Last week, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) board of directors approved using approximately one-half of this budget year's $4.5 million surplus to deep-clean railcars, put in fresh seats, boost rainy-day reserves, defer a paratransit fare increase, install monitors with real-time train departure information at venues near BART stations and solicit input from employees to improve customer service.
The board action means that BART will:
- Put $1 million away rainy-day reserves, bringing the total to $25 million.
- $750,000 for replacement of seats and deep-cleaning of 50 railcars.
- $200,000 to defer increase in East Bay paratransit fares for four months.
- $150,000 for emergency operations and BART Police facility.
- $100,000 to solicit input from frontline employees in order to improve customer service.
- $75,000 on monitors displaying real-time train departure information placed at venues near BART.
- $62,500 to convert four part-time utility workers to full-time.
In June, the Board began considering how to use the surplus and proposed using about half, or $2.3 million, for a short-term fare reduction. The two fare reduction options that are under consideration were cutting fares by 3 percent for four months, or by 5 percent for three months.
One major factor contributing to BART's $4.5 million surplus is the agency's management has been carefully cutting labor and non-labor costs over the past several years to match lower ridership and sales tax revenues. The ailing economy has caused these two income sources to suffer. Together they account for about 85percent of BART's operating revenues, according to the agency.
Another significant factor contributing to the surplus is the court-ordered, partial restoration of public transit funding. During the past two budget cycles, the State of California diverted all public transit funding, called the State Transit Assistance (STA), into its general fund. That diversion left agencies like BART with huge holes in their budgets. However the recent court ruling coupled with new legislation to fund public transit means BART will have $26 million in STA funds for the current budget year and will hopefully continue to receive approximately $23 million in the budget years to follow.