BART could add new trains, increase service

Ayon Kabir/Staff

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In addition to its ongoing multibillion-dollar project to replace all its train cars, Bay Area Rapid Transit could soon see extended service hours and upgrades to existing cars.

In a meeting Thursday, BART’s Board of Directors reviewed the budget for fiscal year 2013 and — in expectation of an increase in ridership next year — proposed putting $45 million in operating funds toward the initiative to install a new fleet of cars, $2.4 million to pay for new seats and new floors in existing cars and approximately $600,000 to extend weeknight service on one of its lines.

BART is already involved in a $3.2 billion new rail car project called Fleet of the Future, which is an attempt to replace all of the transit agency’s 669 existing cars, most of which have been running since 1972.

The suggestions made Thursday would help support the Fleet of the Future project in the long term and provide short-term benefits like the upgrades to existing cars. The extra hour of  weeknight train service on the Daly City to Richmond line would push the closing time of the line from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“To build BART was a very expensive proposition,” said BART spokesperson Jim Allison. “ Now that we have it, we need to reinvest in it to make sure it keeps running.”

The transit agency is holding a town hall meeting May 24 so community members will have an opportunity to voice any concerns about the funding allocations. The board will return to vote on a budget for fiscal year 2013 on June 14.

According to a press release from BART, the agency’s $669.4 million operating budget is benefiting from a projected 3 percent increase in ridership in fiscal year 2013, which would bring weekday ridership to an all-time high of 376,000 for the year.

BART’s financial planning department anticipated the recession, resulting in a reduction in its workforce by 7 percent and a decrease in overall expenses, according to Allison. Now that the economy is recovering, the company will start to reinvest, he said.

Included in the items discussed Thursday is a plan to reinvest $15 million of funds from fiscal year 2012 into the State of Good Repair fund, a program designed to ensure that trains and infrastructure are maintained so the agency can continue to make repairs to train systems and rail cars.

A study conducted in 2009 by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for transit operators found that BART needs to invest $15 million over the next 25 years. To date, the transit agency  has identified resources for $7.5 million but will need to find other funding for the remaining $7.5 million deficit it could face.

“Every transit agency is facing these big capital shortfalls,” Allison said. “On Capitol Hill, supporters of mass transit are working to try to find a way that money is directed so that we can keep what we have in good working order.”