Although BART is staring down a multi-million dollar budget shortfall in the face of declining ridership, some good news came out of Thursday’s Board of Directors meeting, as the agency took the possibility of service cuts off the table.
Previously, BART staff had mulled moving the start of weekday service up an hour to 5 a.m., as well as trimming the discounts offered to seniors, the disabled, and youths.
But on Thursday, BART budget manager Carter Mau offered directors a new list of proposals that dropped both ideas.
“Our solution does not include service cuts nor changing the far discounts,” Mau spelled out when quizzed on the omission.
The change in the wind comes by way of a Sacramento bill that deeded the system an extra $16 million to work with. BART spokesperson Jim Allison told Curbed SF that the agency wants to keep service cuts a last resort.
“The majority of the directors said service cuts would be one of the very last options. There have been other agencies that have cut service and raised fares, and rather than solving the budget problem it exacerbates it,” Allion said.
Board of Directors President Rebecca Saltzman predicted “a horrible spiral” in February if the system cut service. BART staff previously estimated that losing morning hours would save $1.7 million in expenses, but also lose about $600,000 in fares.
Every $1.1 million counts with the system facing a projected $31 million shortfall, but the returns might not have been worth rubbing riders the wrong way.
BART needs every rider it can get these days, as staff told the directors that trips were down three percent year over year in March, and down six percent from what they’d projected during brighter days.
Fares are set to go up 2.7 percent in 2018, an automatic increase that should generate about $7.3 million.