Is Bay Area Rapid Transit considering cutting weekend service? Not so fast, says the transit agency’s Board President Rebecca Saltzman.
Following reports that a worst-case-scenario fiscal crisis could mean the end of weekend service on BART, among other cutbacks, Saltzman took to Twitter this week to push back.
Saltzman said that while the agency is facing a serious fiscal crisis—exacerbated by a steep drop in ridership during the pandemic—its experts found that cutting service won’t help.
Instead, the agency says it plans to keep its current service intact and is even considering adding trains if demand increases.
The agency is expected to be in the red for years, relying on federal assistance to balance its operating budget as ridership makes an achingly slow comeback. BART ridership is still well under half of what it was in 2018.
“We have a few years, but in a few years if we don't find more revenue, we’re going to have a problem,” Saltzman said.
So what led the agency to look at cutting service in the first place?
It’s because of a process mandated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a regional agency that oversees all the transit agencies in the Bay Area. BART and other local transit agencies were required to write plans for three ridership scenarios to see what effect service cuts could have.
The Mercury News obtained a copy of the plans and reported the possibility of cuts at BART and other transit agencies. But the agency concluded that steep service cuts would lead to a further drop in ridership and a fiscal "death spiral," said Saltzman.
“I think this exercise shows that cutting service is not the way to deal with the crisis BART and other transit agencies are facing,” Saltzman said.
Saltzman said the agency will look to the state to help plug its budget gap in the interim while it plans for a new transit tax to fund the agency in the long term.
The bottom line? Yes, BART is facing a fiscal cliff, Saltzman says, but cutting weekends—which would cut ridership—would only make the problem worse.