On Thursday June 9th, the BART Board of Directors voted 9-0 to approve an historical $3.5 billion general obligation bond measure that will fund BART’s plan to improve safety, increase train reliability and reduce traffic. The bond will be on the November general election ballot.
The bond measure is a key funding component of BART’s plan to rebuild and renew its aging system, which faces increasing problems as various physical parts of the 44-year-old railway reach the end of their useful lives. The plan replaces and repairs 90 miles of deteriorating tracks and other aging infrastructure in order to maintain BART's excellent safety record and protects our environment by keeping thousands of cars off the road.
“This bond measure is practical; it’s dedicated to fixing what we have,” said Board President Tom Radulovich. “We have a responsibility to keep our system safe and reliable while getting the maximum value out of taxpayers’ investment.”
Over the past year, BART’s community outreach department has held over 230 community meetings with local stakeholders and civic groups to ensure widespread understanding of BART’s needs, and to hear the public’s thoughts about its capital reinvestment program. At Thursday’s press conference following the crucial board vote, over a dozen Bay Area leaders appeared in support of BART’s decision to go to the ballot. Many told stories of what BART means to them, and how it plays an increasingly important regional role.
Thanks to record-breaking ridership, BART has been able to find funding for many of the solutions needed to increase capacity, meet modern demand, relieve crowding, and upgrade the system. That includes the newly arriving Fleet of the Future, the Hayward Maintenance Complex, and some of the groundwork for a cutting-edge train control system.
However, the cost of the capital projects needed to repair, fix, and replace worn rail, leaking tunnels, unreliable track circuitry, and failing power transmission equipment outpaces revenue growth. BART’s plan is to dedicate funds from the bond measure solely to fixing what we have first - without earmarks, pet projects, or frills. Estimates show the bond will cost Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco county homeowners less than a pack of gum a week - an investment that will show enormous returns in terms of improved safety, reliability, and decreased traffic.
If voters choose to pass the measure in November, great care will be taken to ensure the public’s money is protected and spent wisely. An independent audit committee will be commissioned to publish regular, transparent reports on how the money is being spent, with open, frequent and public meetings.
BART has proven itself to be a prudent and effective steward of public bond funds in the past, executing its 2004 Earthquake Safety and Retrofitting effort under budget with better and more robust results than expected.
Public transportation continues to be at the intersection of many of the great issues facing cities in the 21st century - and voters were wise in choosing to build such an extraordinary work as BART back in 1962. Since then, BART has been a staple of this region’s culture, workforce, and values. As both riders and service providers, BART appreciates and is deeply grateful for the opportunity to connect residents to the people and places they care about.
Complete details of what is in the bond and how it relates to safety, reliability, and relief of traffic congestion can be found at bart.gov/betterbart.
Here are some of the comments made by members of the public today during the Board meeting or at the press conference:
Emily Loper, Bay Area Council: “Without BART, the Bay Area doesn’t move. It is the backbone of the Bay Area economy. This bond will help address crucial safety and reliability and crowding concerns. It will help fix BART.”
Alyssa Kies, SPUR: “We support the ‘fix it first’ approach to the bond.”
Evelyn Torres, Latina Young Dems of East Bay: “Many Latino communities, including my own, use BART as an engine to get us to work, to get us to school, and to get us to our families. I want to thank the Board members for… creating preventative measures… for those communities getting displaced. Now more than ever BART is important to get them back into Oakland and surrounding cities and allowing them to go back and forth.”
Barbara Leslie, Oakland Chamber: “Our businesses rely on a safe transportation system. BART has literally woven together our city and our region in a way that has allowed our community to grow and our economy to flourish. We look forward to a safe and reliable infrastructure in the future.”
Gilbert Gong, Lincoln Child Development Center: “We have seniors using our facilities as well as children. We take kids ages 4-13 on field trips on BART. Without BART we wouldn’t be able to show children our Bay Area surroundings. We are vested in the use of BART.”
CJ Hirschfield, Fairyland: “Our location is a convenient walk from BART and many of our underserved families rely on BART to get to us. A highly functioning BART is important to our local businesses. I like that the bond is for capital projects only and that it includes an independent audit committee.”
Matt Nichols on behalf of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf: “BART is very important to Oakland. We see a long history of working with BART and growing together. We are glad to see BART is moving away from deferring its maintenance.”
Jason Elliott on behalf of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee: “67% of BART trips begin or end in the downtown San Francisco Stations so truly a healthy economy in sf requires a healthy BART system, they are interlinked. This bond is exactly what the system needs because it invests in safety and reliability….and plans for the future of BART with discussion and planning on a second crossing.”
Stuart Cohen, TransForm: “BART is heading in the right direction. This measure will help with traffic and cleaner air. We all know that when BART stops, the Bay Area stops as well. By focusing on safety and reliability, this measure will help keep BART and the Bay Area on the fast track.”
Janet Magleby, Cal Shakes: “We share the same goal of making the wonders of the Bay Area affordable and accessible. BART is responsible for getting 2000 underserved students every year to our matinée performances.”
Kristin Connelly, East Bay Leadership Council: “BART is essential to our economy and our employers. We support taking advantage of new technologies. We appreciate your leadership and thinking ahead, and we support making this process very accountable and exactly what we need to make our region thrive.”
George Perezvelez, Member of East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, “It is time for the Bay Area to engage in a solid investment in its regional transportation system. System safety, environmental sustainability, congestion relief plans and access improvements are the benchmarks of this proposal.”
Amy Worth, MTC Commissioner: “There are huge needs across our region and BART’s leadership in bringing this bond before the voters is a significant step in ensuring that BART can continue to be a reliable central element in mobility for our region. It provides for the most essential capital investments.”