Thursday, March 07, 2013
Public transportation costs are set to rise in the Bay Area, a region with some of the most congested freeways and longest commute distances in the country.
Last week, BART directors voted to pass a scheduled increase for ride fares and parking fees. These increases are designed to be small and incremental and to rise with inflation. The first fare hike will happen on January 1st, 2014 and will raise prices by 5.2 percent. That means the average ride will go from $3.59 to $3.78. Further fare increases will be implemented every two years until 2020.
In a BART press release, board president Tom Radulovich said the increases are necessary to keep the system up to date and make improvements going forward.
“These small increases are an important part of BART’s financial health, especially as we face a $10 billion unfunded capital need,” he said. “We want our passengers to know we don’t make decisions like this without great consideration."
That $10 billion is supposed to go to long-term BART projects like extensions to Livermore and Silicon Valley, a BART/Oakland Airport connector train, and to build enough new train cars to replace the system’s aging fleet.
BART fares went up most recently last July, when the minimum ticket price was upped to $1.75 and the average fare increased by five cents. That increase was part of a series of four small inflation-based fare hikes that started in 2006. This new round of increases is a continuation of that same program.
The directors also approved a plan to increase parking fees. While the ride fare increase had little opposition, raising the parking fees was a much more contentious issue. East Bay directors had argued that the increase was unfair because it affects their constituents disproportionately. Most of the BART parking lots are in the East Bay, where commuters often drive long distances just to get to a station.
Currently, most stations parking lots cost $1 a day and some are free (except the crowded West Oakland lot, which costs $5). Under the new parking program, all stations will cost at least $1 a day, and each lot will be evaluated to determine how often it fills to capacity. The stations that are more crowded will be subject to a 50 cent increase every six months. Some stations parking lots could end up costing as much as $3 a day.
Kevin Melanephy is a regular commuter on BART. He parks in the El Cerrito Del Norte station in the East Bay every day to get to work. While he may not like the fee hikes, there’s not much he can do about it.
“I still have to go to work,” he said. “So I’ll have to pay whatever.”
BART officials say they had to raise parking fees because the under the current system, the revenue doesn’t cover the maintenance costs for the parking lots. It costs BART $21.7 million per year to run the parking lots, which includes security, lighting, and cleaning. Parking revenues currently cover $15.6 million of that. The new parking fees will be used to close that gap and to repair stations.
“Many of our aged stations are in desperate need of upgrades and improvements,” Radulovich said. “This new money will go towards projects such as escalator and elevator reliability, improved lighting, more secured bike parking, shuttle programs, better drop-off areas, and other improvements to stations and access.”
Buoyed by a recent survey where 70% of riders said the system was a good value for the money, officials remain confident that people will continue to turn to BART, even with the price increases.