OAKLAND -- BART board members and their families enjoy free transit passes for life, the most generous perk among seven large Bay Area transit agencies.

On Thursday, the board will consider adding a restriction requiring retired board members to have served 10 years or more in office before they can get the lifetime privileges.

Board President Joel Keller said he proposed the change as a modest starting point to help bring BART benefits more in line with those at other agencies.

"Currently, if you're on the board for one day, you continue to get the free pass privilege when you leave BART," said Keller, a Brentwood resident. "I think it's reasonable to require 10 years of service."

Commuters wait for a train at the South Hayward BART station in Hayward on March 5, 2014. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)
Commuters wait for a train at the South Hayward BART station in Hayward on March 5, 2014. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

The passes are smart transit cards good for travel on BART, but not on other transit systems.

In a survey of seven Bay Area transit agencies last year, BART was the only one that gave free lifetime pass privileges to board members and their dependents. Other agencies either didn't offer the perk to board members, or ended it when directors left office.

Retired BART workers also enjoy the free passes for life, a perk that is common in many other transit agencies, but ending that benefit would require a negotiated change in employee contracts.

The issue was not raised in last year's difficult contract talks, which led to two BART strikes.

Changing the perk for board members requires no such contract negotiation.


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BART Director Zakhary Mallett said Keller's proposal is far too weak in shrinking an overly generous benefit. "It's whimsical," Mallett said. "It's not aggressive enough."

Mallett said he favors ending free pass privileges for both retired board members and retired transit workers. Keller said he would be willing to consider tighter restrictions on the board passes, but he doesn't know if he has board backing for broader changes.

"If the majority supports it, I will gladly support narrowing the criteria even more," Keller said. "Putting this on the agenda is a way to have the discussion."

The board meets at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.