BART to boost weekend service despite budget cuts

BART will improve evening and weekend service by next year, despite state transportation funding having been slashed to a minimum under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget.

On Thursday, BART’s board of directors approved a $627 million budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year that covers a variety of new initiatives, including more off-peak trains, better on-time performance and cleaner, brighter facilities.

The agency is faring better financially than it has in previous years because of increased ridership. However, officials were counting on a large chunk of state funds that was cut in the governor’s May revise for next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The transit agency was expecting $28.5 million in state spillover funds set aside to compensate transportation systems for rising gasoline prices. Instead, the money will be used for home-to-school transportation for school children.

As a result, BART officials were to hold off on a plan to improve evening and weekend service, which would cost about $1.2 million a year. However, in a last-minute decision Thursday, board members chose to move ahead with the plan, hoping the money would be distributed after all. BART had not yet budgeted for the remaining $27.3 million, officials said.

“I’d rather have the public get the message that this board is committed to improvements … understanding that we might not be able to do them,” board member Joel Keller said. “Let’s put the problem where it is — the problem is in the governor’s budget.”

By August, BART officials will know whether the state funds will be diverted back to public transit and whether it can implement the increased service. If the money is available, BART would run trains every 15 minutes rather than every 20 minutes after 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday.

“Instead of a conservative approach, it’s a proactive approach that puts pressure on the governor and sets a target,” board member Bob Franklin said. “If BART can be restored, then we can do it.”

Besides the improved nighttime service, the 2007-08 BART budget includes part-time paramedics to address emergencies at busy stations during commute hours, more train operators and additional train maintenance workers. With the extra staff, BART has increased its on-time performance target from 94 percent to 96 percent. Currently, about 95 percent of BART trains are on time.

Additionally, BART is hiring 24 cleaning workers to keep up the trains and stations. “This budget is all about improving customer experience,” BART board President Lynette Sweet said.

New BART budget

Budget includes better off-peak service. Changes are contingent upon state budget.

Schedule: Trains will run every 15 minutes rather than every 20 minutes.

When: After 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday.

Where: Systemwide

Start date: Jan. 1

Cost: $1.2 million per year

Other system improvements, not contingent upon state budget.

» 24 new cleaning positions

» More Peninsula trains to and from San Francisco International Airport

» New early-bird train from downtown S.F. to SFO

– Source: BART

arocha@examiner.com


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