BART asking voters to OK $3.5 billion bond for system overhaul

Agency says proposal polled at 68% support, above voter-approval threshold

After years of focusing on system expansion, the BART Board of Directors is looking to completely rebuild the agency's aging infrastructure and voted unanimously Thursday to place a $3.5 billion bond on the November ballot to fund the effort.

The bond measure drew support from local government leaders, area business groups, bicycle advocacy organizations, nonprofits and community organizations. More than an hour of almost entirely positive public comment preceded the vote.

A telephone poll of 2,100 voters conducted last year showed broad support for an infrastructure bond, with 68% saying that BART needed further funding.

The board had initially considered a bond for as much as $4.5 billion, but settled on $3.5 billion, which the poll showed had consistent support above the two-thirds necessary to pass in November.

BART board member Zakhary Mallett raised some concerns that BART has not been as careful with its money as it could be, particularly when it comes to employee benefits, but said that the massive cost of the necessary repairs dwarfs his estimates of wasted funding in BART's operating budget.

Board president Tom Radulovich said the infrastructure cost amounts to $9 billion, and through traditional revenue sources, including raising fares and seeking more funding from the state and federal government, BART could only raise about half of that expense.

The bond includes $625 million to replace worn out tracks, $570 million to repair tunnels and structures, $135 million to replace mechanical infrastructure, $400 million to replace the outdated train control system to get trains running faster, and $210 million in station improvements.

Another $445 million will be devoted to relieving crowding at stations.

"In a way it will be a 100% new system," Radulovich said.

While some concrete infrastructure will remain the same, the trackway, electrical infrastructure and most elements of the system will be replaced, while a project to replace the train cars is already underway.

"This is long overdue. We should have started this a long time ago," board member John McPartland said ahead of Thursday's vote. "But there is no such thing as starting too late until people are getting injured."

BART's priority has shifted in recent years from system expansion, such as the expansion past Fremont to San Jose already under construction, back to core infrastructure improvements. In the last six years, reinvestment from the capital budget has ballooned from 21% to roughly two-thirds of the budget.

For Stuart Cohen, executive director of transportation advocacy group TransForm, BART's continued deferral of core maintenance was a mistake but he praised the board's approach in introducing the bond measure.

"We all know that when BART stops, the Bay Area stops as well and we've seen that a bit too much over the last few years," Cohen said.

A day rarely goes by without some track or equipment issue delaying or halting BART service. The agency couldn't have asked for a better illustration of the need to rebuild the service than a mysterious electrical glitch that shut down regular service between the North Concord/Martinez and Pittsburg/Bay Point stations for weeks earlier this year.

While the glitch ultimately went away on its own, a similar problem had already caused problems in the Transbay Tube and was also never explained.

Radulovich said this is the third time that BART has asked voters to approve a bond. The first time was for the initial construction of the system 40 years ago, and the second was for critical earthquake retrofits about a decade ago.

The seismic safety bond, born of a better understanding of how to engineer for earthquakes, has been a huge success, according to Radulovich.

"When you give BART the money to do a major overhaul, we can do good work," he said.

-- Scott Morris, Bay City News Service

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21 people like this
Posted by Mrs. B
a resident of Danville
on Jun 10, 2016 at 7:15 am

Maybe the board should take a salary cut? If it's important to them to keep the system running I'm sure they would be happy to!😀

20 people like this
Posted by Edward
a resident of Danville
on Jun 10, 2016 at 7:32 am

First bring the compensation level for the management and workers in line with the prevailing standards for the private
sector, including pensions. The this may be worthy of consideration. There is far too much waste and no pressure to control costs.

15 people like this
Posted by Long term resident
a resident of Danville
on Jun 10, 2016 at 8:11 am

I have mixed feelings on this one. I fully agree that BART is in terrible condition and needs to be upgraded on multiple fronts. However, the reason it is in its current state is total mismanagement of budget and funds over the past 40 years. Before BART was even online in the late 1960's, we all agreed to a "temporary" increase in local sales tax until BART was up and running and could sustain itself. That 0.25% tax is still there today and assume the BART board are using it to help pay the highest compensated transit workers in the world. In addition to the supplemental sales tax, I believe there are other public transit taxes we are paying for example as part of the fuel tax we pay when we fill up our cars.

