BART opens doors to what it takes to operate

Out of BART's 40-year anniversary celebration a couple years ago, the agency recognized the need to educate the public on investments required in order to keep the regional transit system running another four decades.

That has been encapsulated in a new document, “Building a Better BART,” part of the agenda for today's board of directors meeting.

“There's a cost to replace things, but there's also a cost that's associated with not doing anything,” said Jim Allison, an agency spokesman. “And so we wanted to make sure that people were aware of what it's going to take to keep BART operating for the next 40 years.”

Essentially, the document is a more digestible version of BART's Short Range Transit Plan and Capital Improvement Program, covering fiscal years 2015-16 to 2024-25 and required by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The agency's operating financial outlook reveals a $6 million fiscal year 2016-17 shortfall, increasing to $80 million in fiscal year 2024-25. The cumulative $500 million shortfall represents 5 percent of the total projected operating needs over the decade. The capital needs show a more significant shortfall, requiring $4.8 billion in the 10-year timeframe.

BART's revenues suffered during the recession and, seen through that prism, the shortfall numbers are “not a big surprise,” Allison said. “But it's always good to kind of keep testing the water and make sure you know where you're at in terms of how much money you've got and how much money you need.”

And ridership is growing. By 2025, 500,000 people could possibly ride BART every weekday.

In addition to discussing the agency's financials, board members at today's 5 p.m. meeting will hear the latest from the Earthquake Safety Program Citizen's Oversight Committee, tasked with ensuring that $980 million in bond revenues passed by voters in 2004 is being spent as intended on safety improvements.

So far, 24 of the 34 stations the agency identified with seismic safety needs have been retrofitted to withstand a major earthquake. Stations in San Francisco did not require much work, Allison said.

“It's timely, obviously,” he said, referring to Sunday's magnitude-6.0 earthquake in Napa, which caused no damage to the system.

Board members today could also vote to spend $800,000 to purchase 325 more electronic bike lockers, which have been “pretty popular” based on customer feedback, according to Allison.

The agency's current contract only allows for 37 more lockers to be purchased. There are 1,150 lockers at 35 stations in operation.

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