Parking will no longer be free for local BART riders beginning in January.
By a 7-2 vote, BART’s board of directors, looking to close a $53 million budget deficit, voted Thursday to charge parking fees at 10 East Bay stations, including Ashby and North Berkeley.
The board also approved shortening peak time trains and establishing a 10-cent fare surcharge. When coupled with a previously approved 3.7 percent fare increase set to take effect in January, the minimum fare will increase from $1.25 to $1.40.
Disabled and senior riders will also have to pay more. Starting in January, BART will reduce their ride discount from 75 percent to 62.5 percent of the full fare.
Beginning in 2006, BART will charge $1 parking fees at the following East Bay stations: North Berkeley, Ashby, MacArthur, Lake Merritt, Rockridge, Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek and Dublin-Pleasanton, and $5 at West Oakland.
Outlying BART stations were spared from parking fees, BART Director Bob Franklin said, in part because BART only has equipment to charge for parking at 10 stations and also because directors representing outlying areas opposed parking fees at their stations.
“It’s not fair [that some passengers will pay more], but we have a budget deficit and this is the most we can get in parking charges,” Franklin said.
Franklin predicted that if ridership remains stable at stations where the parking fees are established, directors would feel pressure to charge for parking throughout the system. Should ridership drop sharply, he said the board would likely rescind the parking fees.
Berkeley officials have been pushing for BART to charge for parking at city stations. Noting that BART reported that it costs about $1 a day to maintain parking spaces, Councilmember Kriss Worthington said free parking amounted to an unfair subsidy for drivers.
Additionally, the city contends that public agencies such as BART are subject to the city’s 10 percent parking tax, but details have not been worked out with the agency. With 1,437 parking spaces in Berkeley, if the city were to receive the tax on BART’s $1 per space fee, Berkeley would net about $40,000 a year.
The board also approved the elimination of 115 positions, 65 of which were vacant, and froze salaries for top managers. In all the cuts, trimmed BART’s budget deficit from $53 million to $23.5 million.
BART spokesperson Linton Johnson said the transit system will seek to balance its budget from savings through negotiations with its unions. The contracts for all five BART unions expire at the end of June. BART’s budget projects that union employees won’t receive pay raises for the next four years.
BART’s deficit stems mainly from falling revenues and increasing costs. While sales tax revenues and ridership (BART’s two sources of income) have dropped over the past five years, employee salaries and benefits have increased.
BART, which is not required to operate on a balanced budget, has until the end of June to finalize its budget for fiscal year 2006, which begins July 1.