BART to cut service, hike fares on failed Millbae extension
- Published Friday, August 12, 2005, in the San Francisco Chronicle
BART's directors approve plan to trim service to S.F. airport
By Michael Cabanatuan
BART directors reluctantly approved on Thursday San Mateo transit
officials' plans to reduce the frequency of trains during commute
hours on the struggling San Francisco International Airport extension
-- the fourth service change since the long-awaited line opened two
The 8.8-mile extension south from Colma to SFO and Millbrae has drawn
far fewer riders than anticipated since its opening in June 2003. The
San Mateo County Transportation District, which is obliged to pay all
operating costs of the extension, says it can't afford to cover more
than $10 million. The service cuts, combined with elimination of a
discount for San Mateo County residents, will save $1.1 million,
SamTrans officials estimated.
"We have a fiscal responsibility to operate all our services on
balanced budgets," said Christine Dunn, a spokeswoman for the
district, which also runs Caltrain and SamTrans bus service. "This is
something we had no choice but to do."
SamTrans directors, saying that they can't afford to subsidize the
higher level of service, endorsed the changes after a public hearing
Wednesday but decided not to eliminate weekend service to the South
San Francisco and San Bruno stations, although they will reconsider
the closures in six months.
Before approving the changes, BART directors criticized San Mateo
transit officials for reneging on their original agreement to pay the
full operating costs of the extension and for failing to consider
other changes -- including long-term paid parking at Peninsula
stations -- to boost ridership and offset their losses.
"I am very, very resentful that every time they don't have money, it
affects BART service," said Director James Fang of San Francisco.
"It's outrageous. I don't like having a gun put to my head."
Directors said they feared that making even more service cuts would
worsen the extension's troubles -- its daily ridership of 30,000 is
well below expectations.
"We're trying to build ridership," said Director Lynette Sweet of San
Francisco. "And cutting service and building ridership don't go
The Peninsula extension is now served by two lines -- the yellow line
from Pittsburg/Bay Point all day and the red line from Richmond during
the morning and evening commutes. The commute-hour service changes
will increase the time between trains from seven or 8 minutes to 15
Under the changes approved Thursday, service to the Peninsula will
shift to the blue line from Dublin/Pleasanton and will operate only
every 15 minutes all day. The blue line trains are typically shorter,
which cuts costs.
The line change will mean riders on the Pittsburg/Bay Point and
Richmond lines will have to transfer to get to the airport on BART.
"That's only going to reduce the attractiveness to riders from most of
the East Bay," said BART Director Joel Keller, of Pittsburg.
San Mateo officials will also eliminate the $1.14 discount given to
county residents heading to or from SFO.
San Mateo's arrangement with BART, struck in 1990, is necessary
because the county does not belong to the three-county BART district,
whose residents paid property taxes to build the original transit
system and pay sales taxes that fund operating costs.
E-mail Michael Cabanatuan at mcabanatuan@...
- Published Friday, August 12, 2005, in the Contra Contra Times
BART agrees to cut back SFO lines
By Mike Adamick
Contra Costa County BART riders headed to San Francisco International
Airport will face longer waits and multiple train switches under a
plan approved Thursday meant to save money for a transportation system
across the Bay.
The Dublin-Pleasanton line, or blue line, will offer the only airport
link beginning Sept. 12, meaning riders on the Pittsburg-Bay Point and
Richmond lines will have to switch trains.
Instead of waiting between 7 and 8 minutes for trains, travelers will
have to wait 15 minutes for an airport trip.
The BART board approved the changes at the behest of San Mateo
County's SamTrans agency, which said it could no longer afford to pay
its share of BART operating costs because ridership remains low.
Under a $1.5 billion deal to extend BART to the airport, SamTrans
agreed to subsidize the costs for the life of the line because San
Mateo County was not part of the original three-county core that has
been paying taxes for decades to run BART.
But ridership figures have never come close to original estimates,
meaning SamTrans had to front more money to cover its share of the
BART directors called on SamTrans to help boost ridership, possibly
through long-term parking or clustering homes around stations.
"Cutting service and building ridership don't go hand and hand," said
BART board member Lynette Sweet.
James Fang, another board member, said he's willing to help SamTrans
this year but wanted the Peninsula transportation agency to find ways
in the next year to raise more money.
"I do not appreciate having a gun put to my head," Fang said.
BART has claimed SamTrans is reneging on its promise to share costs
and is spending more money to expand Caltrain service while cutting
SamTrans, meanwhile, has argued that BART is not doing enough to
develop ridership and become more efficient to keep costs down.
Christine Dunn, spokeswoman for SamTrans, said the agency paid $17
million to BART last year but wants to lower that figure to $10
million by next year and even lower in later years as ridership
In another move Thursday, BART spelled out exactly when it will begin
charging riders for parking at 10 East Bay stations, a move the
transit district approved in May.
Beginning in November, it will cost $1 to park at Lake Merritt and
MacArthur stations, while West Oakland will cost $5 -- and possibly $6
by next year.
Then in December, $1 charges will take effect at Rockridge, Orinda,
Lafayette and Walnut Creek stations, while $1 charges at North
Berkeley, Ashby and Dublin-Pleasanton stations will begin in January
Mike Adamick covers transportation.
Reach him at 925-945-4745 or at madamick@...