BART says it needs more money because weekend ridership is down

BART officials say commute ridership is up but weekends, off-peak and short rides have slipped so much, it's dragging the whole system's numbers down.

Slipping ridership means less revenue and the possibility that fares could increase.

The news came as a shock to commuters, who say business on BART seems to be thriving.

"You can't get on trains most of the time going home riding three stations upstream just to get a seat on the train," said Dave Smart of Walnut Creek.

But BART officials say overall ridership is five percent lower than projected, with weekends taking the hardest hit at nine percent.

"They're talking about projected revenue and which that's not actual revenue," said Perrine Hentemann of Alameda.

BART says it's already $5 million in the red for the first half of the fiscal year and projecting a $15-25 million shortfall going forward.

One solution may be to raise base fares, an idea that doesn't sit well with Hentemann. "That makes me a little upset because they're cramming us into the BART trains; they're taking seats away, we're tired after working all day long we want to get home. We want to sit down and they want more money. Give us a break."

Bevan Dufty sits on the BART board and represents District 9. He says the board does not want to hike fares, especially with the passage of November's Measure RR.

"We know that the voters have given us $3.5 billion and there's going to be a golden era but it's probably going to take us two to three years to get there."

BART officials have put a hiring freeze in place and have asked each department to cut the amount of money that it spends on consultants by 10 percent but that's a short term solution and the board says it needs a long term one.

"We don't want to punish our riders because of the shortfall," said Alicia Trost, BART spokesperson.
Trost says the transit agency is surveying its riders on a fix. It could mean allowing for more ads, and starting service at 5 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.

BART passengers say "trim the fat!" They allude to an exclusive KTVU investigation earlier this month which revealed that a janitor at the Powell Street station made more than $270,000 in 2015.

The 2 Investigates report revealed that there were serious questions about missed punches on his timecards as well as what he was doing for hours in a closet.

"The elevators were out for two weeks at each station and they still smell bad," said Hentemann, as she stood waiting for an elevator at the Powell Street station Friday morning.

found 17 homeless people sleeping in one corridor of that station today, which reeked of urine and feces. There are no public restrooms at the BART station.

BART says passengers may have to tolerate those conditions for some time.

"We cut back on overtime, which the riders are going to see that the stations will be more dirty and things like that," said Trost.

BART says it will stay that way until it can figure out how to increase ridership on the weekends or come up with another solution.