BART SFO station

USA: The Bay Area Rapid Transit board has approved a two-year budget which maintains service levels and staffing, but it has warned that the San Francisco-centred network’s current fare-based funding model is no longer feasible.

Operating budget

BART said the $1·1bn FY25 operating budget approved on June 13 supports the continuation of ‘optimised train schedules and train lengths’.

With more people working from home and lower levels of commuting in the traditional peaks, a new timetable was introduced in September 2023 which increased evening and weekend services and reduced the longest interval between trains from 30 min to 20 min. Train lengths were also ‘right-sized’, which has reduced traction power costs by almost 20% and decreased overall fleet mileage.

The budget will continue to fund a 50% discount for low-income riders. There will be 19 additional BART Police positions once vacancies are filled, and unarmed crisis intervention specialists, ambassadors and fare inspectors will continue to ride on trains to boost BART’s visible safety presence.

The metro said the FY25 operating budget is balanced, but its FY26 operating budget faces a $35m deficit. Measures being taken to reduce this include containing discretionary expenses, a 5·5% inflation-based fare increase in January 2025 and deferring some allocations to capital projects.

‘We have a number of options still available to address the FY26 operating deficit’, said BART Assistant General Manager for Performance & Budget Pamela Herhold. ‘We’ll be working with the board throughout the coming year to chart the best course of action.’

Capital budget

The $1·2bn FY25 capital budget provides funding to install taller ticket gates to make it harder to avoid paying, as well as for escalator replacement, new rolling stock and infrastructure renewals.

The plan is designed to be a flexible, with the ability to adapt to changing priorities and project schedules

‘Outdated model’

BART said the outlook after FY26 ‘changes dramatically’.

One-off federal emergency assistance of $1·6bn has allowed BART to sustain operations since the start of the pandemic in 2020, but the last of this funding will be spent in FY25. State and regional assistance of $352m to be allocated in 2024 and 2025 will also be used to offset operating deficits.

In FY27 the deficit is projected to be $385m. BART said the ‘outdated model’ of relying on passenger fares to pay most operating costs is no longer feasible, and it will continue to advocate for permanent support ’to better match other transit systems throughout the country that receive larger amounts of public funding’.