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."