BART: When Good Deeds Go Bad
Posted by Roobs on August 12, 2010
What is it about no temporary fare cuts, more capital and service improvements does BART not understand?
Last month, we heard the rare good news that BART was ending its fiscal year with a $4 million surplus. Happy with the good news, the BART Board of Directors decided to do something… well, nice. They wanted to offer a temporary fare reduction to passengers; a 3% decrease over four months. They conducted a survey to see how the public felt about their brief exercise in altruism and found something odd. The public had said “thanks, but no thanks.”
Nearly 4 out of 5 BART riders oppose the idea of a temporary fee rollback, according to BART’s in-house survey. [...] What they do want is longer service hours and cleaner cars.
Read more at SFGate.com
Following these results, the BART Board decided to table a vote on what to do with the $4 million surplus.
Yesterday it was announced that BART has discovered another $4.5 million dollar windfall, bringing the total unexpected surplus to $8.5 million. The board is expected to meet in two weeks to decide what to do with all this money.
And what were they still talking about doing with all this money? Yup, fare rollbacks. Temporary fare rollbacks, despite the fact that over 75% of riders do not want them. You would think that, especially in this economy, when riders are actually rejecting an offer to briefly save them money that they must really really want something else and that the Board would take that to heart.
At the time I was writing this post, the BART Board voted “No” on temporary fare rollbacks. Sounds good, right? Hold on. Instead, they now want to look into delaying the next regularly scheduled fare increase by six months (July 1, 2012). They are to revisit this issue at the August 26 board meeting. From today’s press-release:
No vote on temporary fare cut; BART Board to look at delaying next scheduled increase instead.
The BART Board today declined to vote on a temporary fare rollback. Instead, the Board will look at postponing the next regularly scheduled fare increase by 6 months. The next time fares are scheduled to go up is January 1, 2012. The board is considering delaying that until July 1, 2012. They Board will revisit the issue at its next meeting, August 26.
See press-release at bart.gov
I may be mistaken, but isn’t a six month delay of a fare increase very similar to a four month temporary fare cut? Sure, the percentages are different. Last year, BART raised fares about 6%, twice as much as the proposed 3% temporary fare cut. Six months at 6% savings will be a lot more total savings to the rider than 3% savings over four months. But is this really what the public wanted? In the end, is this not still a temporary fare cut that 75% of BART riders said they would rather not have in lieu of cleaner cars or better service?
I am not unaware of the cost to do all that BART riders want. $8.5 million will not do anything to increase the time length of service for BART trains. It will not replace all the aging tracks or fix the aging transbay tube. BART has already said they want to allocate $750,000 to “deep clean” 50 BART trains and install new seats. But only 50? BART has a lot of cars and I haven’t ridden on one that I didn’t think could use a good “deep clean” and/or new seats. And outside of the really nice SFO station, I dont think many riders have been in a station that couldn’t benefit from a good deep-clean too.
So what else could you do with the money? Well, one thing BART definately shouldn’t do is put it in the general fund. The quickest way to irk BART riders and any planner worth his salt is to funnel any part of this surplus to BART’s exercises in futility, also known as the Oakland Airport Connector and the always entertaining and over-priced West Dublin Station. I mean come on, those welds totally would have held!
In a time when the economy is down, BART riders have consistently said they are willing to pay extra for BART service. Despite all criticism, people do like BART. At its core, its a great benefit to the Bay Area. But riders do expect bang for their buck. With a surplus, we are all fine with and would prefer that BART not reduce our fares. Call it crazy, but its the truth. Thanks for the offer, but we would much rather see that put into the system in a way that makes our ride, at the very least, a little more reliable and a little more enjoyable.
Overall, I can’t say I am going to put up a huge fight over whether or not BART wants to delay raising fares on its riders. The fact of the matter is that no one will really fight it once they save money. And I personally won’t benefit from it because I will be moving out of the area for a couple years and won’t return until after the rates would have increased anyway. But the question is whether or not that is the most prudent use of the surplus. And BART riders have continued to say that its not.
Check out my other post: BART – A Love, Hate Relationship.