Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sign of the times

The fiscal swine-flu is continuing to spread throughout the Bay Area and beyond. A day after the Caltrain public meetings where riders overwhelmingly voiced opposition to the weekend train shutdown, the BART board approved a series of fare and parking fee increases to try to eliminate the $54 million budget shortfall.

BART already scheduled to increase its fares by next January to keep up with cost-of-living increases, but the drop in sales tax revenue has prompted the agency to increase the fares six months earlier in July.

Along with other fare increases, BART also raised its SFO fare surcharge from $1.50 to $4.00. That surcharge would apply to the fare between Millbrae and SFO, which charges only $1.50 since the opening of the line in 2003. It is ironic since BART once promised free train service between Millbrae and SFO, and the fact that it replaced the free shuttle between Caltrain and the airport.

Also on the table is to reduce the night and Sunday service from every 15 minutes to 20 minutes, which was the original frequency before the improvement last year. In addition, BART also plans to cut one of the two lines on the SFO extension on nights and weekends, which would restore direct service between the SFO and Millbrae.

A $4 airport premium may not be much for travelers, but it is quite a burden for employees working at the airport. Also, a $4 fare for one station ride between Millbrae and the airport is excessive. Fortunately Caltrain riders can transfer to SamTrans buses to the airport faster for less money.

12 comments:

arcady said...

The $4 fare from Millbrae to SF is absurd. For that kind of money there had better be direct service. As for the airport employees, in NYC for example the monthly pass for the JFK Airtrain has huge discount off the $5 fare, because it's fairly unlikely that someone other than an employee would make even 6 round trips to the airport in a month, which makes for very effective price discrimination. Of course BART is opposed to monthly passes in principle, practically the only transit authority I can think of that does so.

accountablevta said...

A problem is how you could implement a pass just for that station, since BART charges different fares if you board at different stations. (unlike the New York Airtrain where you have to pay separately).

arcady said...

Easily. Make the pass a stored value card in addition to a pass. Charge $40 per month or something, and it gives you $4 off the fare if you're getting on or off at the airport. But to actually use it, you need to load it with money, and it otherwise works just like a regular BART ticket. Now this might be impossible for technical reasons with the existing farecard system, but what about Translink? And really, in the longer term, BART really needs to consider monthly passes, because, well, every other system in the world has them.

accountablevta said...

That is what I was thinking about...

BART does have its own smartcard system (EZ-rider) so BART does not have to wait for Translink.

Anonymous said...

This "gouge the airport user" approach to transit to the airport started in New York, where the Port Authority's Airtrain is a rip-off for transit riders. 5.5 years ago, this story was picked up by AM New York transit columnist Joe
Rappaport, who correctly pointed out that the fare for passengers
traveling to JFK Airport via the A train Howard Beach connection will
increase by 286%, from $2.00 to $7.00. Meanwhile, residents and
visitors to cities such as Atlanta, Chicago and Cleveland get a one-seat train ride from the airport to the center of town for a
regular transit fare. Likewise, the BART fares are a ripoff and will do noting to encourage transit use.

Increasing the SFO fare surcharge is the wrong way to go. Why is it necessary to penalize people just because they're going to the airport? Why not a surcharge to visit Fremont, Oakland or San Francisco? The current $1.50 airport supplement is bad enough; BART just made it worse.

The fair thing to do is increase all BART fares by the same percentage across the system, rounding to the nearest quarter. Don't single out airport workers and passengers for extra pain.

BART sould charge an equitable fare for all BART passengers, regardless of destination.

arcady said...

Anonymous: The main difference is whether the airport authority is involved. In NY, the $5 is charged not by NYC Transit (at JFK) or NJ Transit (at EWR) but rather by the Port Authority. At SFO, BART actually has to pay rent to the airport for the use of their station. I'm pretty sure SFO also collects money from private bus and taxi operators who pick up passengers there.

accountablevta said...

Airport transportation is actually one of the few areas where the market demand can command premium fares. That's why taxi drivers like airport trips, where door-to-door shuttles operate, and where private buses serve.

SFO issues permits to vehicles that can serve the airport, and charge these vehicles (including the private remote parking lot shuttles) too. BART has to pay rent to the airport.

Airports have always been about making money. That's why the whole thing about the people mover at San Jose Airport is a big lie. VTA has no money to build it and the airport will lose money by operating it. The current buses at least provide a reasonable transportation for employees and those on the budget that can't afford anything else.

arcady said...

Do you know who pays for the current SJC airport service on the VTA #10 bus? Is it VTA, or the airport, or some combination of the two? Or something else entirely?

accountablevta said...

The Airport does contribute to the operation of that line. That's why the line is free.

arcady said...

By the way, if anyone actually does try taking Caltrain to Samtrans to the airport: note that you have to make the connection at Burlingame rather than Millbrae. Transfer to the 292 bus, which runs on California Dr in front of the train station. The connection takes between 12 and 20 minutes, depending on traffic conditions and which terminal you're going to. Note that on weekends, the bus is timed to just miss the connection with Caltrain at Burlingame, as a result of which you have to wait about 25 minutes, which isn't too bad compared to a 7 or 14 minute wait for BART, 8 minutes more on Caltrain, and much more schlepping of your suitcases from Caltrain to BART to another BART to the AirTrain.

accountablevta said...

There's still the option to transfer to the KX in San Carlos, but after looking the schedule, it seems hit or miss at times.

Angila Herose said...
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