By Nick Josefowitz and Alexander Mullaney
Next month, your ballot will include Measure RR — a $3.5 billion bond measure to pay for essential infrastructure investment for BART, critical to keep the public transit service safe and reliable after 44 years of operation. Measure RR will allow BART to replace over 90 miles of old rails, upgrade its 1960s train-control system, repair aging tunnels, enhance existing stations and more. This will be the first time BART has asked the voters to fund a major reinvestment program in its core system since service began in 1972.
This bond measure represents the culmination of over a decade of hard work by a new generation of BART leadership, with a deep and sustained commitment to reinvesting in the core system. Inheriting an aging system, the first order of business was to replace all of BART’s fleet, and the brand new trains will start arriving early next year. Next, BART transformed how it does maintenance by focusing on proactively fixing problems before they occur. The implementation of this simple sounding maintenance practice has nearly doubled the number of miles each train car can travel before it experiences a breakdown, and allowed BART to have the lowest proportion of its fleet in the maintenance yards every morning than any other subway system in the country.
BART is also doing its work more cost-effectively. BART now has both the lowest operating cost per passenger mile and the lowest proportion of its operating cost paid for by government subsidy of any major U.S. transit system. Indeed, its operating cost per passenger mile is lower than it was in 2004, when adjusted for inflation.
After a decade of turnaround, BART is now in a position to make the major investments in its core system infrastructure, to keep BART safe and reliable.
Rebuilding BART’s core systems doesn’t just ensure BART’s ongoing safety and reliability — it also allows BART to significantly increase capacity. Power upgrades and a modern train control system will allow BART to run more trains faster and closer together, accommodating nearly 200,000 additional daily riders. This additional capacity is more than the daily ridership of Muni Metro and would represent the single largest increase in public transit capacity in the history of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Equally important, these investments make sense for those who rarely or never ride BART, such as car commuters or bus riders. When BART doesn’t function or doesn’t keep up with the Bay Area’s growth, more cars funnel onto already congested streets and highways. Indeed, studies have shown that, in the absence of BART, commute times along some of the Bay Area’s busiest highways would triple from already long waits. Furthermore, increasing BART’s ridership — especially given its recently initiated plan to power itself with 100 percent renewables — is critical to keeping or air clean and our city on track to meet our ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals.
This proposed investment in BART’s safety, reliability, and capacity is particularly important to the communities surrounding the Balboa Park Station. We need BART functioning at peak capacity to alleviate the crowding and congestion on Muni and our roads, especially given the exciting growth of City College, the spectacular renovation of the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse, and the continued revitalization of Ocean Avenue. The BART Bond will help accelerate the completion of the station renovation, extending to the south side of Geneva Avenue, and make meaningful improvements to circulation and pedestrian safety around the perimeter of the station.
Today, BART stands at the edge of a precipice. BART riders and the Bay Area as a whole cannot risk another decade relying on the current aging and inefficient systems. Without meaningful investment, declining reliability and capacity constraints will undermine our sustainability goals, increase roadway congestion, and disrupt access to jobs and services across the income spectrum.
Ingleside and Excelsior residents have more stake in a functioning BART system than ever before. The time has come to rebuild BART from the ground up. Make it happen by voting yes on Measure RR on Nov. 8.
Nick Josefowitz represents BART District 8. Alexander Mullaney, publisher of The Ingleside-Excelsior Light, chairs the Balboa Park Station Community Advisory Committee.