BART Board of Directors approves $2.42B budget amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Karen Chow/File

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The BART Board of Directors approved a $2.42 billion budget to accommodate pandemic-related challenges.

The budget for fiscal year 2021 begins July 1 and is focused on adapting BART services to ensure safety in light of the pandemic, according to a BART press release.

“This budget prioritizes safety, stable service, and positions BART to be part of the economic recovery of the Bay Area,” said Bob Powers, BART general manager, in the press release.

According to BART spokesperson Jim Allison, BART’s operating budget is primarily funded by ridership fares. Due to lost revenue related to ridership decline, the budget takes into account the necessity of changing BART practices and rider activity without raising fare costs, according to the press release.

“Our ridership has dropped by 96%,” Allison said. “We could no longer rely on ridership to provide that money.”

BART received $261 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.

Allison added that CARES Act funding will be used to alleviate costs exacerbated by declining ridership and prevent employee layoffs or furloughs.

“The primary goal, of course, is to keep train service running,” Allison said. “At the same time, we need to focus on employee and rider safety and get some of the important infrastructure work done.”

The budget also addresses safety concerns when riding on the trains. According to Allison, BART is spending significantly more money on cleaning supplies and communicating safety procedures to riders.

BART plans to allocate $44 million to employee personal protective equipment, as well as “enhanced” cleaning routines, according to the press release. Allison added that the funding will be used to provide face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.

“We had to invest a lot of money on this because we have a workforce that interacts with the public every day,” Allison said. “We make sure that both our workers stay safe and that our customers stay safe.”

As a result of reduced ridership, BART ends daily service at 9 p.m. According to the press release, the budget takes into account increases in reinvestment projects that have resulted in changed operating hours.

The press release added that the change in operating hours has given employees time to replace 500 feet of trackway, compared to the 100 feet that are typically replaced under normal operating hours.

“It’s clear that it is not business as usual,” Allison said. “There’s a lot of variables there in terms of what will happen with the pandemic in terms of our society and how that will affect BART. We just want to be able to pivot if we need to make changes.”

According to Allison, the budget will be kept “flexible” and will be reconsidered in the next three months.

Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KellyNguyen_DC.