San Francisco November 2016

San Francisco
November 2016

Ballot analysis and recommendations

Overview chevron_right Measure RR
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Measure RR

BART Bond

Keep BART Safe and Reliable 2016

Authorizes BART to issue $3.5 billion in bonds to fund system renewal projects backed by a tax on property within the three-county BART District (San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties).

Vote YES

What the Measure Would Do

Measure RR would authorize BART to issue $3.5 billion in general obligation bonds to fund core system renewal projects, including track replacement, tunnel repair and computer and electrical system upgrades to allow more frequent and reliable service. The bond would fund those renewal projects most needed to improve system performance and allow BART to plan for future capacity needs, including a second transbay rail crossing, an idea that SPUR supports.1 The system renewal plan would be implemented over the course of 21 years, from 2017 through 2038.

The bond would be backed by a tax levied on property within the three-county BART District (San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties) and would increase property taxes over a term of 30 to 48 years. BART anticipates that the average cost per household would be $35 to $55 per year, depending on the assessed value of a home.2

Measure RR would establish an independent oversight committee for the bond. This committee would review and oversee all expenditures of program funds and would report directly to the public.

Although San Mateo County has BART service and Santa Clara County will begin BART service in 2017, those parts of the system are treated differently in this bond because they are not part of the BART District.

Funds from this bond would not be spent in Santa Clara County.3 San Mateo County would recive less funding than other counties because much of its system was built as part of the San Francisco International Airport Extension in the 1990s and is not in as much need of repair.

2016 BART System Renewal Program

*Total reflects rounding.
Source: BART System Renewal Program Plan 2016.

The Backstory

The majority of the BART system was created in the early 1970s and has not been replaced in the 40 years since. Today, riders take 440,000 trips on BART each day, and ridership is at or above the system’s maximum capacity in its busiest segments. BART ridership is estimated to grow to 600,000 by 2040. Plan Bay Area also projects 250,000 new jobs (a 40 percent increase) to locate in areas adjacent to BART stations.4 Investments to increase BART’s capacity are necessary to relieve crowding and keep the system safe and reliable. Modeling suggests that BART’s system renewal program, which Measure RR would help fund, would result in 40 percent fewer delays caused by mechanical issues, a savings of 250 hours of delay each year.

Throughout the past few decades, the BART system has been extended and new stations have been added, including the extension to San Francisco International Airport and the Oakland International Airport connector. Soon, BART will be further extended via eBART in Contra Costa County and an extension to Warm Springs. All of this expansion has been happening without commensurate investments in the core system. A bias in federal funding programs for expansion versus maintenance — plus the allocation of BART revenues to growing operating costs rather than to capital needs — has resulted in a significant backlog of infrastructure overhauls crucial to keep the system in a state of good repair.

BART estimates that it would cost $9.6 billion over a 10-year period to fully complete repairs. The agency has been working to fund these system upgrades through multiple sources: its capital budget, contributions from the counties where BART operates, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and grants from other sources. Additionally, BART has a policy to apply new revenue from its every-other-year fare increases toward capital needs. To date, $4.8 billion of this $9.8 billion has been secured, leaving a $5 billion gap.5 This bond would fill a good share of that gap — $3.5 billion — and focus on the projects most needed to improve system performance.

Measure RR Funds would pay for core system renewal projects like track repair. Photo courtesy of BART

If this measure passes, it would be the third time BART has issued general obligation bonds. The first was a $792 million bond to build the original system in 1962. The second was for the $980 million Earthquake Safety Program in 2004, of which 58 percent of bond funds have been spent. BART has also been funded by three-quarters of a half-cent sales tax in three counties since 1970.

This measure was placed on the ballot by the BART Board of Directors. It must receive two-thirds of all votes in the three-county BART District (Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties) to pass.

Pros

  • Investment in BART safety, reliability and capacity would shore up the foundation of the Bay Area’s regional transportation infrastructure. BART service is essential to keeping people moving between their homes, jobs, schools and events, particularly for households without access to a car. The availability of BART creates space on roads and highways and enables employment centers to thrive.

  • BART is a sustainable transit system; growing BART usage is a way to reduce our energy and climate impacts from transportation. The availability of BART service makes compact, walkable neighborhoods possible, supporting the Bay Area’s livability and sustainability goals.

  • Improving BART service benefits everyone who lives in the Bay Area. BART’s ridership very closely resembles the population of the Bay Area as a whole: The system serves residents across all racial, ethnic and income groups. People who don’t use the BART system benefit from the reduced traffic and reduced air pollution that improved BART service makes possible.

  • This bond includes funding to plan capacity projects, including a second transbay rail crossing, an essential piece of the Bay Area’s future transit network that we must begin planning now. A new transbay rail link could better connect existing BART lines or might add new rail passenger connections between growing communities on both sides of the Bay.

Cons

  • The bond would not generate enough revenue to address all of the core service needs identified in BART’s capital improvement plan. A bigger bond may have been possible and could have funded more of the system’s critical needs.

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SPUR’S Recommendation

The need to fix the BART system is urgent. Hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents rely on BART to get to jobs, schools and events and to otherwise conduct their lives. Meanwhile the system is deteriorating daily. BART is central to the mobility, economic health and sustainability of the entire region, and ensuring that it performs well into the future, as our region grows, should be a top priority.

The BART system benefits everyone who lives in the Bay Area — not just those who ride it — and therefore a general obligation bond financed by property tax increases is a reasonable approach to financing system improvements. A larger bond that paid for more of the system’s needs would have been our preference, but this bond is a step forward and focuses on the right priorities.

1 Ratna Amin and Brian Stokle, Designing the Bay Area’s Second Transbay Rail Crossing (SPUR, 2016)

2 BART anticipates that the bond would cost anywhere from 80 cents to $17.49 per $100,000 of assessed value of property over the life of the bond. The average rate, according to modeling, would be approximately $8.98 per year per $100,000 of assessed value.

3 The San Mateo County extension is now owned and operated by the BART District, but San Mateo County is not part of the BART District. BART charges a surcharge on the San Mateo County extension, which helps to pay for its capital needs. Santa Clara County will pay the BART District for operation and maintenance of the Santa Clara County BART extension (also known as BART Silicon Valley).

4 Building a Better BART: The Future of the Bay Area’s Rapid Transit System, July 2014

5 2015 BART Short Range Transit Plan

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