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Posts Tagged ‘BART’

BART needs to close a $25-$35 million shortfall in its operating budget. The media blames the deficit on overpaid janitors, while staff is proposing a menu of fare increases:

The board held onto the possibility of putting a surcharge on rides taken using paper fare cards and reducing BART’s discount rates for youths, seniors and disabled people. The directors did not vote on fare increases, which they say are needed to help fill a projected $25 million to $35 million budget gap, but they discussed which fare proposals should undergo a mandated federal civil rights study so that they can be considered when the board assembles a spending plan.

There is one very easy solution to this problem: raise the cost of parking. BART has 45,984 parking spaces. Increasing the daily parking charge by $2.25 ($45 monthly) is sufficient to cover $25 million. Increasing the daily parking charge by $3.15 ($63 monthly) would raise $35 million. Those adjustments would make BART parking charges comparable to current market rates.

BART parking lots fill up at the crack of dawn, and the monthly reserved slots have years-long waiting lists. The Warm Springs station already has a waiting list and it isn’t even open yet. Because BART  is giving away parking at below-market cost, there is no parking availability (except for a lucky few). So even if there weren’t a deficit, the parking fees need to be raised regardless.

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Uber and Lyft ridersharing services are being blamed for the low ridership of the Oakland Airport BART connector:

BART officials had hoped their $500 million connector to Oakland International Airport would be a money maker — but instead it has wound up costing the financially beleaguered transit agency $860,000 in the past two years, as ridership has dropped below the break-even point.

“We didn’t anticipate Uber and Lyft and the others, and that’s hurting us,” said BART spokesman Jim Allison.

Oakland International reports that the number of airline passengers taking ride-hailing services to and from the airport totaled more than 11 percent in January — up from 7 percent in July.

With the competition, ridership on BART’s connector has been dropping below the 2,800 rides a day needed to cover the line’s $6.1 million annual operating costs. That wasn’t always the case. In the months following its November 2014 opening, the line was averaging 3,200 daily riders — or about 400 over the break-even point. No more. For the past three months, ridership has been down an average of 11 percent over the same time a year earlier.

Ridership for the month of January was 2,530. In February it was 2,798. That ridership is very close to the amount predicted by staff for the $6 fare (2,685 daily trips) back when the Board first approved the project. So the ridership isn’t unexpectedly lower — it is exactly where they knew it would be.

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So much for that BART transit-oriented development policy:

The BART board is expected to consider on Thursday an additional $37.1 million, 655-space parking garage to the Dublin station.

The proposed six-story garage would replace a current surface parking lot of 118 spots. A net 540 spaces would be added, according to a BART report. The estimated $37.1 million would include $8.6 million in design and $28.5 million in construction costs. Operating costs are expected to be $240,000 annually.

Some quick calculations show the annualized capital cost (at 5% interest rate) is $1.855 million. Including the maintenance cost ($240k) and daily parking fee ($2.50) that comes out to a daily $8 subsidy per commuter!

There are currently 3,100 people on the reserved parking waiting list. So even after spending all that money, it won’t do anything to improve parking availability.

dublin_parking

 

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In the November election, voters will decide whether to approve a $3.5 billion bond for overhauling and repairing BART. The East Bay Times has been editorializing against the bond. Most of what they write is completely loopy. For example, complaining that the costs are not given in year-2065 dollars, or that households would pay more if interest costs were to balloon to 12% (if rates get that high, then the BART bond will be the least of our worries).

There is, however, a kernel of truth in the argument that the bond is back-filling a structural deficit in the maintenance budget. The Times scapegoats the “excessive” worker salaries for this deficit. That is incorrect as the deficit would exist even without recent pay increases. The deficit is the result of two structural problems.

The first problem is the long-term decline in gas tax revenues. For the past two decades, politicians at the State and Federal level have refused to increase the gas-tax. As inflation eats into gas-tax revenues,  there has been a big decline in revenue to support transit operations. This has forced BART and other agencies to use creative accounting and borrowing to shore up finances — but that can only go on for so long.

The second problem has to do with the design of BART itself. The low-ridership extensions into far-flung suburbs are a huge drain on finances. Unfortunately, the BART bond exacerbates the problem by providing $350 million for the construction of new parking garages. Subsidizing auto-centric development around the peripheral BART stations is not the solution to the suburban ridership problem.

bart_parking

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To accommodate higher passenger loads, BART has been testing new seating layouts. There are three configurations being tested:

bart_layout

bart_layout2

bart_layout3

This evening, I was riding in the 3rd one. Most of the seats were removed along one side of the car. I have to say, it did a good job accommodating five bikes, airport luggage, and an oversized wheelchair. The wheelchair user was thrilled that she finally got a window seat. Passenger volume was not that high, though, despite being rush hour.

bart_car2

Approaching 12th St Station 

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Relatively empty at the end of the line in Fremont

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First there was the Fremont flyer. Now the Hayward flyer:

One of BART’s new train cars overshot the end of the track and ran into a mound of dirt at a Hayward testing facility on Friday — another setback for a transit agency that has been dealing with aging infrastructure and a mysterious track problem crippling trains.

Officials were investigating whether an operator mistake or system error caused the glitch, which occurred at 1:55 p.m. on a test track between South Hayward Station and Union City, said Taylor Huckaby, a BART spokesman.

The train was traveling on a straight track and continued going after the track ended, causing some of the train to remain on the track while the rest went into the dirt, he said.

hayward_flyer

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‘On schedule’ was how the Tri-City Voice described the project in August 20, 2010:

According to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) spokesperson Linton Johnson, the Warm Springs Extension, 5.4-miles of new BART track from the current Fremont Station to a new station in Warm Springs, Fremont, with an optional station at Irvington is “on schedule and under budget.”

An award of contract is expected in March 2011 with construction lasting from June 2011 to June 2014. Construction costs are estimated at $300M with anticipated funding of $421M. Testing of the BART extension to Warm Springs will begin in April 2014 with live service expected by the end of 2014.

 

And then it got delayed until 2015 (Mercury News):

Q You report that the BART Warm Springs station will open later this year. Wikipedia says early 2016. Can you use your superpowers to find the actual date they plan to be ready?

Cliff Gold

Fremont

A BART says late this year [2015] remains the target. They are testing the connections from the main Fremont station to this new station. After that’s done this fall, we should know more.

Delayed again, until 2016 (Mercury News):

With its structure nearly complete and testing of trains in its second month, the Warm Springs/South Fremont Bay Area Rapid Transit Station is expected to go into service this summer [2016], according to BART spokeswoman Molly McArthur.

Last October, the agency delayed opening of the station on Warm Springs Boulevard near South Grimmer Boulevard from later that year to sometime in 2016. Testing of several systems such as communications, train control and traction power were expected to begin that November. However, trains did not begin rolling into the station for testing until January.

It’s kind of like watching grass grow,” McArthur said jokingly.

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