BART officials said that they plan to use a projected budget surplus of $30 million to $35 million for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 for service improvements, new seats and new floors in existing rail cars and other needs.
Increases in ridership and sales tax revenues, which are BART's largest revenue sources, have allowed the transit agency to balance its budget at a time when other transit agencies are struggling with their finances, officials said.
BART staff members told the transit agency's board of directors at its meeting today that they propose spending a total of $45 million in operating funds toward BART's $3.2 billion new rail car project, an additional $2.4 million to pay for new seats and new floors in existing cars
and about $600,000 to pay for an extra hour of weeknight train service on the Daly City to Richmond line.
Trains currently stop running on that line at 7 p.m. and staff's proposal would fund train service until 8 p.m.
BART's staff also proposes hiring a total of 56 new employees, mainly train operators, as a long-term solution to address overtime costs as
well as a number of other initiatives such as increasing staffing in the agency's disadvantaged business enterprise program and a variety of
BART board Vice President Tom Radulovich said in a statement, "I think it's wise for us to address some of our immediate needs while keeping an eye toward our future."
He said, "We're proposing significant investments in our new rail cars and our existing cars and stations and adding more service to keep up with the increase in ridership during the evening commute, particularly between San Francisco and Berkeley."
BART spokesman Jim Allison said the transit agency's $669.4 million operating budget is benefiting from ridership that is projected to
increase by 3 percent in fiscal 2013 to an average weekday ridership of 376,000 for the year, which would be an all-time high. Ridership in the current fiscal year ending June 30 is expected to average 365,000 passengers a day.
Sales tax revenues are expected to increase by 5 percent, Allison said.
Among the other proposed uses for the projected budget surplus are $15 million for capital needs, including $7.5 million to waterproof and modernize the concourse of Powell Street Station in San Francisco and $4.7 million for several projects to improve rail car reliability and
Those projects include an upgrade of rail car heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems as well as power and propulsion work.
BART staff proposes to use the remaining funds for initiatives ranging from computer servers to pigeon abatement.
Although BART's financial picture looks good in the short term, transit agency officials cautioned that the agency still faces a $7.5 billion shortfall in its capital needs over the next 25 years.
The preliminary budget overview today was one of the first steps in BART's budget process.
On May 10, BART staff will present to the board a more detailed sources and uses service plan.
On May 24, the board will hold a public hearing on the budget and on June 14 the board is scheduled to vote on the budget.