BART trumpets support for billions in bonds

BART will likely put a measure for an up to $4.5 billion bond to fund track and station improvements on the November ballot after a recent poll of likely Bay Area voters showed broad support for it.

BART’s Board of Directors received the telephone poll of 2,100 voters at its meeting Thursday. The poll showed 68 percent of those polled had an overall favorable opinion of BART and think the agency needs further funding.

Such a measure would need approval of two-thirds of voters to pass.

The measure would primarily go toward infrastructure upgrades, such as replacing tracks and repairing damaged tunnels.

According to the survey, the biggest concerns of voters are accommodating the growing population in the Bay Area, making earthquake safety improvements such as to the tunnel under the Berkeley hills, modernizing the infrastructure, preventing breakdowns and delays and public safety.

How large the bond would be remains unclear, however the poll found that support for a $4.5 billion bond dipped below the necessary two-thirds thresholds when voters were told opposing arguments.

After pollsters pointed out other potential spending priorities or suggested BART should tighten its belt before asking for more funding, support for a $4.5 billion bond measure went from 71 percent to 62 percent.

For bonds of $3.5 or $2.5 billion, support remained at 69 percent and 71 percent, respectively.

Given that, at least one board member seemed inclined to pursue a smaller bond.

“Do we want a $2.5 or $3.5 billion bond that passes or a $4 billion bond that fails?” Director Rebecca Saltzman said. “We need to do something that can pass because if we don’t have it we’re in really big trouble.” One thing the bond won’t be spent on is replacing BART’s train cars. According to BART documents, how proceeds from the bond can be spent is limited by the state Constitution and the funds must be used for the acquisition or improvement of real property.

BART is currently seeking to purchase 306 new cars to accommodate rising ridership and today passed a resolution asking San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties to allocate funds to help purchase the new cars.