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BART's $3.5 Billion Bond Measure Rolling to Victory

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A car from BART's 'Fleet of the Future,' right, alongside one of the transit agency's old cars at Pleasant Hill Station in October 2016.  (Dan Brekke/KQED)

Updated 11 a.m. Wednesday

BART's Measure RR, a $3.5 billion bond measure the transit agency has promoted as crucial to restoring its core infrastructure, appears to be on its way to a resounding victory.

With about two-thirds of the votes counted in the three BART counties -- Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco -- Measure RR was getting an aggregate 70.1 percent yes vote. It needed two-thirds approval to win.

San Francisco voted heavily in favor of the bond with an 81.1 percent yes vote. Alameda County reported a 70.9 percent yes vote. Contra Costa County, the only jurisdiction where there was a concerted "No on RR" effort, registered a 59.5 percent yes vote.

Those are numbers as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, but they're not quite final. Here's why: There are about 2 million voters in the three BART counties. Assuming a 75 percent turnout -- which is close to the aggregate turnout for the three counties in 2012 -- about 1.5 million people may have cast ballots in the election. So far, though, just over 966,000 ballots have been tallied in the race. There's still a mathematical chance -- a very small one, to be sure -- that the hundreds of thousands of uncounted vote-by-mail and provisional ballots still out there could shift the outcome.


The bond won wide backing during the campaign from business groups and private companies throughout the region, including most major sports franchises. Supporters argued that reinvesting in BART is vital to the Bay Area economy and for the welfare of everyone trying to travel in the region, regardless of the mode of transportation.

But opponents, still furious with a pair of strikes that shut down the system in 2013 and with the union contracts that settled them, mounted an aggressive No campaign.

Opposition was led by Orinda state Sen. Steve Glazer and East Bay Times columnist Daniel Borenstein. Citing BART's 2013 strikes and labor contracts, they argued that BART management and the agency's elected board have lavished high pay and benefits on employees and cannot be trusted with the infusion of money for capital projects.

"If it winds up passing, we're going to have to work hard to keep BART focused on fiscal accountability and how they spend this money," Glazer said Tuesday night.

Nick Josefowitz, who represents a San Francisco district on the BART board and donated $80,000 to the Yes on RR campaign, said the early results showed the value Bay Area voters place on the transit system.

"A significant majority in each of the three counties have spoken very plainly about how important BART is to our region," Josefowitz said.

But the news was less positive for a Contra Costa sales tax issue, Measure X, which would pay for a variety of transportation projects. Some $300 million of the funds would be earmarked to help BART supplement its Fleet of the Future. With a 62.5 percent yes vote early Wednesday, the measure was falling short of the two-thirds approval it needs.

The bond vote comes at a moment when BART continues to struggle with a dramatic increase in ridership and frequent service problems that in the past year have included a broken rail in a San Francisco tunnel and an ultimately unsolved electrical problem that damaged dozens of train cars and caused a weeklong service disruption to the Pittsburg/Bay Point Station.

Glazer conceded last month that BART service would continue to deteriorate if the bond were rejected. He and the Times argued that voters should first replace several incumbents running for re-election to the BART Board of Directors and that the reconstituted board should craft a bond measure with stricter guarantees for how funds are spent.

The results of the board elections are as of 11 a.m. Wednesday. All returns reflect 100 percent of the precinct vote counted, with varying numbers of mail-in and provisional ballots still to be counted. At this point, none of the races looks close enough to change.

District 1 (Central Contra Costa): Three-term incumbent Gail Murray was running against Debora Allen, a CPA and former Republican candidate for the state Assembly whom Glazer backed in her BART bid.
Allen: 64 percent
Murray: 35.8 percent

District 3 (Contra Costa-Alameda): Incumbent Rebecca Saltzman faced a challenge from Ken Chew, a former member of the Moraga City Council and two first-time office-seekers, business consultant Varun Paul and software programmer Worth Freeman. Saltzman, too, was one of the incumbents targeted by Glazer and the East Bay Times.
Chew: 28.9 percent
Freeman: 4.7 percent
Paul: 10.2 percent
Saltzman: 55.9 percent

District 5 (Alameda): Incumbent John McPartland, a former Army officer and Oakland firefighter, faced a Glazer-backed challenge from Jennifer Hosterman, former mayor of Pleasanton.
Hosterman: 37.6 percent
McPartland: 61.8 percent

District 7 (Contra Costa/Alameda/San Francisco): Incumbent Zakhary Mallett, whose votes against BART's current labor contracts won him the backing of Glazer and the East Bay Times, was up against a well-financed challenge from social justice activist and former MacArthur "genius grant" winner Lateefah Simon. Two other candidates, nonprofit office manager Roland Emerson and programmer Will Roscoe, both of Oakland, rounded out the field.
Emerson: 5.4 percent
Mallett: 28.0 percent
Roscoe: 17.3 percent
Simon: 49.0 percent

District 9 (San Francisco): The race to replace veteran board member Tom Radulovich featured: Bevan Dufty, former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Gwyneth Borden, a member of the city's Municipal Transportation Agency board; and Mission resident and perennial community activist Michael Petrelis.
Borden: 31.3 percent
Dufty: 61.1 percent
Petrelis: 7.1 percent

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