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Passengers wait on the platform as a BART train arrives at the 19th Street station in Oakland, Calif. on Oct. 24, 2012. (Steve Dempsey/Staff)

Traffic jams dominated a March 5 article about "mega commuters." I was reminded how vital BART is not only for our riders, but also for all Bay Area commuters.

As a BART director since 1994, I am proud of the way we maintain our 95 percent on-time service and how we are able to keep the Bay Area moving, especially during times of crisis or closures of major roadways.

Reflecting on our booming population and slowly improving economy, the Bay Area needs to continue to prioritize transportation funding.

We came within a few tenths of a percent of approving Alameda County's Measure B1, which would have provided $7.7 billion for transportation-related projects such as road maintenance, bus and paratransit service, and bicycle access.

In 1920, the Bay Area was first introduced to the idea of a transportation tunnel under the San Francisco Bay. Even then, visionary engineers could see the potential for traffic problems given our unique geography.

Fortunately, the voters saw value in such creative transportation solutions, and in the 1950s and '60s they stepped up and funded the creation of BART. They realized that to meet future transportation needs, they had to provide the necessary dollars.

BART was engineered to last for decades and had only three lines.

Now, 40 years later, BART has expanded to five lines serving diverse communities, safely providing 400,000 trips each weekday.

Without BART, those 400,000 trips would be on our already congested roadways.


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Ridership could reach half a million before you know it.

For years, our hardworking employees have maintained and refurbished existing trains, stations and systems, but we must start replacing our aging infrastructure. We've taken the first step with the purchase of 410 new rail cars. To keep up with demand, we will need to grow our fleet to 1,000 new cars.

BART needs to secure $10 billion in funding for the highest-priority capital-renovation projects to expand capacity over the next 10 years.

Just as our original blueprint relied on the vision and support of all Bay Area residents, so will our future. The funds to take BART into the future will be a shared responsibility, with investments coming from federal, state and regional sources and measures.

The Bay Area relies on BART, whether you ride it or not. Our freeways are less congested, our air is cleaner, and BART is a vital part of our local economy.

I hope the public will continue to support BART and all public transportation in the Bay Area.

Thomas Blalock is BART director representing the 6th District.