Not a penny of the proposed funding in Measure RR can go toward operating costs — all must go to capital improvements. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Bay Area business leaders unite in support of Measure RR

BART has served as a backbone of the Bay Area’s transportation system for 44 years and has connected the region like no other mass transit system. Every weekday, BART gets people to work and makes it easier for businesses to function by transporting 440,000 riders across the Bay Area. The importance of this system to the vibrancy of the Bay Area economy cannot be overstated: When BART is not able to operate at peak performance, the Bay Area’s economy suffers.

BART’s ability to move workers has directly aided the growth of our major job centers and has kept the regional economy dynamic. More than 60 percent of BART trips take riders to and from work, with a quarter of all workers in downtown San Francisco and Oakland using BART for their daily commutes. Those who drive to work are also affected by system delays or obstructions. In fact, a 2012 UC Berkeley report pointed out that when BART is broken, Bay Area traffic is five times worse.

Simply put, a fully functioning BART system is not just nice to have, it’s essential for all Bay Area residents, whether we ride BART or not. BART is aging and needs immediate investment. Measure RR — the BART Bond — is a detailed program plan that was developed to address these challenges.

If approved by voters, Measure RR will replace and repair BART’s 44-year-old core infrastructure by upgrading its 1960s train-control system, renewing its existing stations, replacing more than 90 miles of worn-down rails, improving electrical power systems, repairing tunnel walls damaged by water and enhancing BART’s ability to withstand earthquakes.

Making these critical investments in BART’s infrastructure will guarantee both short-term efficiency and long-term viability of the system. In the immediate future, these investments will allow BART to remain safe and reliable and increase its capacity. A modern train-control system enables BART to run trains closer together, which will accommodate nearly 200,000 additional daily riders. With the Bay Area set to grow by an additional two million people by 2040, revitalizing BART now is essential to meeting this future demand and keeping our economy running.

Measure RR comes with strong accountability measures. By law, all funding from this ballot measure must go to capital improvements — not a penny can go toward operating costs. An independent oversight committee, made up of engineers, accountants and the public, will be created to ensure transparency and guarantee that the money from Measure RR is spent responsibly.

While none of us were happy with BART’s recent labor relations dispute, failing to invest in this critically important infrastructure because of that history is a penny wise and a pound foolish.

The Bay Area Council, the Oakland Chamber of Commerce and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce agree that inaction is neither an appropriate nor a responsible path forward. It’s time to bring BART to a standard that is commensurate with its essential role in our region, and actively ensure that the system will remain safe and reliable for decades to come.

We can’t wait any longer to invest in a better BART. The time is now.

The Oakland Chamber of Commerce, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and the Bay Area Council strongly urge a “Yes” vote on Measure RR on Nov. 8.

Jim Lazarus is senior vice president of public policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Jim Wunderman is president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. Barbara Leslie is president and CEO of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce.

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