Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has passed a Fiscal Year 15 operating and capital budget totaling $1.56 billion that it says prioritizes safety, passenger needs, system reinvestment and on-time performance took effect July 1, 2014.
The budget represents a two percent increase from the previous year and assumes an average weekday ridership of 405,426, up from the FY14 average of 399,146.
“The centerpiece of this budget is the increased investment in safety-related measures for both our riders and our employees,” said BART Board President Joel Keller. “This budget will give passengers increased service during the peak Monday-Friday commute and weekends, cleaner and brighter stations, modern signage, better station access and additional secure bike parking. It also continues our dedication to addressing increased capacity while reinvesting in the original aging system.”
The budget includes $5.3 million for 40 new positions needed to implement the new trackside safety program. These positions have the added benefit of providing increased maintenance to enhance reliability and passenger safety.
The new safety program will add extra layers of protection for trackside crews during both operating and non-operating hours but will impact passenger service because trains are now required to hold and proceed at reduced speeds when work crews are nearby. To help address this, $1.7 million is being funded late in FY14 for a two-year project to put up fencing and barriers in key areas along the track to protect employees from moving trains as they walk near the track to access equipment, train control rooms or substations.
This fencing will allow trains to continue to run at 70 mph near the fenced off areas and prevent passenger delays. The FY15 budget includes other safety-related projects, such as a safety culture program, software and another two-year capital project for $1.8 million to protect crews working in track areas.
The budget also allocates money for multi-year projects to improve safety, such as subway lighting retrofits, emergency lighting and security projects. As part of BART’s federally-funded capital reinvestment program, about $25 million will go toward direct safety-related renovation and repair projects including trackway fall protection, third-rail cover replacement, emergency power and fire safety system renovation, emergency communications and safety improvements for sidewalks, escalators, elevators, and stairs.
Other improvements include $700,000 for a 1.7-percent increase in service by running more long trains during the “shoulders” of the commute period and on the weekends.
The budget includes money to fund BART’s top three capital projects: a new fleet of train cars ($51 million in capital funds and another $45 million for the MTC reserve account), a new train control system ($9 million in capital funds) that will allow BART to run more trains more frequently and will improve reliability systemwide and the Hayward Maintenance Complex ($115 million in capital funds) to service the new fleet. An estimated $18.8 million in dedicated revenue collected from the January 2014 fare increase is allocated to these three priority projects as promised by the board to the riders when the inflation-based fare increase program was adopted.
Improvements for passengers include the replacement of wool seats with easier to clean vinyl covers; carpet will be replaced with smooth, easy to clean flooring; better stations and parking improvements.
BART said that despite the continued focus on meeting reinvestment needs of its 41-year-old system there remains a substantial and growing capital deficit. BART has a 10-year renovation need of at least $6.5 billion to maintain its current state of reliability and said major components of our aging infrastructure such as trackways, facilities, stations, and equipment need to be replaced.