If you will recall, last month, the BART board agreed to give employees 2.5, 2.5,, 2.9, and 2.9% pay raises over the next four years. This was all in fear of BART employees striking again. Now that they have given away the store in more excessive compensation, they have the nerve to come to us and ask for us to approve additional debt in the form of a bond. When will this merry-go-round stop? Why didn't they earmark money for capital improvements and let us vote on the employee compensation issue instead?? Instead, they are pulling at our emotions for desiring a clean, efficient transit system we can all be proud of.

Like I said, I am very torn in how I will vote for this one. I do resent the BART board for putting us all into this predicament.

22 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Danville
on Jun 10, 2016 at 8:12 am

Imagine a world where there's no accountability for failure. Oh wait, that the World of BART. BART is not run like a business. Rather, it's run like a union piggy bank. Work rules, above market salaries and benefits, substandard output but premium input (tax and fare dollars). If BART was in the private sector a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization would be the only answer to decades of mismanagement. The union and management executory contracts would be rejected and renegotiated (if no contract exists, California is an "at will" employment state - BART doesn't need the Banko Court's help) to a 'mark to market' basis - fair pay for a fair days work must be the standard. BART must get to a point where they provide a service to the customers rather than the customers being the 'pay-pal'/piggy bank. Until that time, no more goodies for the massively under-performing BART.

1 person likes this
Posted by Xin Han
a resident of Blackhawk
on Jun 10, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Yes please. Of all the developed countries we have the worst public transit system.

680 corridor has one of the highest proportion of republicans among all bay area cities, no doubt all these Trump supporters are against Bart spending.

13 people like this
Posted by Long Term Resident
a resident of Danville
on Jun 10, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Xin Han:

Thanks for trying to take us down the road of making this into a political party issue instead of what it really is, financial irresponsibility. It is people like you who have added to the polarization of this country. We are trying to have a conversation on the financial responsibility of our locally elected BART board and you are trying to drag it into the national election?? I have lived in this valley on and off for almost 60 years and have followed the history of BART from the beginning. Early on, it was safety issues that we were warned of and actually came true when a train crashed through a station. Fortunately, those have been resolved. However, the seeds for the financial mess were sown back then and have become progressively worse over the years. The question we all face now is whether we should throw a $3.6 billion life-line to the BART board and hope they learned their lesson or continue to give them more and more funds? Sorry, i don't see that as a Trump or Hillary issue unless you think it fits under the umbrella of "make America great again".

8 people like this
Posted by SHale99
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 10, 2016 at 6:34 pm

SHale99 is a registered user.

why should all pay for what a minority actually use? WE all already paid for BART. Let the riders carry the freight vs every single homeowner. About only way I can see a YES vote from me is when I can take a single train from Dublin to San Bruno and not have to change trains. Otherwise, into the car I go....

15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 11, 2016 at 5:30 pm

I do not ride BART often, but here's some of my BART experiences: Years ago I had to take BART back from the airport after a months long trip thru the Middle East, & had to use a bathroom at a BART station, big mistake; that BART bathroom was the most disgustingly filthy restroom I have ever been in & that is really saying something after seeing what I saw in the Middle East. Another time when taking BART late at night from SFO, the BART train that was waiting at the terminal was filthy with loose newspapers randomly dispersed in the car & with large dark stains & food refuse all over the floor, just after I got on that car, a BART employee trotted thru & picked up one or two pieces of newspaper & disappeared to the next car; the train left the station 15 minutes later, so that isn't the reason things weren't cleaned up. I could go on----

The BART management is very poor, & is very generous with other people's money, namely our money. BART management ought to be fired. BART workers are over paid.

6 people like this
Posted by Frustrated
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 13, 2016 at 10:30 am

I recently attended a talk by a BART Director. The Directer was woefully ignorant of the actual opinions of BART riders and it became obvious when financial issues were brought up that the Union was in control. I find this frightening. That poll that said 68% of the population will support the tax is ludicrous. When asked why there wasn't a fund set aside for equipment replacement and repairs, the answer was that the board had tried, but had to use it to pay workers. In spite all of that, we were all subject to the effects of the strike. It is Immoral and should be illegal for a transportation company the size of BART to be able to hold three or four million people hostage, both BART riders and those who were faced with ridiculous traffic impacts of the strike. At the same time MTC, after absorbing ABAG, will place greater demands on suburban housing, not caring that another strike could bring the economy of the Bay Area to a screeching halt.

