BART in Distress

BART’s Board of Directors faces major financial and administrative challenges.

According to the 2018-19 Alameda County Civil Grand Jury Report:  “Violent crime on BART, including robberies and aggravated assaults, increased by 115% over the last five years…. Rider satisfaction with BART fell from a high of 84% in 2012 to a low of 56% in 2018…. Since at least 2012, cleanliness has been a top concern for riders who responded to the survey.

The Grand Jury report continued: “Respondents  cite ‘personal security in BART system’ as the second largest service rating decline…, just after fare evasion. Lack of visible police presence on trains and in stations has long been a concern of riders … News reports of the three homicides in July 2018 and a video in October 2018 of a man swinging two chain saws while riding BART reinforced worries among Bay Area residents about their safety on BART.

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Caltrain Success Story

Every now and then BATWG singles out a transit operation that we regard as particularly successful.

Caltrain definitely fits into that category. Between 2000 and 2019, Caltrain’s ridership soared from 29,728 riders a day to 63,597 riders a day, an increase of an extraordinary 114%. (Since last March, the pandemic has radically reduced these numbers as it has for transit operations around the world, but this does not detract from the past success of the Caltrain operation or for its potential for even greater success in the future.

In large part, this increase in Caltrain popularity and usability was because of the Caltrain Peninsula Joint Powers Board’s popular Baby Bullet program which was introduced in 2004. By skipping some stops, the Baby Bullet trains provide both faster service for longer distance travelers, and good local service for shorter distance travelers. By 2019 Caltrain was operating 92 weekday trains with 22 of those being Baby Bullet trains.

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DTX:  A Planner’s Playground

For several years, the California High Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain have been working on a Joint Operating and Maintenance Plan (JOMP.)

Thanks to the 6 years of unnecessary DTX delay and uncertainty caused by the Lee Administration, the SF Department of City Planning and the SFCounty Transportation Authority, the DTX Caltrain Extension probably didn’t get the JOMP attention it deserved.  Still, much of the work already accomplished by Caltrain and the HSRA should also apply to the Extension.

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Is SFMTA’s Aversion to EnRoute Coupling Crippling Muni Metro?

The original Muni Metro, designed by the Louis T. Klauder Company fed the J, K, L, M and N lines into the Twin Peaks and Duboce Tunnels and then into the Market Street subway. This arrangement allowed every Muni Metro rider to reach downtown San Francisco without having to transfer. To make this work, the one and two car trains operating along the Avenues were coupled into longer trains at the two portals

But the Muni subsequently had trouble making the couplings work and rather than fixing the problem, in the mid 1990’s it threw in the towel and abandoned coupling entirely.

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SMART’s Problems Get Worse

Ever since its passenger rail service began in 2017, SMART has proven to be an extraordinarily expensive operation. The FY20-21 Budget was based upon a projected fare and parking revenue of $2.66 million an annual ridership of 475,000 and a projected annual operating cost of $31.38 million. In other words it was anticipated that every one-way trip would cost SMART $66 and that since fares were projected to average only $5.53 per trip, the taxpayers were to be saddled with paying the other $60.47 per trip.

Thanks to COVID-19, since the FY20-21 Budget was prepared the situation has gotten dramatically worse.

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