Monday, July 25, 2005

SamTrans set hearings to consider weekend closure of two Peninsula BART stations

SamTrans, the agencies that financially supports the BART line south of Daly City, is proposing to close South San Francisco and San Bruno stations on weekends to reduce costs. In addition, SamTrans is planning to further increase the fares between San Mateo County stations (except Millbrae) and SFO by $1, beyond what the BART board of directors has approved.

Eliminating service to station is similar to the Caltrain's new operating plan to be implemented on August 1. Under Caltrain's plan, Broadway and Atherton stations will lose weekday service but will retain weekend service.

SamTrans cites low ridership and high costs as reasons to eliminate service at these two stations on weekends. SamTrans plans to reduce and hopefully eliminate operating subsidies in the next few years. Before the extension was opened, SamTrans actually had operating "surpluses" from Daly City and Colma stations.

Why was SamTrans able to have negative operating subsides before the BART extension to SFO and Millbrae opened? The reason is SamTrans gets to collect the total fare from all passengers riding to and form San Mateo County, but is charged for incremental operating costs within San Mateo County. For example, for a trip between South San Francisco and Embarcadero, SamTrans gets to collect the entire fare of $2.95, despite the fact that only a fraction of the trip mile is made in SamTrans-funded San Mateo County.

The likely argument for this type of accounting is that the BART district is not operating any more trains within its own district than it would have without the extension, and that San Mateo County riders are just using the excess capacity.

Although not specifically mentioned, Caltrain is also using the same type of accounting to support the service to Gilroy (page 29) , which still presented a high farebox recovery despite large ridership drops due to the bad economy and the widened US 101.

The amazing thing is that even with the "special" accounting applied to the BART-SFO extension, the line has far fewer riders and still requires large operating subsidies.

Is this a future for VTA?

1 comment:

Jamison said...

I just don't understand why Caltrain and ACE seem to be completely overlooked in the rush to build more BART.

Maybe it's those sleek trains BART has or maybe there's just lure to having a subway that says "we're a real city now!", but building a single BART line to San Jose would only serve riders who live or work directly along the corridor while already Caltrain and ACE provide rail service through two different corridors and the BART route could be instead serviced by an upgraded Amtrak Capitol Corridor with service closer to BART levels.

If California High Speed Rail comes through the east bay and down to San Jose, the east bay corridor (either the existing capitol corridor or a new one) would need to be built with grade separations that put it either above or below ground anyway, so why not build a rail corridor that can be used both by the bullet trains along with commuter rail service?

BART is going to be expensive and ridership levels might not be high enough to make it cost effective, but what might be worse is that San Jose and other cities along the proposed BART route aren't doing anything to build up density along that corridor to ensure there will be businesses there to commute too.

I'm sorry if this comments is kind of meandering, you brought up quite a few issues and I've got a lot of thoughts on the matter.