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BART to cut service, hike fares on failed Millbae extension

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  • 8/12 SF Chronicle
    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
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 12, 2005
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      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
      years ago.

      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
      together."

      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
      minutes.

      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@...
    • 8/12 Contra Costa Times
      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
      Message 2 of 4 , Aug 12, 2005
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        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
        deal.

        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
        BART lines.

        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
        increases.

        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
        or February.


        Mike Adamick covers transportation.
        Reach him at 925-945-4745 or at madamick@...
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