SFO Commission Calls BART Surcharge for SFO Workers “Unconscionable”

airport_bart.jpgFlickr photo: carpathiar

The San Francisco Airport (SFO) Commission asked BART today to waive the new SFO surcharge for workers at the airport, whom they assert cannot afford to ride BART to work now. The new surcharge increased from $1.50 to $4.00 on July 1st with the 6 percent overall fare increase approved by BART’s Board of Directors.

"With the SFO surcharge increased, SFO employees now must pay an additional $8 a day just to ride
BART to work," said Airport Commission President Larry Mazzola.  "That
works out to more than $2,000 a year in increased commuting expenses."

BART Director Jerry Fang proposed the surcharge as a revenue stream for BART that wasn’t supposed to hurt routine riders, as it would theoretically be paid by tourists and business travelers who could write it off as a cost of doing business.

According to the SFO Commission, of the more than 10,000 passengers a day who ride BART to and from the Airport, approximately 11 percent are
SFO employees and SFO is the only station in the entire BART system that
has a surcharge added to all fares. The commission also said that even if the $4 surcharge is waived for employees, BART will
still realize $11 million per year from the surcharge paid by SFO
passengers, up from $5 million before July 1st.

SFO built the BART station at a
cost of more than $200 million and pays $14.8 million annually for debt
service on bonds sold to construct the station. BART pays SFO $2.5 million per year for rent on the BART station in the
International Terminal, plus an additional $700,000 for custodial and
electrical support services.

Last week, San Francisco International Airport began operating a free shuttle service between BART’s Millbrae station and the airport’s International Terminal and as many as 700 employees per day have opted to use the shuttle service to avoid exiting at the SFO station and paying the surcharge. 

"Under this proposal, a worker commuting to SFO from the 16th and Mission station would still pay more than $12 a day just to get work," said Airport Director John L. Martin. "If the surcharge were waived, the cost would drop to $8.10 per day and our employees would no longer be penalized just because they work at the Airport."

BART spokesperson Luna Salaver said that BART already offered the SFO Commission a 25 percent discount for SFO employees, which when combined with the 6.25 percent discount when one buys a high value BART ticket and a pretax discount allowed to employers with more than 20 employees, would result for many employees in a total out-of-pocket discount of 56.25 percent, provided that they are not already receiving pretax benefits. 

Salaver offered this example:

MacArthur to SFO (one way fare)

  • New Fare (July 1) :  $8.45
  • 6.25% high value discount: -$0.53
  • Proposed 25% discount: – $2.11
  • Discounted fare:  $5.81
  • Pretax discount (25% tax rate assumed): – $2.11
  • Resulting out of pocket cost : $3.70

SFO Commission president Mazzola was nevertheless upset over what they considered an inequality for airport workers.

"No other employees throughout the Bay Area who use BART to commute to
work are subjected to such a surcharge. This extra cost is unfair and
unjust to SFO workers and basically costs employees $1 dollar per hour
per day."

  • I’d say, let SFO take the offer, then let the employees run with the offer by taking BART to Millbrae for the employee shuttle that’s FREE and doesn’t include the airport surcharge.

  • Luna Salavar was apparently told there would be no math. Discounted fare is $5.81. Roughly $250 per month for an employee working 5 days a week. Unfortunately, even with the Obama stimulus package that (temporarily) raised the commuter benefit level to $230 a month, the benefit will not cover the whole month.

    The employees got screwed by this so badly. They all used to take the KX, my understanding (I’m too lazy to look it up) is that the KX now runs less frequently with BART in place. BART is much more expensive and frankly not
    much faster depending on where you’re headed (you can take the KX to Market and switch to BART and this is probably faster than taking BART from SFO, and there is higher frequency of East Bay trains from downtown than from SFO). And the SFO workers who take Public transit are not the highly paid workers.

    There is a lot of BS coming from BART. Fang running an angle that “hey man, the people taking it are writing it off so who cares”. Aside from the fact that business travelers who are writing it off are probably taking a taxi – $35 to downtown vs $8 on BART, is an extra $27 bucks but if the boss is paying who cares. And if you are paying, and you are writing it off, then the extra cost is really only $15 or so – might as well take a cab.

    People who live in SF who travel elsewhere are also “tourists” – being soaked by their own government.

    I smell a money making opportunity for the Caltrain Jitney guy – San Bruno->SFO shuttle.

  • david vartanoff

    hmm, how about requiring airport employers to buy the tix as a part of their concession leases???

  • I think they should simply negotiate more on the proposed “25%” discount. If they increase the discount a bit it can neutralized much of the fare increase on the employees, show good will on the part of BART and it won’t hurt their revenue much. For SFO to run an employee shuttle is clearly suboptimal. It will cost them money. It is also a hassle for the employee to do a transfer and this shuttle is probably limited to communiting hours only.

  • Happenstance

    SFO Employee here. I live in Millbrae now because BART opened up there. BART’s rate-hike would’ve almost tripled my post-employee-discount commute budget from $45/month to $120/month…but thanks to the employee shuttle, it’s currently zero dollars (and the shuttle’s more dependable!).

    Thank you for your mindless, obstinate greed, BART! I didn’t plan, scrimp, and save just so someone could come along and rob me.

  • Carl

    BART from SFO is not used by businessmen on expense accounts. It is used by workers and leisure travelers paying out of their own pocked.

    At $8 it’s too expensive, and if I’m traveling with my wife it’s too expensive. It’s higher than most every city in the world, especially for the distance.

    What an unfriendly first welcome to visitors to the city. Welcome to San Francisco, where we screw our visitors.

  • Rick

    Yeah, what moron politician actually believes that people with expense accounts are taking BART from SFO to the city? Proof positive that career politicians are completely out of touch with the markets they represent.

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