CONCORD - With BART approving some fare and fee increases as it nears a fiscal cliff, some frustrated passengers are wondering when and why they'll be paying more for deteriorating service.
However, some of those fees may not come for years if ridership doesn't recover.
"30 years," explained Ed of his BART riding history outside the Concord station. "It's gone down since I started riding it a long time ago. It used to be much better."
"The experience has gone down," said Rebecca. "I'm not feeling safe lately."
The complaints from longtime BART riders are now familiar, and they are also aware of BART's budget crisis.
"I hope they don't raise fares," Ed said. "But I don't see any way of them not raising fares, actually."
"I actually did not support the fare increase that was adopted by the board," said District 3 BART Director Rebecca Saltzman. "I advocated for a smaller increase. But I do support the idea of having regular increases in the fares because the alternative to that is with the BART board did 20 plus years ago which was they didn't increase fares for a long time and then every eight, ten, twelve years they had to have huge fare increases and really impacted riders "
Salzman says the fare increases will mean an extra five, ten or fifteen cents, depending on the trip. And the increased parking fees aren't likely to happen for years because those are tied to parking demand.
"And so as you can see our parking lots are, by and large, not full," Saltzman said. "And so this policy says that once they are at 90% full or about that then small increases will go into effect."
The empty lots reflect the real cause of the budget crisis; Low ridership, which has tracked almost directly with San Francisco office occupancy, one of the slowest recoveries in the county. That's something BART cannot change.
"But we're doing other things," Saltzman explained. "We know riders have safety concerns. We've doubled the amount of officers that are actually on the trains. We've increased our progressive policing bureau with ambassadors and crisis intervention specialists."
For now, the only hope on the budget end really is a state rescue. And that there is optimism that something will be worked out.
"I think the chances are very high that the state will approve some funding for transit before their legislative session ends," Saltzman said. "It might not have done before the budget deadline, which is next week, but there are other ways to get changes in the budget throughout the legislative session. So we have a couple more months of that."
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