BART directors approve budget aimed at improving service

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OAKLAND (BCN) — BART directors voted today to approve a $1.6 billion budget for the next fiscal year that they said is aimed at increasing train passenger capacity, improving station cleanliness and ensuring that more trains arrive on time.

BART Board of Directors President Tom Blalock said that until additional train cars are phased into service in a few years, “We need to be creative in finding ways to meet our customers’ needs now” and the new budget accomplishes that.

Blalock said in a statement, “With these new investments, we’ll squeeze more capacity out of our existing rail cars, tackle some of our recurring reliability issues and even invest in keeping trains and stations cleaner.”

BART officials said the budget will pay for changes that are designed to put 30 more train cars in service during peak periods and add 16 train trips each weekday.

They said that will be accomplished by moving train cars from maintenance to passenger service at a faster pace, even though BART already has one of the industry’s highest rates of cars availability, adding shifts for train car maintenance workers and repairing and putting back into service four to six badly-damaged cars.

BART officials also said each of their lines will see service improvements and there will be additional trips on the Pittsburg/Bay Point to San Francisco and Millbrae to Richmond lines.

The transit agency said the budget also includes money to improve on-time performance by adding two train control technicians to quickly fix train control failures that currently account for almost one-fifth of late trains. The new technicians are expected to improve response time by 15 percent, according to BART.

In addition, the budget calls for adding six more rail vehicle engineers and extending the hours for stand-by paramedics to respond more quickly to medical emergencies in and near the transbay tube during BART’s busiest times.

To increases the cleanliness and police presence on the system, the budget calls for 21 more station cleaning workers to clean and scrub stations more frequently, 14 more employees to clean floors and disinfect seats and adding four new police officers dedicated to downtown San Francisco.

Those officers will support the agency’s crisis intervention team, which seeks to help people who have mental health issues, according to the transit agency.

BART also will add another four officers and plus five new community service officers.

BART officials said the budget assumes that fares will increase by 3.4 percent next January as part of their multi-year inflation-based fare increase program and there is an average weekday ridership of 429,695 trips, which would be a 1.8 percent increase from the current average weekday ridership of 422,162 passengers.

BART Director Rebecca Saltzman said at the meeting, “This is a great budget and our riders will notice the difference.”

Director Robert Raburn said, “There is a lot to like in this budget.”

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