It hasn’t been that long since the impending BART strike threatened to overlap with the Labor Day closing of the Bridge of Doom, causing a transportation nightmare akin to driving to the Marina during Fleet Week. Negotiators treated anxious Bay Area commuters to an eleventh hour display of closed door deliberations, before emerging victorious with a contract that promised $100 million in savings. Recent projections now show that things may actually be headed in the opposite direction.

ABC7 reports
that BART officials forecast a deficit of $26 million for 2010-2011 fiscal year, an increase of $2 million from earlier projections. Officials attribute the increase to a lack of ridership and declining sales revenue (despite using every available opportunity to remind us that they are still the Bay Area’s number one choice for bridge-related contingency commuting.) The deficit could mean layoffs, which frustrates many BART employees who thought they had ensured their protection against such layoffs in the recent contract negotiations.

As an alternative to layoffs, BART officials are considering using $20 million in stimulus funds to offset operating costs. A traditional band-aid for the bullet hole, the funds would not help close the budget gap, but rather buy time in the hopes that layoffs could be avoided (the proposal seems contrary to the very notion of stimulus funding. Rather than help the agency become more self-sustaining, the funds would permit them to tread water a little while longer in the hopes they’ll soon remember how to swim). BART director Joel Keller will concede to the plan, but remains wary of using one-time federal funds to support operating costs.

While BART employees shoulder their dismal prospects, BART board director Tom Radulovich has chosen a more petulant stance. City Insider reports that at a recent board meeting Radulovich, while not explicitly asking for a raise, suggested that board members deserve one for the long hours of work they’ve put in this last year. Board members are not salaried employees, but rather volunteers who receive a $1300 a month stipend.

Thankfully Radulovich’s raise-mongering has him penned as somewhat of a rogue on the board, a role his voting record helps corroborate. He was the only member to vote against against the Board’s waiver of a cost of living increase for themselves, and against a measure to provide free BART passes to enlisted men and women.

The latter will provide soldiers on leave from Iraq and Afghanistan with $50 BART passes. Estimates place the cost at around $50,000, and BART will be the first transit agency in the country to provide such a service.

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