Keep BART safe and reliable

  • by By Rebecca Saltzman and Tom Radulovich
  • Wednesday August 31, 2016
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A BART car prepares to leave the Oakland Coliseum<br>Station. Photo: Courtesy BART
A BART car prepares to leave the Oakland Coliseum
Station. Photo: Courtesy BART

As the Bay Area has grown, so has BART ridership. If you graph BART ridership numbers and the growth in regional jobs and population over the past four decades, you'll see that they track in virtual alignment. This tells us two things: one, BART is essential to the health of our region - it connects workers to jobs and helps to relieve regional traffic congestion. And two, as the Bay Area continues to rapidly grow, the time to act is now if BART is to remain a safe and reliable transportation system that keeps the Bay Area moving.

After 44 years of service and tens of millions of trips, the core elements that keep the BART system running have reached their limit. Over the years, BART has aggressively used operating funds from the fare box to help pay for improvements. Several years ago the BART board pledged all new revenue from fare increases to core capital needs, and over the past four years we have more than doubled the percentage of our capital budget spent on system reinvestment, including new train cars, track repairs, and modernized stations.

But the cost of completely rebuilding BART's core systems to modern standards requires billions, not millions. Measure RR on the November ballot must pass for BART to continue providing the safe, reliable, and high-quality system the Bay Area requires.

Measure RR invests $3.5 billion into core infrastructure. It addresses critical issues such as replacing 90 miles of worn-down rails, modernizing the 1960s-era train control system technology, repairing tunnel walls damaged by water intrusion, and overhauling the aging electrical system. Funds will also go towards ensuring rider safety by repairing tracks in BART tunnels that have been misaligned by creeping earthquake faults. We must keep those sections of track safe in the event of an earthquake.

BART has no higher responsibility than to keep its riders safe, which is why these upgrades focus on core infrastructure. But Measure RR funded improvements will also increase capacity, by allowing trains to run more frequently.

If Measure RR is approved, BART will be able to move 25 percent more trains through the Transbay Tube during peak hours. With ridership projected to increase 75 percent by 2040, it is critical we act now to meet the demands of the future. Whether you drive a car, ride a bike, or take the bus, Measure RR will be a benefit to you - more people opting to BART to their destination relieves pressure on the Bay Area's traffic-congested highways. Additionally, fewer cars on the road due to more BART riders is a boon for the environment, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution throughout the region.

BART has a strong track record with bond funds and has saved taxpayers millions through active management and strategic refinancing of infrastructure bond debt. Measure RR has strong accountability safeguards as well. All funds must be used on critical safety infrastructure. An oversight committee made up of transportation safety experts, auditors and good government watchdogs is required by law to ensure the bond funds are spent correctly.

As BART directors and regular BART riders, we hear from constituents about how BART should improve. BART riders want fast, frequent, reliable service, and BART can improve service if Measure RR is approved. The time to act is now - we can no longer afford to wait to repair BART.

Measure RR has been analyzed by transportation safety experts at UC Berkeley, the Bay Area League of Women voters and thousands of community leaders across the Bay Area. They all endorse Measure RR because it is a common-sense, straightforward approach that focuses on the core infrastructure of the BART system.

Vote yes on Measure RR to relieve traffic, improve reliability, and help ensure rider safety for generations to come. 

Rebecca Saltzman holds the District 3 seat representing parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties on the BART Board of Directors, while Tom Radulovich holds the BART board's District 9 seat representing parts of San Francisco.