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BART Board Director Slams General Manager Over Sketchy Budget Proposal

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- BART Director Debora Allen blasted General Manager Bob Powers on Thursday for not providing enough details on the budget problems the transit agency is facing in the wake of a drastic drop in ridership due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Allen, who represents part of Contra Costa County, said at the agency's virtual board meeting, "I'm not seeing strong leadership and we're not discussing the hard topics."

Allen said BART staff members only have given board members projections about revenue reductions but haven't presented proposals about cutting costs, such as cutting real estate projects and possibly cutting labor costs.

"No one on this board wants to see our employees' hours cut but we aren't doing our jobs if we don't put everything on the table and have a discussion," Allen said.

BART Cuts Train Service In Bay Area During Coronavirus Shutdown
A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) passenger wears a protective mask while riding on a train on April 08, 2020 in San Francisco, California. BART announced that it is slashing daily service as ridership falls dramatically due to the coronavirus shelter in place order. Starting Wednesday, regular Monday through Friday service will be reduced to running trains every half hour between 5 am and 9 pm. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

BART may have to consider eliminating some positions in addition to not filling current job openings, she said.

BART's ridership is now only 6 percent of its average daily ridership before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

BART staff members presented three scenarios for the budget for the 2021 fiscal year starting July 1.

Under the most optimistic scenario, which assumes a large increase in ridership, BART would still have a $228 million net operating deficit.

The middle projection that assumes a medium increase in ridership would leave the transit agency with a $324 million deficit and the most pessimistic projection that assumes a low increase in ridership would leave BART with a $423 million net operating deficit.

Powers disagreed with Allen's criticism of him, saying, "I think we've been very transparent and we will continue to be so."

Pamela Herhold, BART's assistant general manager for performance and budget, said, "We're trying to provide as much information as we can.

We're presenting information as fast as we can to put a budget in front of you."

Allen said she hopes BART staff will present more detailed numbers, such as the costs for every department, at the next board meeting because the board needs to move quickly to approve a new budget by June 25.

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved giving BART $251.6 million in federal emergency stimulus funds.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the transit agency will use $173.5 million of that money in the current fiscal year and $78 million in fiscal 2021.

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