BART budget outlook: more train service soon, brand new trains later
Signs of a slowly recovering economy are providing BART with the resources to reinvest in the fleet of the future for the long term and to provide extra train service for the short term. The BART Board of Directors explored budget issues during its Thursday, April 12, 2012 meeting as part of the process of adopting a new budget before July 1, when Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) begins.
BART staff proposes investing a total of $45 million in operating funds toward the $3.2 billion new rail car project, an additional $2.4 million to pay for new seats and new floors in existing rail cars and about $600,000 to pay for an extra hour of week night train service on the Daly City to Richmond line (trains currently stop running on the line at 7 pm; this proposal would fund train service until 8 pm).
“I think it’s wise for us to address some of our immediate needs while keeping an eye toward our future,” BART Board Vice President Tom Radulovich said. “We’re proposing significant investments in our new rail cars and our existing cars and stations and adding more service to keep up with the increase in ridership during the evening commute, particularly between San Francisco and Berkeley.”
The FY13 Preliminary Budget memo also proposes hiring 42 transportation personnel, primarily Train Operators, as a long-term solution to address overtime costs as well as a number of other initiatives such as increasing staffing in BART’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program and a variety of technology needs.
More Riders = More Operating Money
BART’s $669.4 million operating budget is benefiting from ridership that is projected to increase by 3% in FY13 to an average weekday ridership of 376,000 for the year, which would be an all-time high. Sales tax revenues are expected to increase by 5%.
Because BART is on the right financial track for operating funds, BART staff is proposing to use $15 million in FY12 funds for State of Good Repair capital needs: $7.5 million to waterproof and modernize the concourse of Powell St. Station, $4.7 million for several projects to improve rail car reliability and availability, including an upgrade of rail car heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems as well as power and propulsion work. The remaining funds would be used for initiatives ranging from computer servers to pigeon abatement.
Despite the short term infusion of operating funds, BART still faces a $7.5 billion shortfall in its capital needs over the next 25 years.
What’s Next in the Budget Process
The Preliminary Budget Overview is just one step in the budget process. On May 10, BART staff is scheduled to present to the Board a more detailed “Sources/Uses Service Plan.” On May 24, the Board is expected to hold a public hearing on the budget. On June 14, the Board is scheduled to vote on the budget.