By Brad Wilson, special to Xpress
The cost of getting to school may soon climb higher, with the BART Board of Trustees set to raise fares within the next few weeks that will go into effect by July.
BART hosted local community meetings throughout March to hear public feedback on the new plan that may increase average fares by five cents and an overall 3.9 percent increase by 2014.
The increase will allow BART to pay for the new fleet of trains already in the works.
“Our cars are old. They are almost 40 years old,” said Pam Herhold of BART’s finance department. “Our car fleet needs replacing if we are going to continue to be able to provide reliable service to a growing ridership.”
The estimated cost of a total fleet replacement is $3.2 billion, and BART will provide 25 percent of this cost. Federal, state and regional local services will cover the other $2.4 billion.
BART has three different options on approaching this increase.
The first option is to implement an inflation-based fare hike, an approach used in the last three increases, which results in a 1.4 percent fare increase.
It’s approximately five cents more from downtown San Francisco to downtown Oakland. BART may extend this inflation-based fare increase out for another four increases. This would mean a small increase once a year for the next four years.
A second option is a 10 cent increase to all transbay fares, but keep San Francisco fares the same. The third option would raise all fares by five cents.
Chi Huynh, 21, an SF State senior, commutes from Berkeley to SF State five times a week and feels this is nothing more than extra money out of her pocket.
“I’ve been spending $8.10 a day for a round trip from Berkeley and it adds up having to take it out of my paycheck,” said Huynh. ”From a student’s perspective, raising BART fees is serious due to budget cuts and increase in tuition.”
The revenue raised by the fare increase will be one part of BART’s overall goal to raise $800 million, with approximately $5 million coming in over the next year alone.
“If we continue this out for another four years using regional projections for inflation, that would estimate in a 3.9 percent fare increase,” said Herhold. “If we did this 1.4 percent fare increase in 2012, and then raised your fares again by 3.9 percent in 2014, your $2.95 fare would go to $3.10.”
According to Herhold, some of these funds, if continued with implemented fare increases, could go toward paying for their share of the rail cars and rehabilitate facilities and equipment.
“Our system needs a face lift,” said Molly Burke, BART spokeswoman. “Our system is aging in terms of transit, and fare increases are going to help that.”
While not all college students look forward to an extra fare, some feel it is a necessity.
“It feels like a necessary tax for what it is intending to do,” said City College of San Francisco student Michael Tirella, 22. “It’s (BART) been around for 40 years and it’s a progressive tax.”
Despite attempts by BART to advertise meetings both online and by posting flyers at various stations, few people attended.
According to Herhold, this type of increase is part of their policy linking fares to inflation and was already approved in 2003 when the program began.
“Technically, we don’t have to go out and get public comment or board approval,” said Hurdhold. “Although, we don’t think that’s a good idea to take that approach.”
Surveys about the increase are being handed out at the meetings and all the information collected, along with online and phone-in surveys, will be compiled into a larger report before it goes for review of the board in April.