18 million for the
          extension's operations, asked BART for the service modifications -- to
          cut costs and capitalize on the popularity of the airport station.

          "Today there is one route to the airport. We are doubling that," said
          Paul Oversier, BART's assistant general manager of operations. "Now on
          two East Bay routes, it is a one-seat ride to the airport."

          Starting Feb. 9, two lines will feed into SFO during peak hours. The
          Pittsburg/Baypoint line will run a direct route into the airport. The
          Richmond line will stop at Millbrae first, before traveling on to SFO.

          During non-peak hours, only the Pittsburg/Baypoint line will travel
          down the Peninsula, stopping at the airport first, before turning
          around in Millbrae.

          Currently, the Dublin/Pleasanton line travels directly to the airport,
          while the Pittsburg/Baypoint feeds into Millbrae. A smaller three-car
          BART train that travels between Millbrae and SFO every 20 minutes will
          be eliminated with the February changes.

          Travel from San Mateo County to points in the East Bay may be more
          difficult with the February changes but there are also some benefits
          for Peninsula passengers.

          Both SFO and San Francisco-bound trains will stop every 15 minutes at
          the Millbrae station throughout the day. San Bruno and South San
          Francisco passengers will see more regular north and south service,
          with trains arriving every seven and eight minutes.

          After Feb. 9, all trains will also use the closest platform to
          Caltrain at Millbrae, eliminating an awkward up-and-down,
          cross-platform hike for airport-bound passengers loaded down with
          suitcases.

          The changes will also save precious San Mateo County tax dollars as
          the extension adjustments will lower operation costs by roughly $2
          million, according to BART general manager Tom Margro.

          Since the extension opened at the end of June, the line has averaged
          roughly 25,000 daily trips -- well below the projected 42,000 trips.

          Samtrans had originally expected to pay a $6 million subsidy based on
          those ridership projections. While BART's estimates have missed the
          mark, Margro maintains that Samtrans is responsible for the entire
          shortfall, which could amount to as much as $18 million.

          Samtrans officials, however, said it was still a topic for discussion
          between the two agencies.

          BART has already made an effort to attract more riders to the line by
          reducing parking fees at the extension stations, but that cost savings
          may be tempered by a 10 percent BART fare increase which goes into
          effect systemwide on Jan. 1.

          While ridership has been slowly increasing at all the stations, only
          the SFO station has flourished from the start, drawing more than 6,000
          daily visits.

          "The airport has been the real success story of the extension," said
          Samtrans spokesperson Jayme Maltbie Kunz. [BATN: Only if you count
          "40% below the 10000 a day we promised" as a "success".]
          "In making these service changes, we increase the amount of service to
          the airport and improve passenger access. And as a result, it will
          make it easier to use and more attractive for riders."

          Samtrans board chair Mike Guingona also applauded the overhaul of the
          extension's service.

          "I think it is a great idea, and it is one we have advocated for quite
          awhile," he said.

          Guingona, who is also a Daly City councilmember, added that the
          current adjustments were just a few of many strategies Samtrans will
          pursue to deal with the extension's massive operational shortfall.

          "This is not the end, but it is a good start," he said.

          [BATN suggests that the 100% unnecessary BART tunnels dug underneath
          an existing rail right of way through South San Francisco, San Bruno
          and Millbrae at a taxpayer cost of many hundreds of millions of
          dollars would make fine mushroom farms.]
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