BART considers cutting weekend service amid low ridership


The Bay Area’s largest transit agency is considering drastic measures to replace its funding model — such as cutting weekend service — as it attempts to resolve the financial instability spurred by the pandemic.

BART is looking ahead to 2025, when the agency is expected to fully exhaust the $1.6 billion in federal assistance it received to remain afloat during the pandemic. The funding model for BART before the pandemic relied mostly on farebox recovery, which amounted to about 70% of its overall funding. 

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the agency responsible for regional transportation planning and financing, ordered BART and the other regional transit agencies to prepare a five-year transit plan.

MTC asked the agencies to create three scenarios for the near future: what would happen if ridership returned to its pre-pandemic levels, what would happen if there was “some progress” for ridership, and what would happen if ridership remained stagnant and the federal funds run out. 

The worst-case scenario describes a future where BART needs to close a $233 million average annual gap. To address this deficit, BART’s plan includes service only on weekdays between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. and operating on three lines running once an hour. Moreover, the yellow line service would terminate at Pittsburg/Bay Point Station and nine stations would close. BART did not declare which stations could shutter. 
The BART Board of Directors is set to hear this plan in their upcoming Dec. 1 board meeting

The East Bay Times first reported on these transit plans following a public records request.

A graph from BART’s Ridership and Financial Outlook report depicts the struggles it’s having with ridership. 

Courtesy of BART

BART spokesperson James Allison told SFGATE that these projections are under consideration but the agency is actively seeking solutions that do not include service cuts.

“We strongly feel that you cannot cut service to the point of a diminishing return. You might cut service so much that you might not serve people who want to take BART, and that leaves money on the table and will only cost you more. That’s what we call a death spiral,” he said. 

“We’re in a sensitive part of the process. There has to be a steady, dedicated funding source which could mean something like a tax measure or general bond. Or something from Sacramento to create a funding stream.”

Allison commended the East Bay Times for its reporting and noted how BART impacts the entire Bay Area, even for residents who do not ride public transportation. 

“Even people who don’t use BART benefit from it because it keeps vehicles off highways and reduces carbon in the atmosphere,” he said. “There are members in the general public who might not think about that.”

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