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BART fare raise on hold after directors ran out of time

Management postpone for 2 weeks debate on possible 10% increase on July 1

The possibility that Bay Area Rapid Transit might raise fares by 10 percent on July 1 remained on hold Thursday because the transit agency's directors did not get around to discussing the subject, despite holding one of the longest meetings in the agency's history.

BART directors met from 9 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. but most of their time was devoted to discussion about the fatal shooting of passenger Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale station in Oakland early New Year's Day, a study about how contracts are divvied up among racial groups and contract talks with BART's unions.

Exhausted directors wound up postponing their discussion for two weeks about possible fare hikes and the projected $54 million budget deficit for the fiscal year starting July 1.

BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger told reporters after Thursday's meeting the transit agency had been planning to raise fares by 6.1 percent next Jan. 1 under a fiscal stability program that calls for fares to be raised every two years based on cost-of-living adjustments.

But Dugger said she is now proposing that the fare hike be moved up to July 1 and be set at the higher level of 10 percent because the agency needs to find ways of increasing revenues to help balance its budget.

Dugger said she also is calling for extending parking fees to more stations, reducing 100 positions, 85 of which are currently vacant, holding the line on labor costs and reducing the frequency of service.

She said even if all of those steps are taken, BART will still face a $23 million deficit for the next fiscal year.

In addition to lower ridership, she said BART's budget has been hit hard by the struggling economy, the elimination of state funding assistance and cost increases in health care and pension benefits for its employees.

She said BART directors will have public hearings before taking action on her proposed fare hike.

Bay City News,Jeb Bing

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