Paul Cummings Stands for BART Riders in Candidate Forum
BART has been slacking and people are concerned.
In an article from SF Chronicle: “My husband and I and many, many of our friends will not ride BART anymore. The homeless sleep or roam, derelicts bother passengers, people eat and discard trash, there are needles and filth in the stations and cars, groups of gang-looking people go from car to car. It’s disgusting. Plus the stabbings put fear in us. Why do I want to subject myself to all this? I don’t. What is being done to clean up the whole BART system?”
Increasingly, BART has become unclean, poorly maintained, and unsafe for riders. BART has neglected to increase parking structures despite the ever-growing demand for vehicles, causing some stations to be full before 6 a.m.
It’s not rocket science to fixing BART, it’s getting back to basics.
It’s time to start putting riders first.
- Create a safer BART, eliminate fare evasion
- Thoroughly clean stations and trains
- Increase parking for bicycles and cars
- Bring greater transparency to BART
- Responsibly deal with the BART pension crisis
- Formally guarantee BART’s annual 16% contribution of operating revenue to capital improvements
- Establish an inspector general for BART, whether or not RM3 is upheld by the courts
Safety and Fare Evasion
Passenger safety must be BART’s first priority. While violent crime is down 7% across California it is up 46% throughout the system since my opponent was elected in 2014. Property crime is on track for an all-time high. As expected most criminals are not paying passengers but fare evaders. The BART Police Force is chronically understaffed making it harder to deter or apprehend criminals. The resultant perceived lack of safety has driven down ridership on weeknights and weekends costing the system millions in fare revenue. Fare evasion alone costs BART $25 million a year. BART needs to fill the vacancies on the police force and deploy modern equipment and make architectural changes to stop fare evasion and protect BART riders.
Passengers deserve to be on trains that are well-kept and well-maintained. There is no reason why BART should neglect their trains. During my professional career, I’ve lived in Japan three times and have been fortunate to have traveled to many countries. Where ever I’ve gone I’ve used public transit if it was available. In almost all places the subway trains and stations, no matter how crowded, have been clean. BART riders should not have anything less. For example, here is a picture of a subway train in Taipei, Taiwan a friend took just this week. Compare it to the picture of a BART train I took last week on the Antioch line.
Parking for Bicycles and Cars
Hundreds of thousands of people ride BART a day. My opponent is a self-described “urban planner” whose focus is to build housing towers out of BART parking lots. When he voted to eliminate all 200 parking spaces at the Lake Merritt BART station he said he “was walking on air”. Conversely, I will work to ensure that any future development at BART stations maintains at least the current amount of parking for cars and more for bicycles. BART is not just for people who live over the BART stations. All BART riders, including those that have to cycle or drive to get to their nearest BART station, need to be fairly considered in BART’s future development. Efficient, safe parking must be available for bicycles. I recently visited an automatic bicycle garage at a university in Los Angeles. Students entered with their preauthorized dorm key card. Bicycles were then stored three high and were parked and returned when automatically when commanded at an electronic keypad. In a community that promotes bicycles as a transportation method as we do in the Bay Area, why are we not doing this here?
Bringing Sunshine to BART’s Operations
The leadership at BART does its best to keep the public in the dark. As crime on the system has soared they have changed their reporting practices to make it harder to find out the exact nature and number of criminal activities. They tried to hide the true cost of their employment contracts and have not taken action to ensure Bond money approved by the voters is not used for other purposes. My opponent claims as his principle achievement the ordering of new railcars. Last November BART promised that we would have 198 cars up and running by July 1. In actuality, we only have 25 working cars and five in the shop for repairs. BART now hopes that it will be receiving 10 new cars a month by the end of the year. For $2.6 Billion, we deserve better.
Addressing the BART Pension Crisis
BART must increase it’s contribution to PERS in order to pay down it $1 Billion unpaid pension liability. We have an obligation not to transfer this debt to our children and grandchildren.
Keeping Faith with the Voters
BART must reaffirm that it is committed to fiscal discipline and to locking in guarantees that fulfill BART’s spending commitments for Measure RR, its $3.5 billion bond measure. BART currently contributes 16% of its operating revenue to capital improvements. Measure RR was passed by the voters because BART promised to rebuild and upgrade the core system. This money was not granted by the voters to free up money for other purposes, BART must keep its promises to the voters and continue to contribute operating revenue toward capital improvements.
Establish an Office of Inspector General . . . Now
The legislation that authorized RM3 required BART to hire an inspector general and proved $1,000,000 of toll revenue to fund the office. BART is now foot-dragging on this claiming that there is a legal challenge pending to RM3. BART has not suspended any other RM3 related projects for this reason. The need for an inspector general does not go away if RM3 does. BART needs to recognize that an independent inspection office to examine agency action and contracts is critical to getting the most value for the public’s money.