End of the line for BART board’s free rides

Bay Area Rapid Transit board members voted Thursday to do away with a benefit that provided them and their families with free BART rides for life.

The board voted 6-2 to terminate the benefit for current, newly-elected and appointed members who leave office. Former BART board members who already have the lifetime pass will be able to keep it.

Directors Tom Radulovich and John McPartland voted no. Radulovich said getting rid of benefit might be of symbolic importance, but not of practical importance. He said the transit agency should focus on more important matters.

Radulovich also said the benefit was not a major cost to the transit agency compared to the amount of responsibility put upon board members:

“If keep chipping away at the ability for people to do this job who aren’t independently wealthy or who aren’t retired, were kind of putting a barrier to able to serve in the way we’ve able to serve.”

Radulovich said board members do not get much after they leave the board.

McPartland agreed, saying that being board member is not a high-paying job and that measure is ridiculous:

“I believe that it’s a knee jerk reaction to press that we have received.”

McPartland referred to the press received over board members approving keeping the benefit in their July meeting, but only for board members who had served at least 10 years.

Director Gail Murray, who voted in favor of getting rid of the perk, said symbolism is important and that terminating the perk shows that transit agency is closing a benefit that regular riders do not get.

The Contra Costa Times reported last year that BART spends $2.1 million a year on the free rides.