Published Friday, September 28, 2007, by the Fremont Argus
Replacing BART gear has high price
Officials hope to avoid raising fares to get $11.4 billion needed
By Denis Cuff
BART train cars and tracks that carry 350,000 people a day are slowly
Cables and computers that signal cars to slow down or speed up have a
few more years of reliable life.
Wires and circuits that deliver electricity to power the trains are
running low on time.
BART is getting old at 35.
The transit system's board Thursday approved a 25-year road map that
foresees the need to spend $11.4 billion on hardware and equipment
but identifies funding sources for only half the money.
Finding the other half -- a $5.8 billion shortfall -- will be a big
but necessary task, BART managers and board members said.
"It's a big challenge," said Joe Keller, a BART board member from
Antioch. "We have to reinvest in this system to keep BART service
Bob Franklin, a board member from Oakland, called the funding
gap "scary."But, he added, "we identified our situation early on.
This plan gives us a road map to tackle the problem."
Franklin said he is anxious to avoid sharp fare increases to fund
improvements, like the steep increases BART imposed in the mid-1990s
to fund a $1.5 billion overhaul of train stations, fare gates,
escalators and elevators.
Fare increases are just one of several possible funding options
in the plan, which does not recommend solutions but gives BART a
framework for discussing them in a series of meetings in coming
Other options could include lobbying to raise federal and state
gas taxes, securing more state and federal grants, asking BART
voters to raise property taxes or fees, or collecting fees from
new developments near BART stations.
The train system also might cash in on the drive to reduce global
warming gases, BART planners said. Under California's market-based
plans to sell pollution credits, an industry proposing to expand
might offset its global-warming gases by helping pay for new BART
cars or rail extensions.
Anything enabling BART to carry more passengers can be seen as
reducing auto use and pollution, including global warming gases,
BART will need a mix of several funding options to pay for many
projects, officials said.
"There is no silver bullet to address the problem," said Carter Mau,
manager of BART's office of planning and budget.
The biggest challenge is lining up $5.5 billion to invest in the
replacement or modernization of BART's basic equipment, ranging from
cars to escalators to car-washing yards.
BART estimates it will need $2.1 billion to replace all 669 trains
cars, and $420 million to rehabilitate aging stations, elevators and
Many of those original cars have run since BART began service in
1972. Although renovated once, those cars are expected to wear out
by 2015, transit planners estimate.
The electric train system has 3 million feet of cable to power cars.
Much of it is expected to wear out in a decade, BART planners said.
BART doesn't know where it will get the bulk of that money.
The train system's funding outlook is better because California
voters last fall approved a $20 billion transit bond measure, which
will help BART on several fronts.
But it's not enough, officials said.
Some BART managers suggested the transit agency may get more dollars
from the current efforts by Congress to revamp the allocation of
federal transportation money.
Also, Congress may be more apt to consider increasing the federal
gasoline tax since a Minneapolis bridge collapsed Aug. 1 and killed
13 people, some BART board members say. The gas tax has not been
changed since 1993, but some lawmakers and transit officials see the
bridge failure as a sign of the lack of transportation funding.
Tom Radulovich, a BART board member from San Francisco, suggested the
agency consider seeking support for raising Bay Bridge tolls by $1 to
fund projects that would help BART carry more riders through the
Keller, the board member from Antioch, called the suggestion
"unrealistic" and said BART is not about to hit consumers with a wave
of higher fees and taxes.