BART Sees Huge Revenue Decline As Ridership and Sales Taxes Plummet

BART's revenue picture didn't get any better today with the release of fourth-quarter FY2008 ridership and sales tax numbers, down 10 percent and 20 percent from the same period one year ago, respectively.

BART's ridership has dropped to an average of 335,500 riders per day, a 10 percent decline in the number of riders using the transit system. Fares are the lion's share of BART's operating funds, accounting for approximately 60 percent of revenues, which is one of the highest farebox recovery rates of any transit operator in the nation.

Further compounding problems, newly released figures by the State Board of Equalization show a 20 percent drop of sales tax revenue in the BART district, which is made up of the counties where BART operates. BART will receive $38.8 million in sales tax revenue for the fourth quarter of the current fiscal year, down from $48.2 million for the same period last year. This represents the worst decline in the operator's 37-year history. For the fiscal year, sales tax revenues are down $18 million. Sales taxes are the second single largest segment of BART’s operating budget, or roughly 30 percent.

"We knew it was going to be a bad year for sales tax revenue, but we badly underestimated," said BART Director Tom Radulovich, who explained that these numbers, coupled with all the funding that will be needed to complete extensions would lead to a "perfect storm" of deficits by 2013. 

"If you take all the new extensions, which are all going to operate at a loss, it's a train wreck waiting to happen. If you think it looks bad now, wait until 2013."