BART directors signaled Thursday that they probably will raise fares by at least 6 percent on July 1 but they backed away from a staff proposal to raise fares by 10 percent across the board.
Currently, BART fares are slated to go up by 6.1 percent Jan. 1 under a fiscal stability program that calls for fares to be raised every two years based on cost-of-living adjustments.
But BART staff members want to move up the fare increase to July 1 because the transit agency faces a $54 million budget deficit for the fiscal year starting at that time and a $249 million budget shortfall over the next four years.
BART's staff wants to increase fares by 10 percent, but in a short discussion at the end of a seven-hour meeting that mainly focused on other topics BART directors generally said they don't want to raise fares by that much.
Director James Fang of San Francisco said he only wants to increase fares by 6.1 percent for most riders but he wants to increase fares to the San Francisco International Airport by $4, up to a maximum of $9.35.
Fang said the increase on rides to San Francisco's airport would only hit 3.5 million of the 100 million riders who use BART every year and most of those riders are from outside the Bay Area.
He said a $9.35 fare would "still be a bargain" compared to other ways of getting to the airport and would enable BART to avoid imposing a large fare hike on its core riders.
Several other directors said they would favor a 5-cent surcharge on all BART rides to help pay for feeder bus service to BART stations, as the state has slashed funding for bus service.
And some directors also suggested increasing the minimum fare on BART, which currently is $1.50.
In addition, BART's staff is looking at imposing parking fees to more stations than those which currently have parking fees and at reducing the frequency of service.
However, no action was taken today on any of the proposals for raising fares or increasing parking fees.
BART currently is scheduled to have a public hearing on the possible fare hikes on May 28 and the board is slated to vote on them on June 11, but transit agency spokesman Linton Johnson said those dates could be moved up.
But it looks like the earliest there could be a fare hike is July 1, he said.
In addition to fare hikes, BART's management also is proposing to cut $100 million in labor costs as a way of helping reduce the massive budget shortfall.
Management says it is asking for employees to pick up more of the cost of their benefits and pensions so riders and taxpayers don't have to.
BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger has called for reducing 100 positions but 85 of those currently are vacant.
Management's proposals are a sore subject for BART's five unions, who have been in contract talks with management since April 1.
The unions' contracts expire on June 30.