Planning for a better BART, rain or shine

Joël Ramos Headshot

Winter is coming, and with luck, the predictions of a strong El Niño year will come true and end our multi-year drought. Those rainy days are notorious for causing morning slowdowns on Bay Area roads – but not on BART.

Contrary to popular belief, rain alone doesn’t cause BART delays. But outdated infrastructure sure does.

One of the most critical components of the BART system is electricity – and after 43 years, BART’s electrical equipment is vulnerable to the weather. Wear on old cables can expose electrical wires to the elements, causing shorts. Leaking tunnels (yes, the tunnels in San Francisco leak!) can flood train control equipment.  Downpours have caused entire electrical substations to go down.  And when the power goes out…BART stops.

The good news is that BART has made electrical upgrades a top priority for maintenance in the years to come. But the electrical work BART needs will cost $1.2 billion – that’s billion with a “B.” And that doesn’t even count the $500 million needed to repair the leaky tunnels, or $650 million to continue replacing old tracks like the decaying rails in Oakland that were fixed this summer.

BART needs funding to catch up with decades of deferred maintenance and get its core service back on track. That’s why we’ve been advocating for the BART Board to go big on the 2016 ballot and Save BART! And hundreds of BART riders have been sending emails to the Board in agreement.

Buoyed in part by our efforts, BART is working on an ambitious 2016 funding measure focused on repairs. At a recent meeting with key stakeholders, BART staff shared their plan for how they’d use a $3 billion measure to get the Bay Area’s core train service back on track. 

Top of the list is $2.5 billion in repairs, to take care of the electrical problems, decrepit rails, leaky tunnels, and mechanical failures that cause safety concerns and service disruptions. They’d also dedicate $400 million to reduce overcrowding and traffic, and another $350 million to improve safety and access to BART stations.

We’re thrilled to see a plan that would invest in the things BART – and the Bay Area – need the most.  With these kinds of improvements, BART would do a much better job of serving its 430,000 daily riders, and prepare for that number to keep growing larger.

But the BART Board needs to know that we’ll be with them at the ballot box.  Winning 66.7% of the vote will be no small feat, so they will be looking to strike the balance between going big and gaining voters’ approval. We will have an important role to play in educating our friends, neighbors, and colleagues about BART’s nearly $4.8 billion backlog of repairs to help pass the measure and close the gap.

Rain or shine, BART should be able to get you where you need to go.  We have the power to help the BART Board to go big in 2016 to keep BART safe, frequent, reliable, and affordable for everyone in the Bay Area.

Are you ready to help Save BART?  Send an email to the BART Board pledging your support for a big ballot measure in 2016!



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