BART will look into possibly raising fares and parking fees and reducing service to cope with a big budget deficit.
Under normal circumstances, BART would wait a year to raise fares in January 2010, in keeping with a board policy for automatic increases every other year by an amount tied to the inflation rate.
But in a report to be discussed by the BART board Thursday, transit managers will present a range of options for midyear fare increases — one as much as 10 percent — to cope with a projected budget deficit of $35 million in the current budget year, and a bigger one of $55 million or more in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
BART officials blame their predicament on the sagging economy, depressed sales tax, slowing transit ridership growth and state diversions of transit funds.
While BART managers do not recommend a fare increase now, they listed several revenue-increasing and cost-cutting options to prepare the board for a discussion on closing the deficit.
"Everything is on the table," said BART spokesman Linton Johnson
BART could raise fares 5.5 percent or 10 percent, or tack on an extra nickel or dime on all trips, managers say in the report.
A one-way BART ticket from Pleasant Hill to San Francisco now costs $4.65, and from Hayward to the Embarcadero station $4.30.
The fare options would raise between $4 million and $14 million a year, depending on which option was picked.
Under an option to raise parking fees, BART would double the charge from $1 to $2 a day to park at many suburban stations such as Walnut Creek, Orinda, Fremont, North Berkeley and Dublin-Pleasanton. That measure would raise an extra $3 million a year.
Under other options, BART would start charging $1 to park at stations on weekends or after 3 p.m. on weekdays. Parking is now free during those times.
Board President Thomas Blalock, of Fremont, said Monday that he's cool to the idea of raising fares or parking fees. "I'm very reluctant to approve higher fares that take another bite out of suburban riders' pocketbook," he said, "but I'll listen to what staff has to say."
BART Director Gail Murray, of Walnut Creek, also said she doesn't like raising fares, but is open to a staff recommendation to cut back weeknight and Sunday service from 15-minute to 20-minute intervals between trains. "I don't ever like to cut service, but I'd rather run fewer trains in our peak period rather than increase fares."
BART managers also floated a proposal to wrap paid advertising around the outside of train cars, turning BART trains into billboards on wheels. This option could raise $500,000 a year, BART managers say in their report.
Reach Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.