BART could consider ballot measure for funds, director says

BART could consider ballot measure for funds, director says

Michele Ellson
Robert Raburn

Robert Raburn talked to local Kiwanians about the future of BART on Wednesday. Photo by Michele Ellson.

BART’s leaders could ask voters for money to help them pay for new train cars and to modernize the rail line’s stations, Alameda’s BART board director told local Kiwanians during a luncheon Wednesday.

Director Robert Raburn said the $2.6 billion in funding need to pay for 775 new cars will come out of the regional rail line’s budget. But he said BART may need to ask voters for the cash to pay for another 225 board members believe the system needs to fill new stations and meet growing demand.

“To get to 1,000 (new cars), I think we most likely will need to go to the voters,” Raburn, who represents Alameda, much of Oakland and part of San Leandro, said Wednesday.

While he didn’t say a ballot measure was being planned, Raburn said that additional money could help pay for platform fixes that would reduce overcrowding and prevent passengers from falling on the rails, covers over street-level escalators and gates to keep out people who sleep in BART station stairwells.

Raburn’s comments came during a talk on the future of the 41-year-old rail line. BART is working to replace cars that have carried passengers for decades and also, equipment that is so old parts need to be refabricated as they break – at great expense.

The rail line carried 295,000 riders a day in 2004, he said; its daily ridership has since swelled to 410,000 passengers. The rail agency is also working to complete and open an Oakland Airport Connector and extensions to Fremont’s Warm Springs neighborhood, the Berryessa neighborhood of San Jose and Antioch.

Its priorities are to replace and expand its fleet, replace its control system and expand its maintenance yard, BART managers wrote in a 2014 report to Congress. But the rail line doesn’t have a long-term commitment from the federal or state government to help pay for those things, Raburn said.

More than three-quarters of BART’s budget is covered by fares, Raburn said, a percentage he said is high for a transit agency. In contrast, 44 percent of the cost of Bay Area ferry operations are funded by fares.

A 10-car BART train can carry a “crush load” of 2,000 people, he said, and BART can run 23 trains through the Transbay Tube in an hour. Raburn said upgrades could push 30 trains through the tube per hour by 2025, and he said he’d like the rail line to have enough 10-car trains to fill all 44 stations during the morning commute.

BART managers have taken a prototype of their “train of the future” on a whistle-stop tour of stations over the past several weeks, collecting input from the roughly half million people who have seen it, Raburn said.

When asked whether BART might ever run into Alameda, Raburn said the rail agency’s preference would be to run a line from the Fruitvale BART station across Alameda and into a new Transbay Tube to San Francisco. Mayor Marie Gilmore had asked the agency to consider coming to Alameda in July, and a few months later, Raburn said a spur could be extended under the Alameda/Oakland Estuary.

“But that’s a long way off,” he added.