More trains needed to meet BART’s growing passenger needs

S.F. Examiner File PhotoBART needs about 100 more cars to meet the needs of the 500

In the coming years, BART is going to have a lot more riders than it can handle, which means the transit agency is going to need a lot more money to buy a lot more trains.

To meet that demand — even off-peak ridership is growing — BART will need a fleet of 880 train cars. That total far exceeds the 775 train cars the agency recently purchased. The 880 train cars will only meet the needs of the 500,000 daily passengers BART expects in the near future. But by 2025, the system could be carrying 560,000 a day — 40 percent more than the current 400,000 mark. Such ridership would require a fleet of 980 train cars.

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BART did not cite a specific price tag for the service increases, but the recent purchase of the 775 train cars cost $2.5 billion.

BART is already facing a capital project shortfall of $7.5 billion over the next 25 years, and there is no money secured for buying more trains.

“We’re going to have to find a way to put together a financing package for this,” BART Director Joel Keller said at the agency’s board meeting Thursday. “This is a lot of money, and this is a big problem.”

James Fang, also on the board of directors, said the agency should pursue public-private partnerships to finance upcoming projects.

Another idea discussed at the meeting was a revenue measure that would go before voters.

BART’s ridership has increased significantly over the past several years, and more growth is expected during off-peak times such as weekends and the midday workweek, according to Malcolm Quint, a demand planner for the agency. That growth is due to lingering traffic congestion problems, the increased convenience of the system and more housing developments near transit stations, Quint said.

To deal with the crowds, BART is considering weekend service increases, a greater number of turnbacks at key hubs and more direct trains between San Francisco and the East Bay. Those are all near-term solutions and would require 880 train cars.

By 2025, BART is proposing to increase the number of trains during peak commute times, run more frequent service on nights and weekends, and offer express routes from the suburbs to urban areas. That plan would require 980 trains.

But that’s not all: BART is proposing a new cross-Bay tunnel. While details on that project are very preliminary, planners estimate that more than 750,000 daily passengers will one day be using the system, and that load would require an extra tunnel between San Francisco and the East Bay. When that project is ready, BART will need more than 1,000 train cars.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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