After three years of budget slashing, BART has proposed a budget with more spending for the next fiscal year -- including money to get cars and seats cleaner and trains to run quieter.
However, BART officials cautioned that they may not be able to do as much as they want if lawmakers negotiating a state budget take away some or all of the $15.7 million in state money due the transit system.
"We have proposed to make a substantial investment in what the interior of our train cars look like and smell like," Paul Oversier, BART assistant general manager for operations, told the transit board Thursday during presentation on the proposed budget. The fiscal year starts July 1.
Budget makers proposed $612.4 million in spending on operations, up 4 percent -- or $23.7 million -- from the current year. The proposal calls for spending $10 million to $28 million for improvements such as hiring 15 temporary car cleaners and regularly replacing all of BART's wool fabric seat covers at least once every three years.
A survey of riders found dissatisfaction with car and station cleanliness. Compounding the problem, BART train station cleaners have a high absentee rate.
To deal with that problem, BART proposes a $300,000 attendance management program aimed at increasing attendance through a mix of incentives, counseling and penalties.
"It's a more holistic approach to attendance management than just the stick," Oversier said.
When asked why BART doesn't hire more station cleaners, Oversier said management wants to address the "extraordinary" rate of absenteeism before considering whether to add permanent cleaners.
BART also proposes to devote $1.7 million to rail maintenance and shop equipment to reduce the loud grinding noises caused by trains riding on rails with rough spots. The district also proposes to spend $4.2 million to rehabilitate station escalators, which have broken down more frequently following staff cuts.
A predicted increase in sales tax and fare box revenues is giving BART more money to spend as the economy improves.
BART predicts its sales tax revenue will increase $18.1 million, or 11 percent, in the next year, and fare collections will climb $16.3 million, or 5 percent.