There wasn’t a lot rapid in BART this week (March 14) as the region’s largest mass transit system suffered through a series of crippling mechanical and electrical problems that disrupted the commute for thousands of Bay Area workers and residents. The problems are only going to get worse without significant investment in a system that is among the oldest of its kind in the nation. BART is operating on infrastructure that is nearing or long past its useful life expectancy. Even finding replacement parts to make patchwork repairs has become increasingly difficult.

As a leading force behind the creation of BART in the 1940s and 50s, the Bay Area Council is actively engaged in the critical work of preparing a campaign to pass a proposed November ballot measure that would raise an estimated $3.5 billion to begin bringing the system into a state of good repair. Unfortunately, a serious wrinkle emerged recently when State Senator Steve Glazer of Walnut Creek led a group of other East Bay elected officials in announcing their intention to oppose the measure unless BART and its employee unions agree to reopen and make significant changes to labor contracts approved in 2013 following months of contentious negotiations and worker strikes that twice shut down the system for four days. Sen. Glazer was elected on a platform of controlling BART costs and blocking worker strikes.

The Council wholeheartedly agrees that BART needs to do a much better job of managing costs, but strongly disagrees that risking the success of a measure designed to ensure the safety and reliability of an aging system serving 440,000 riders every day is the responsible approach. The Council was on the front lines three years ago opposing BART strikes and advocating for prioritizing the system’s desperate infrastructure needs. Addressing BART’s labor agreement should be handled separately when it expires in 2017. As the BART Board of Directors eyes a decision in the coming months on whether to move ahead with the ballot measure, the Council is urging Sen. Glazer and other elected leaders to support a measure that puts the system’s future safety and reliability first. To engage in our transportation policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

(Photo: San Francisco Chronicle)

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