BART passes $627 million budgetBy Staff
Bay Area Rapid Transit directors voted Thursday to make sweeping upgrades to passenger services by passing a $627 million budget that aims to clean up trains and improve on-time performance.
Responding to recent complaints from riders that trains have been dirty and unkempt, the operating budget for the 2008 fiscal year is an increase of around $49 million over this year's budget, which is set to end on June 30.
The budget increase will come from a planned 5.4 percent rate increase that will go into effect on January 1, as well as revenue from increased ridership over the past year, according to BART spokesman Linton Johnson.
BART is touting the new 2008 budget as a welcome change from recent years, when shortfalls and budget cuts plagued the transit service, resulting in rider discount reductions, ticket surcharges and parking fees.
"After years of severe belt-tightening, the revenues are finally coming back and we are spending the extra money on our riders," BART Board President Lynette Sweet said in a statement.
BART now plans to make train cars cleaner by putting $8.9 million toward hiring increasing the number of cleaning employees by 24, which would give BART a cleaning force of 115 employees - an all-time high.
The budget also aims to increase BART's passenger on-time performance standard from 94 percent to 96 percent, according to Johnson. BART officials hope to do this by hiring part-time paramedics for commute hours at busy stations and by increasing the number of train operators and preventative maintenance workers.
The board also voted to approve a plan to cut time between trains from 20 minutes to 15 minutes on night trains Monday through Saturday, as well as all day Sunday, including holidays in which BART will run on a Sunday schedule, Johnson said. The service increase is scheduled to begin Jan. 1.
However, Johnson reported that the Board of Directors is still waiting on the state Legislator to restore transit funding so BART can pay for improved night and Sunday service.
Improved service for customers on the five-station SFO/Millbrae extension is also planned by doubling trains to Colma, South San Francisco and Colma stations, which would cut the time between trains from 15 minutes to 8 minutes, Johnson said.
Copyright ©2007 Bay City News. Published 06/14/2007.