The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, which recently has backed bonds and tax increases to generate more funding, handed out nearly $3.5 million worth of free rides to 17,000 workers, their families and law enforcement officers last year, San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross reported.
“If you are a system that is constantly struggling to balance the budget year after year – and you are looking at budget deficits for years to come – you have to start cutting expenses,” BART board member Debora Allen told the columnists. Ms. Allen has called for a full accounting of the free pass policy.
BART gives free passes to its 13,000 employees, former employees and board members, along with their immediate family members, as well as to approximately 4,000 local, state and federal law enforcement officers. This has been BART’s policy since the system’s launch in 1972.
Mr. Matier and Mr. Ross wrote:
“In all, the 17,266 pass holders took 895,187 free rides on the system last year – or an average of 26 round trips annually per person, according to BART records provided to us under a state Public Records Act request. At an average cost of $7.80 per round trip, that works out to a $200 yearly perk per pass holder on average. Records show that BART’s 3,615 active employees took the greatest advantage of the free rides, averaging 52 round trips apiece last year. Retired employees took an average of eight free round trips. … BART spokesman Jim Allison said the free passes don’t cost the system anything, because the cost of running trains would be the same with or without the free rides.”
The free passes for employees and their families are perks that were negotiated by the employees’ union, and cannot be taken away without further negotiation. The union has indicated that it will not give up the perk without receiving something else in return. The next contract negotiations are scheduled for 2021. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle, September 6.)