January 14, 1995
BART Board of Directors
800 Madison Street
Oakland, California 94607
Re: Proposed Fare Increase
I would like to see BART fulfill its potential to improve the environment of the Bay Area. I say "potential", because it is so far mostly unfulfilled. The world's environmental problems are so huge that they cannot be solved without everyone doing their part. You are not doing everything you can (who is?).
Do not increase fares! The air quality of the Bay Area (and many other quality-of-life dimensions) benefits greatly when people use BART instead of driving. We need the incentive that low fares provide. And we also benefit as a community when we provide basic needs (such as food, medical care, shelter, libraries, and travel) for the poor, instead of abandoning them to a life of crime and homelessness.
On the other hand, subsidizing the rich does not benefit the community! That is what you are doing by providing free parking spaces (worth up to $26,000, I am told) to people who drive to BART. You are literally throwing away public resources (the potential parking charges) in your unseemly scramble to cater to these freeloaders. Equally important, you are subsidizing damage to the environment, by making it easier to drive and easier to live an energy-intensive, suburban lifestyle. Let the car owners walk or bus to BART, as I and other environmentally responsible people do.
Parking charges should pay all of the expenses for the operation of the spaces, including the elevators, extra police protection, cleaning, parking charge collection, and parking restriction enforcement. But they should also include the amortized cost of the construction over 20 years. I say 20 years, because by that time we will have realized that we are running out of oil, and we will want to tear down those unnecessary parking structures in order to make better use of that real estate. (Senior housing and conference centers are far more appropriate and productive uses, as well as more lucrative investments for public funds.)
I was shocked to hear in your Berkeley meeting that you subsidize suburban living in another way also: your per-mile fare rates decrease as you travel away from the city centers! This should be fixed immediately! I can't imagine any good reason for subsidizing long-distance travel at the expense of inner-city residents, especially when it is the latter who are living a more environmentally responsible lifestyle. The per-mile rates should actually increase the farther you travel from the city centers.
You obviously didn't plan to have the number of riders you have today, because the number of bathrooms (only 2 individual rooms per station) is completelly inadequate. The same goes for the number of benches, gates, ticket machines, bike lockers, etc. When a bathroom is being cleaned (sometimes both at the same time, and often during the busiest time of day), that becomes a real hardship.
You should do more to facilitate use of BART by bicyclists. The bicycle rules are unnecessary and discriminatory (you don't apply them to baby carriages, shopping carts, etc.).
Your smoking regulations are way behind the times. There should be no smoking on any BART property, because I am forced to go there in order to travel. For example, everyone has to pass a gauntlet of smokers just to enter the Rockridge station, which is an almost fully enclosed room! You don't even enforce the rules that you have. For example, you allow a flower vendor to smoke in an open flower shop that is completely inside the Walnut Creek station! What is that shop doing there, anyway? We need bathrooms there, not flowers and cigarette smoke.
By the way, what happened with your recent passenger surveys? To my knowledge, not a single one of my suggestions was implemented. That must be hard on morale, when you ask your employees to gather input from the public and then ignore it. I suppose you will ignore these also.
The bottom line, on the fare increase, is that your option F (no fare increases, and parking charges adequate to make up the difference) is the only one that makes any sense.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D. for:
Alliance for a Paving Moratorium
Auto-Free Bay Area
Modern Transit Society
World Without Cars