BART SamTrans bill for SFO extension questioned
- Published Saturday, May 1, 2004, in Bay Crossings
BART and SamTrans - the 11% Solution
By Guy Span
We all know that BART and SamTrans have had a little tiff over the
high cost of the airport extension. SamTrans agreed to pay the extra
costs because it was never in BART, that is, on a tax contributing
basis. And at the time it seemed a fair treatment. But SamTrans
accepted BART's ridership numbers and has suddenly bellied up to the
bar for an estimated $24 million in costs, which at the time were
thought to be around $7 million. In these cash-strapped days, that's
a lot of money; in fact, that's blow-out-the-budget kind of money.
So it's not surprising that SamTrans would protest the bill and that
BART would threaten to sue to collect. According to Mike Healy,
spokesman for BART, negotiations are proceeding well and they
are "making progress." In fact, BART is "optimistic" and "encouraged"
by the results so far. He blamed the lower ridership and 50% farebox
recovery ratio (of the extension) on the downturn in the economy.
However, Staff analyzed the detail in the BART bill to SamTrans and
found two questionable items. The largest is from item 6, Fully
Allocated Overhead Costs (FOC) based on an annual charge of
$102,622,848.56. (Editorially, Bay Crossings must note that if BART
needs to close a budget gap of $41 million, this might be a place to
look, rather than laying off 16 car and station cleaners.) Then
SamTrans is billed for 11.41% of this gigantic number, over which
they have no control.
Questioning Mike Healy, Bay Crossings asked why 11%, when the
extension represented 6.85% of BART's miles. We were told that the
calculation was based upon other factors, including the percentage of
electricity, car miles, variable operations costs, maintenance costs,
passenger revenue, and others. So Staff calculated the percentage of
each cost in the bill and failed to find one that exceeded 8.6% of
BART's annual expenses (admittedly Staff had to calculate and
extrapolate some from the billing costs).
For example, car miles were an unbelievable 8.6% of the total (on an
8.7 mile extension where many trains stop short at Daily City), train
operations appeared (it was calculated) at 7.5% (and it carried a
1.24 supervisory charge as if this extension would occupy 24% of
BART's supervision), maintenance and fixed station power came in at
2.1% and 2.3%, respectively, and Fixed Maintenance was 8.6%. Staff
was hard pressed to find anything that came near 11%, but they kept
looking. BART's bill was 12.53% of the 2003 operating costs but that
doesn't count. The extension generated 13.46% of total BART revenue
(annualizing the 4th quarter) and finally, the five new stations
represented 11.63% of all BART stations. While these are the only
numbers to cross the 11% threshold, Staff is not convinced that is a
good reason to bill SamTrans for 11.41% of BART's general overhead.
Billing this at the more reasonable 8.6% (car miles and fixed
maintenance) would save SamTrans nearly $5 million a year.
Then there is an Item titled Fixed Other Operations and Maintenance
Cost (FOM - No.5). It's not a calculated number; it's just plugged
in at $16,818,817 and escalated to $18,540,477. Staff has no idea
what is in this number and at press time, the usually responsive Mike
Healy could not get back in time. But since it is not derived from a
calculation or other source, it remains a questionable cost.
Interestingly enough, plugging the BART bill numbers into a
spreadsheet revealed that BART's calculations didn't always agree
with the result Staff achieved. Some numbers in the actual bill were
higher and others were lower. In any event, we know from the numbers
provided, that a BART extension is an expensive item.