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BART service cuts forestalled by state gas tax increase

For months now, BART officials have been contemplating on ways to fill a projected budget deficit that now looms at $30.8 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

Some of the ideas to reduce the budget deficit included cutting the start of weekday service from 4 a.m to 5 a.m. and ditching the late-night bus service, which provides riders a way to travel late at night when BART closes.

Now, BART’s Board of Directors can breathe a bit easier at least for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1.

Directors received a preliminary budget presentation from the budget staff on Thursday, which now includes $16 million of funds the transit agency will receive from the recent passage of a state senate bill that will increase the gas sales tax, and vehicle registration fee for transportation infrastructure improvements for public transit agencies.

With the new revenue coming in from the state, BART does not plan to reduce weekday service, and plans to continue the late-night bus service for another year. Transit officials had planned to keep the service until August.

Another proposal transit officials considered to reduce the budget deficit was to cut the discounted fares for seniors and disabled riders from 62.5 percent to 50 percent. That proposal is now off the table in the preliminary budget.

Still on the table though is reducing the fare discount for youth 62.5 percent to 50 percent.

The transit agency though still plans to add a 50-cent surcharge to riders who buy a magnetic stripe ticket from BART vending ticket machines. Just like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, BART is trying to lure more riders to start using Clipper cards.

Carter Mau, BART’s planning and budget manager, said the transit agency plans to rollout Clipper card vending machines inside BART stations to make it easier for riders to buy a card.

Other solutions still included in the preliminary budget to reduce the deficit include cutting 15 vacant positions and moving 24.5 positions to capital projects, which would save the transit agency $5.3 million, according to BART documents.

Another solution includes deferring a one-time payment for BART’s new rail cars that would save the transit agency $6 million and deferring a one-time payment of $6.3 million to the capital program from operating budget.

BART is also seeking to fund new initiatives such as allocating $800,000 for fare evasion control and extending the youth fare discount to riders between the ages of 13 and 18.

BART Director Robert Raburn said this was good news for the transit agency

“Our backs were up against the wall.”

Raburn added:

“It looks like we may be able to eliminate the service cuts and reduce the fare increases that were being discussed.”

BART directors will continue to discuss the budget over the next two months including next Tuesday at the board’s Operations and Safety Committee where directors will discuss the fare evasion initiative.

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