Should BART Fares Go Up?

Last week I wrote a blog about what needs to be done to improve public transportation in the Bay Area. I focused on the fact that there are many, fragmented systems, and that much of the solution lies in finding ways to better integrate the systems together.

But of course there is the 500-pound gorilla in the room – Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART. BART serves as the crucial transit service for hundreds of thousands of Bay Area commuters. And there are worrying signs that the system is starting to buckle.

First there is the fact that trains are becoming jam packed. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that average weekday ridership is now 420,000, up from 320,000 just five years ago. “Crush loads,” where trains are carrying upwards of 200 people, are becoming more and more common. (The Federal Transit Administration recommends that BART trains carry a maximum of 115 riders).

Then there are infrastructural problems. BART’s trains are in sore need of upgrades. The agency has ordered a new fleet of 775 cars, which they will start rolling out in September 2016. But on top of that, only 20% of the system’s tracks have been replaced since the system opened in 1972, this despite federal recommendations that tracks be replaced every 25 years.

In light of this, BART officials last week announced a 3.4% fare hike, to take effect in January 2016. The money would go exclusively to capital improvements. The increase is part of a policy to raise fares at the start of every even numbered year through 2020, to keep up with inflation. The new fares are expected to raise $15 million of additional revenue to the system, and most riders will see the cost of common trips, such as from the East Bay into San Francisco, go up by about 15 cents.

While arguably necessary, the fare increase can be seen as regressive, affecting those least able to afford the higher rates. As such, BART will be analyzing the potential impact on low-income and non-English speaking populations.

What do you think? Should BART fares go up? vote and comment here.

Should BART Fares Go Up?

Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, is in sore need of upgrades.

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