BART announces $3.5 billion plan to improve transit system

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The BART Board of Directors voted unanimously Thursday to approve a $3.5 billion bond measure to improve infrastructure and relieve crowding at stations.

If the measure on the November ballot is passed by voters, BART will commission an independent audit company to ensure the money which will be funded by a small increase in property tax in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties is going to the outlined program. Under this program, the Downtown Berkeley BART station may be eligible for remodeling.

“There is no other option,” said George Perezvelez, Berkeley resident and a member of the BART Police Citizen Review Board.We cannot have an effective BART system as it is now.”

The funds will mostly go toward improving BART infrastructure. This infrastructure includes tracks, tunnels, stations and the power system — which controls the train’s timing and speed and is a modified version on the original from the 1970s.

BART has increasing ridership, more than the infrastructure from the ’60s predicted or can handle,” said Rebecca Saltzman, a director on the BART board representing District 3, which includes parts of Berkeley. “But at the same time, we’re actually getting less money from the state and federal government.”

Roughly 10 percent of the bonds is dedicated to improving accessibility and crowding — which will include plans to install bike racks as well as a possible second Transbay crossing. These improvements, in addition to upgrades to the power system, are predicted to clear up some of the heavy traffic and delays BART currently experiences.

“I think it’s important across the Bay Area that we continue to invest in transportation infrastructure,” said Chris Cassidy, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “I am heartened by how seriously BART is taking access to stations.”

The remodels are also intended to increase reliability of the system, according to Saltzman, in addition to getting more cars off the road. The proposal outlines larger train cars and more frequent trains, which will increase the number of people BART can carry per hour.

“Even folks not using (BART) on a daily basis are benefiting from cleaner, healthier air, less congested airways and more people walking and biking — meaning that we’re building a cycle,” said Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, a public transportation advocacy group. “BART sparks a lot of positive cycles to bring about a cleaner, healthier Bay Area.”

Because the bond measure will be funded by property taxes, there is a possibility that property owners could pass the cost on to their tenants. According to Saltzman, the average cost would be between $35 and $55 per year per household, though that number could change.

Contact Anderson Lanham at [email protected].