Let’s invest in BART and get public transit up to speed

When President Lyndon B. Johnson touted the first BART test track as a “victory for vision” more than half a century ago, BART was transformative and technologically advanced. Today, BART is stretched beyond its capacity, and the aging system will get worse unless voters approve BART’s capital reinvestment bond measure in November.

The Bay Area’s population boom isn’t slowing down. The region faces an estimated influx of nearly 2.4 million people by 2040, and BART’s deteriorating infrastructure cannot keep up. It is critical to act responsibly to improve transportation and maintain the overall quality of life in our region.

Measure RR in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties will generate $3.5 billion in general obligation bonds to reinvigorate our 44-year-old BART system. Ninety percent of the funding will be allocated toward repairing and replacing critical components for more reliable operations and improved safety. The remaining 10 percent will go toward traffic congestion and station access. Some of the improvements are:

Replacing 90 miles of worn tracks and modernizing train control systems for safer, more frequent service;

Renewing electrical infrastructure to power more trains;

Repairing tunnels and structure fractures caused by water leaks and shifting faults;

Upgrading stations with better lighting, new escalators and elevators, improved accessibility for seniors and people with disabilities, and expanded parking and bicycle facilities.

The bond is projected to cost property owners an average yearly tax of $8.98 per $100,000 in assessed value over the life of the bond. When you compare this with an average water or gas bill, it is a modest price to pay for critical repairs and renovations. An Independent Oversight Committee consisting of private citizens will review and oversee all expenditures of program funds.

Despite funding limitations, BART has already made infrastructure improvements, earning industry recognition in July for its energy-saving facility upgrades and lighting retrofits. However, these efforts do not replace the outdated systems, deteriorating rail and faltering power transmission issues. We must do our part to update the BART system to serve the 430,000 people who depend on it daily.

Frustrations over delays, overcrowding, service disruptions and unreliability are entirely understandable. However, we must tackle the underlying problems of an aging system — which means approving the bond. Without the additional funding, travel in the Bay Area will become even more congested and difficult.

The Bay Area’s success and reputation rely on progressive, solutions-based thinking. Let’s vote “yes” on Measure RR and rebuild our prized BART system.

Dina Potter is vice president at HNTB Corporation, a firm that provides architecture, engineering, planning and construction services.

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