Commuters who drive to BART stations should prepare for a double dose of fare increases.
The transit agency’s board of directors approved a measure Thursday to expand the inflation-based fare increase policy until 2020. The biennial program, which expired last year, will ensure that fare hikes are scheduled for 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020. Fares will go up 5 percent Jan. 1 and about 4 percent in each of the following rate hikes.
The board also approved a plan to increase parking rates at station lots. Daily fees at most stations are currently $1, but under the new plan those rates could be adjusted upward by 50 cents twice a year, with the first hike tentatively scheduled for June 1.
The daily limit would be capped at $3, except at the West Oakland station where parking currently costs $5 a day.
New $1 fees will be implemented at the North Concord and Oakland Coliseum stations, which currently offer free parking.
Together, the two initiatives are projected to generate about $410 million in revenue for the agency over the next eight years.
Several directors, notably ones representing BART passengers in suburban areas that lack robust transit options, expressed concern about the unequal impact of increasing parking fees.
Director Joel Keller, who represents constituents in Contra Costa County, said the parking increases would amount to an 11 percent fare hike for commuters in his district who drive to stations.
“There is a disparity here,” Keller said. “This proposal is supposed to be balanced, equitable and fair, and I’m struggling to see how this solution meets those criteria.”
The original proposal by BART staff was amended so the revenue from the parking increases would go toward access improvements in the more remote stations.
After hours of discussion, the board voted 8-1 to approve the parking fees and 9-0 to reauthorize the fare hike program.
“Many riders said they were willing to pay more if it meant better service,” said Director Rebecca Saltzman. “I think it’s important to keep that in mind.”
While BART has finished the past two fiscal years with operating budget surpluses, those numbers don’t account for the major long-term projects covered in the agency’s capital plan. That budget, which details projects such as rail replacement and station capacity enhancement, is facing a $10 billion shortfall. Revenue from fare increases will go toward bridging that gap.