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Commuters grimace and bear transit fare hikes

on July 2, 2009

BART commuters said the 25 cent fare raise that went into effect yesterday is unlikely to change their habits, even if they don’t like it.
The BART Board made the fare change in June as part of a multi-pronged plan to chip away at the agency’s $22 million dollar deficit. The hike was supposed to happen in January 2010, but the budget deficit meant the rapid transit system needed more money sooner.

Other cost cutting changes include eliminating 100 staff positions and an attempt to renegotiate labor contracts that have BART employees threatening to strike.

For some commuters the hike was just another piece of bad news thanks to the economy.

“We are in a recession.  We have to find money to pay our bills, now this,” said contractor Victor Chavez.

Chavez watched cars whiz by on Highway 24 while waiting for a Pittsburg/Baypoint train at the Rockridge station. He has a car, but prefers to use BART to come from Pleasant Hill for his weekly doctor’s appointments.

“I have to use it so I have to pay.  It’s easier,” he said.

Eddie Dorsey repeated this sentiment while he prepared to exit with his five-year-old daugher Edriana from a Fremont bound train at the 19th Street stop.

“The raise is here,” he said shrugging his shoulders.  “We can’t do anything about it.  It ain’t nothing but a quarter.

Dorsey appeared more agitated about the cost of an AC Transit bus ticket.  He pointed at his child, “I’m a single parent. It costs $1 for her to ride the bus.”

The youth and senior fare went from 85 cents to $1.

AC Transit raised its regular bus fare today from $1.75 to $2.00.  San Francisco Muni raised it’s fair by 50 cents to $2.

Some commuters were understanding of the choice BART made.

“I work for a public agency, so you understand the need for a fare increase,” said Marti Paschal who is an administrator at San Francisco General Hospital.

Paschal said however, that  she didn’t know the BART budget and if the board was spending responsibly.

Paschal takes the BART from the Rockridge Station to 16th Street every day for work.

“I looked at AC Transit and SF Muni and it would cost more to take them,” she said.

Paschal’s itinerary on BART costs $3.65 each way for a total of $7.30 round trip.  If she were to travel solely on AC Transit it would cost $4.00 to take the Trans Bay bus in to San Francisco and another $2 to take SF Muni into the Mission District, for a total of $12 round trip.

Some commuters take the BART as a necessary evil, and some find themselves in the blue felt seats when fate deals them a bad hand.

Jasmine Hill lives in El Sobrante and used her car until it was downed by problems that will require $1,100 of repairs.

While she saves money she takes an epic journey via the BART and AC transit. After she picks up her two-year-old daughter Zyra from day care they travel from the Rockridge BART station to the Orinda stop and take the number 72 bus to El Sobrante.

“It’s cheaper to go around than taking BART the whole way to Richmond,” she said.

While Hill spoke Zyra leaned against her Mom and snacked on Trader Joe’s animal crackers. Hill unfolded Zyra’s stroller as the Pittsberg/Baypoint train approached in the horizon.

“The price is almost like paying for gas.  I don’t understand how people can afford it everyday,” she said.

Some like.  seventy-five-year-old O.E. Legend who commutes every weekday from the Mission District in San Francisco to work at a print shop in Emeryville, said they don’t have a choice.

Legend gripped a cane for support but has perfect posture.  He walked by empty benches and stood while waiting at the Mac Arthrur BART station.

“I don’t think they should have a fare increase until they clean these trains,” he said and pointed at the crusted rings of dirt and streaks on the side of a San Francisco train as it pulled into the platform.

Legend has his own ideas for cost cutting measures.

“They could hire high school students to clear that up,” he said.

Keith Murray, a custodian at Oakland Tech High School who rides up from the Coliseum station to the MacArthur stop and walks the rest of the way to school, said he’s sticking with BART.

“It’s more convenient and I get to work on time,” said Murray.

Yet the fare hike befuddled Murry.

“I don’t understand.  They are doing real good with the kind of money they make,” he said.

Not everyone was aware of the higher cost of commuting.

“I didn’t know that. Whoa that’s heavy,” said Teri Dawn who relocated from Austin, Texas a year and a half ago.

Dawn and a friend were on their way to Fremont.  The plan for the afternoon was a ride on their road bikes in the countryside, then take BART back north from the Dublin/Pleasanton station.

Dawn is a former direct care provider and was worried about people like her former patients.

“I’m not concerned about myself, but what about people with disabilities, or on social security or fixed income who don’t have the money?  It’s 25 cents now and then another 25 cents in a few months.  It becomes a trend,” she said.

While Dawn doesn’t feel affected by the hike it might encourage her to do things differently.

She said, “It might change my habits.  I need an incentive to ride my bike more.”

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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