BART's New Budget Promises More Trains During Rush Hour

A BART train on the Pittsburg-Bay Point line departing Oakland's Rockridge Station. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

BART officials say some relief is on the way to help alleviate crowded trains and improve service during rush hour by "squeezing" more capacity out of its aging fleet of rail cars.

The transit agency's board of directors Thursday unanimously approved a $1.57 billion budget that addresses some of the biggest complaints from riders in last year's customer satisfaction survey.

"They want cleaner trains, they want longer trains, they want to have more capacity. So, I think this goes a long way to address some of those concerns," said BART board member Joel Keller.

In all, BART officials say they plan to put 30 additional rail cars in service by hiring more workers to move "train cars from maintenance to passenger service at a faster pace."

To help fix train-control failures that the agency says account for one-fifth of late trains, BART plans to hire two new technicians. In addition, it will add more hours for on-call paramedics to deal with medical emergencies.

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The agency also plans to hire 21 more workers to "clean and scrub stations more frequently," along with 14 new hires "to clean floors and disinfect seats."

BART spokesman Jim Allison says passengers should starting noticing the improvements in September.

The budget also includes a 3.4 percent inflation-based fare hike, which goes into effect in January.

Keller acknowledged the agency still has a long way to go to get the transit system in shape. BART faces a $4.8 billion shortfall to pay for a major infrastructure upgrade, including money to help fund its "Fleet of the Future."

"All the work we're doing now is going to be undermined if we don't reinvest in restoring the original system," said Keller. "We have a lot more work to do  in order to get this railroad back to where it was 40 years ago."

BART officials are considering putting a bond measure on the 2016 ballot in three Bay Area counties to help pay for the upgrades. The transit advocacy group, TransForm, has been encouraging BART to ask for a billion dollars.