BART directors voted unanimously today to reaffirm that revenues from fare increases will only be used to pay for capital improvements, not for operating expenses such as employee wages and benefits.
BART Director Joel Keller, who proposed the amendment that was approved today, said he believed it was necessary to “relieve confusion” after the transit agency’s board voted a month ago to increase fares Jan. 1 as well as in 2016, 2018, and 2020, based on inflation.
Keller said the measure’s language “has been misinterpreted by riders and taxpayers.”
The amendment approved today restates BART’s policy that funds from fare increases be dedicated to pay for capital improvements such as new rail cars, train control and the new maintenance complex in Hayward.
It also establishes a separate account for the new revenues so they can’t be used for other purposes.
BART’s inflation-based fare increase program, which has been in effect for 10 years, calls for ticket prices to rise every two years based on the average rate of inflation over two years minus 0.5 percent.
The 5.2 percent increase slated to go into effect on Jan. 1 will raise BART’s average fare from $3.59 to $3.78.
BART routes fare increases to capital use [Chron]
BART projects that the fare hikes in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020 will generate $325 million over eight years.
Some BART employees object to the policy of devoting the fare hike funds only to capital projects, noting that most transit agencies in the U.S. use fares to help pay for wages and benefits.
Board President Tom Radulovich acknowledged those concerns and admitted that most of BART’s funds for capital improvements come from sources other than fares, such as funds from the state and federal governments.
But Radulovich said, “The problem is that those other sources are inadequate” because state and federal support is “shrinking.”
He said, “We have to put more money into capital improvements—it’s just a reality or else our equipment won’t be safe.”
Keller said BART needs to raise as much money as possible for capital improvements through fares because it can then leverage those extra funds to get matching funds from other sources.
He said using the new funds for capital projects “is our attempt to go find some money.”
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News