BART board director calls SF ‘deadbeat’ in paying for Fleet of the Future

San Francisco is a “deadbeat” and hasn’t paid enough towards BART’s new fleet, says one BART board director, after a Thursday vote to ask for more funding from nearby counties.

BART will ask three counties – San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa – to help pay for 100 new rail-cars.

The BART Board of Directors voted Thursday to ask those counties to collectively contribute 75 percent of a needed $400 million towards purchasing some of its Fleet of the Future — new rail cars that will have a modern design — which residents across the Bay Area will ride.

The board singled out San Francisco for its lack of help.

“Let’s be honest, it’s San Francisco that’s the deadbeat, and has been the deadbeat,” said BART board director Joel Keller, to laughter from the board.

Keller represents Contra Costa County.

It was said half jokingly, but the consequences are real. As the Bay Area’s population booms, daily BART commuters continue to feel the crush of ever-crowded train cars. BART previously contracted to purchase 775 modern rail cars.

But to alleviate future crowding, BART is aiming to purchase an additional 306 cars to make for 1,081 new trains total, according to BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost.

“To date, the counties have not contributed at all to the fleet,” Trost said, referring to San Francisco, Contra Costa and Alameda. Alameda County did allocate more than $800 million for other BART projects and programs in 2014.

BART has drawn funding from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority for other purposes, however. According to the transportation authority, there are at least five funding sources from San Francisco provided to BART for keeping its stations and fleet in a state of good repair.

San Francisco’s 2003 Proposition K sales tax was among those funding streams for BART, but according to the SFCTA, $12.8 million of that funding (specifically for vehicles) has never been used.

Keller said asking Contra Costa County was politically difficult.

“It’ll be tough to convince people in Contra Costa County,” he said, “when other counties, like San Francisco, have been unwilling to support extra funding for BART.”

Keller called on the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to take a lead position.

Board Director Zakhary Mallet agreed with Keller, and said “East Bay counties disproportionately invest in BART, and San Francisco’s economy disproportionately benefits.”

BART General Manager Grace Crunican told the board she would negotiate with the various counties’ transportation authority programs on Feb. 5.

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener told the Examiner he would support additional funding for BART trains in either a potential new vehicle license fee or sales tax.

Either way, Wiener said, “San Francisco needs to work with Alameda and Contra Costa Counties to purchase new rail cars.”

Tilly Chang, executive director of the SFCTA, made a similar point to the Examiner.

She said “In San Francisco, we are in preliminary discussions about potential new revenue measures for the 2016 ballot, and have every intent to contribute to new BART cars together with the other BART counties.”

The measure passed 8-1, with BART board director Thomas Blalock dissenting.

At the same meeting, the board heard the latest results of polling on its potential bond measure. The board has until August to decide whether it will ask Bay Area counties to vote on a $4.5 billion, $3.5 billion, or $2.5 billion bond, each of which would require a two-thirds vote of the public.

The latest poll conducted by Franklin, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates interviewed 2,101 likely voters, from Jan. 10-18.

The poll also focused on a scenario when voters heard negative arguments about BART, which many speculated is possible. After hearing negative arguments, voters would approve each bond – $4.5, $3.5, and $2.5 billion – by 62 percent, 69 percent, and 71 percent, respectively.

The agencies capital needs actually far outweigh any the dollar amount of any of those bonds, board directors noted.

BART board director Rebecca Saltzman said at the meeting, “I would urge the board to be careful. Do we want a two or three billion dollar bond that passes, or a four billion dollar bond that fails?”

“If we don’t have it,” she said, “we’re in really big trouble.”

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