1 person likes this
Posted by Ex-Danville Resident
a resident of Danville
on Jun 13, 2016 at 10:51 am

It's not surprising to read all the negative comments which are more than likely from people who don't ride BART. Comments that state that only people who ride BART should pay for BART are woefully ignorant about how public transportation works. Public transportation is not self supporting and was never intended to be. It is paid for by all as it is a public good.

Like this comment
Posted by SHale99
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 13, 2016 at 3:16 pm

SHale99 is a registered user.

oh, I understand fully how public transportation works. Kill Bart and a bazillion cars land on the freeway. However, that doesn't mean when Bart needs to replace everything at once we should again have to pay via property tax. Bart is no solution for me, wouldn't even save much money. So why would I want to pay even MORE property tax and get no benefit at all?
sorry, but the 2/3 needed to pass this will be a very steep hill to climb. I contend with traffic right now, can you honestly say this bond issue will make that traffic less? Hum?

1 person likes this
Posted by Ex-Danville Resident
a resident of Danville
on Jun 13, 2016 at 3:47 pm

It's a bond measure not a property tax increase. It is a funding mechanism to raise the money needed for the BART improvements. It does not raise your taxes. It does increase public debt. So many residents of the right wing East Bay enclaves are so entrenched in their "no more taxes" ideology they don't even take the time to read the details before they automatically go to "no more taxes". Taxes are not inherently evil. Taxes pay for many things that enhance the general public's quality of life. Countries with the highest quality of life also have the highest tax rates.

4 people like this
Posted by WillyMcD
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 13, 2016 at 4:08 pm

This is not an issue whether public transportation is good for the Bay Area - the answer is yes.

The issue is whether the current & past executive management and Board of Directors have been good and wise stewards of the public money.
To have NO reserve funds for maintenance, repair, upgrades, and improvements to the system is not good fiscal management.
To have continued to reward workers with increasing compensation when the system infrastructure is in disrepair is not good corporate management.
To not keep the proper balance between fiscal responsibility and employee compensation should not be rewarded with continued funding.
The point is how do you expect BART to take cars off the freeways when they can't keep their own trains on the tracks??!!
There needs to be conditions and negotiations to provide any additional funding. The current management & Board should be removed form their positions; employment contracts need to be frozen at the now-current pay level; and new management and directors with the appropriate oversight need to be recruited and in place.
This is a critical infrastructure component to the continued economic growth of the Bay Area - and by extension the country. The time is now to begin to right this ship.

1 person likes this
Posted by SHale99
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 13, 2016 at 6:02 pm

SHale99 is a registered user.

Um, hello. It will be paid via your prop tax bill not fares, which is why is requires 2/3 majority to pass. Now if this bond was repaid via fares, I'm all for it.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 14, 2016 at 4:15 pm

To "Ex-Danville Resident", you ought to be a stand up comedian, I really laughed when you said: "It's a bond measure not a property tax increase". That is a ludicrous thing to say since the BART bond measure will be added to what I pay for the property tax on my house! The check I write will be even that much more.

If it walks like a duck & quacks like a duck, it's a duck!

1 person likes this
Posted by Alamo BART rider
a resident of Alamo
on Jun 17, 2016 at 7:43 am

I agree with everyone who says that BART needs to get their management act together. As far as I'm concerned, no more money until that happens. I want to get on a train that is there when the BART website says it will be. I want to get on a train that is not filled with hot coffee waiting to be spilled on me, food and food stains everywhere and the second hand music of future deaf people. When the BART police are actually on the car, this negative behavior disappears. Multiple letters to the BART board have achieved NO RESULTS.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 26, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Bart parking lots are full. One can not find a parking space if they drive to Bart mid morning. Bart stated (during a "telephone town hall") several months ago that Bart is not going to build any more parking, & stated that you will have to take a bus to get to Bart. I am not going to walk 3/4 mile to a bus stop, wait for a bus, take a slow bus to with many stops to get to Bart, then wait for a Bart train. Few others will opt for that either.

Bart needs to build more parking, but their new bond issue does not include that. I will not vote to approve Bart's bond issue!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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