Published Monday, January 23, 2006, in the Redwood City Daily News
BART's ridership up, but deficit lingers
Double-edged sword: SFO extension brings in more riders, but runs in red
By Beth Winegarner
Daily News Staff Writer
Although Bay Area Rapid Transit's link to the San Francisco
International Airport has boosted systemwide ridership, the
extension is expected to run a deficit for the next decade.
Those forecasts are part of BART's 10-year plan, released for public
comment late last week. The report also shows that from 2004 to
2005, ridership grew 36 percent at the South San Francisco station,
14 percent at the SFO station, 21 percent at the San Bruno station
and 15 percent at Millbrae station -- all of which opened in 2003.
BART updates its 10-year plan annually, but 2006's is the first in
several years that doesn't anticipate a $25 million to $50 million
annual operating deficit, according to spokesman Linton Johnson.
"That has been eliminated through negotiations with the unions, who
will be taking a greater share of the health-care coverage so that
we can provide retirement and medical benefits we didn't offer
before," Johnson said.
However, the electric-based rail service is expecting a 76 percent
increase in energy costs in the coming years. A decade ago, BART
negotiated a long-term deal with energy companies to pay 40 to 60
percent less on its electrical bills -- but that agreement is
"We're going to be facing huge bills," Johnson said. "Now that we've
been able to get rid of the deficits we'll have room to play with,
but that's being eaten up by electricity costs."
No major changes planned
No major changes are planned at the Peninsula stations, according to
Johnson. The SFO extension will continue to operate in the red for
the coming decade, after which it will begin to turn a modest
profit, officials predicted in the forecast document. Adding a link
to the airport has attracted passengers, who seem to use the station
as much on weekends as weekdays, according to the report. Since the
station was built, BART has seen its ridership numbers return to
2001 levels, before the dot-com bust led to severe declines.
BART's 10-year report forecasts that systemwide ridership will
increase between 1.6 and 2.3 percent annually between now and 2015,
eventually riding to 373,900 average weekday trips.