May 28, 2024
BART's wide-ranging quest to avoid a forbidding "fiscal cliff" and boost ridership is poised to lauch next week.

OAKLAND — BART’s quest to avoid a forbidding “fiscal cliff” and boost ridership is poised to lauch next week with a plan to ditch half-hour waits on nights and weekends and a gambit to shorten trains.

The Bay Area transit agency will begin the new effort on Sept. 11.

“No BART rider will wait more than 20 minutes for a scheduled train no matter what hour of the day or day of the week,” BART said.

One result of the upcoming change is that evening service will increase by 50% seven nights a week, the transit system estimated.

BART is also undertaking two other significant changes in connection with its schedule alterations.

Here are the details of these BART shifts:

— BART will shorten the size of the transit agency’s least-crowded trains.

— The transit system will use only its “fleet of the future” trains for its base schedule.

The legacy cars will be used only for event trains or special contingencies.

“Our new cars are cleaner, require less maintenance, have better quality surveillance cameras, and offer a better customer experience with automated next-stop displays and announcements,” said Alicia Trost, BART communications officer.

BART’s new vehicles operate for more than twice as long before having to be serviced than is the case with the legacy trains, the transit agency estimated, citing its most recent quarterly performance report.

“Feedback from our riders on the Fleet of the Future cars has been profusely positive,” Trost said.

The lengths of the last-busy train cars is another key component of BART’s new strategy.

“BART will begin to shorten the length of its least crowded trains to improve safety, allow for a cleaner fleet of cars, and maximize BART’s scarce resources,” the transit agency stated.

The transit agency reasons that shorter trains will pack more riders into each car and create a smaller space to deploy patrols.

BART hopes to achieve multiple goals with the shorter trains:

— an increased police and safety staff presence

— cleaner trains

— only new trains will be in service unless there is a need to run an old train

— fewer delays because new cars have double the reliability rate of old cars

— more standby trains will be available

— $12 million in cost savings

BART intends to use six-car and eight-car trains at the outset of the new initiative.

The transit agency vowed to swiftly adjust its train lengths depending on demand on a given day.

“Our commitment is to quickly add additional cars to trains if there is a high level of crowding, especially during peak commute hours,” BART stated.

BART faces what some describe as a “fiscal cliff” that looms due to weak ridership in the wake of the coronavirus-linked business shutdowns that state and local government agencies imposed to combat the spread of the deadly bug.

By some estimates, BART could topple into a $1 billion cumulative deficit over the next five years, absent budget cuts, service reductions, higher ticket prices, federal or state fiscal bailouts, or some combination of these.

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Hikes in bridge tolls are among the solutions that some state lawmakers have floated. These schemes have encountered skepticism from some key figures, including federal legislators.

“We write to express our strong concerns about legislation currently being considered in the state legislature to raise bridge tolls in the San Francisco Bay Area,” Bay Area House representatives Mark DeSaulnier, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Mike Thompson and John Garamendi wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Democratic leaders of the state Assembly and state Senate.

Yet the various changes such as the shorter trains are a necessary component of the possible solutions to BART’s money woes, according to the transit system’s officials.

“This is a change that will enhance safety and cleanliness while also saving money during our financial crisis without cutting service,” Trost said.