Preliminary BART budget avoids increasing fares, cutting service
- Published Monday, April 5, 2010, by the Contra Costa Times
Preliminary budget spares BART riders higher fares
By Janis Mara
Contra Costa Times
BART riders won't have to pay higher fares or cope with reduced service thanks to partially restored state funding, unfilled positions and a $4 million recalculation of its projected budget deficit, the transit agency said Monday.
BART's projected deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1 has been reduced from $14 million to $10 million. A big reason is legislation signed in March that provided $26 million for BART. During the past two budget cycles, the state robbed its public transit funds to pay its general fund, leaving agencies like BART with huge holes in their budgets. The March legislation restored some of that money.
Also, the agency's preliminary operating budget cuts the deficit by $5.4 million by trimming expenses and eliminating 37 operating positions. Nine of these positions are vacant and 20 will be transferred to capital projects. The agency hopes to avoid layoffs for the eight remaining positions by moving employees or waiting for people to retire or resign.
"I recommend we keep fares and service intact, as this will position us to regain ridership as the economy begins to grow," said Dorothy Dugger, the agency's general manager. "It's clear that the sluggish economy and the cost of riding BART are increasingly impacting the transportation decisions our riders are making."
BART's board of directors will review the agency's $582.1 million preliminary operating budget Thursday. The board will continue to ponder the budget over the next two months, holding a public hearing May 27. BART directors are scheduled to adopt the finalized budget June 10 and it will go into effect July 1.
BART's reluctance to raise fares and cut service should be a special relief to its riders in light of last week's announcement that Caltrain, the commuter line linking San Francisco to the South Bay, has gone broke and will likely need to wipe out half its service.
Factors such as the recession, with fewer people employed and hence not riding to work, have whacked ridership on public transit starting in 2008. When the state diverted public transit funding to its general fund, the pain grew even deeper. The legislation passed in March gave $108 million in state funds to Bay Area transit agencies, but was far from a panacea.
Contact Janis Mara at 925-952-2671.