BART is facing criticism for providing contractually required bonuses to employees, but the transit agency is arguing the bonuses are an important incentive for hard-working employees.
The bonuses are part of the 2013-2017 labor contract signed after an acrimonious negotiation that led to two strikes in 2013. BART's roughly 3,350 employees get $500 a year for every 1 percent increase in ridership,
with a cap of $1,000.
No bonus was paid in 2013 and 2014, but employees did receive a bonus last year. This year they will get the full $1,000 after a 3.2 percent growth in ridership, BART spokesman Taylor Huckaby said.
As ridership increases, workers have to work harder for longer hours, and the bonus is an important incentive for employees working under greater strain, Huckaby said.
"It's very difficult to tell workers to work harder and longer and not have anything in return," he said.
But state Sen. Steve Glazer, a vocal BART critic since the 2013 strikes, called the bonuses "an outrageous giveaway of taxpayer money by a transit system that is billions of dollars in capital debt."
"This secret bonus is on top of the 15.4 percent raises BART gave to all workers and managers in its last contract," Glazer said.
BART has faced mounting infrastructure problems in recent weeks and months, including the recent shutdown of the line between the North Concord/Martinez and Pittsburg/Bay Point stations because of mysterious electrical problems.
BART is planning on asking voters to approve a bond measure for $3.5 billion in infrastructure improvements this November.
Huckaby pointed out that the cost of the bonuses are covered entirely by revenue from fares since as ridership increases, so does fare revenue. The bonuses amount to about $80 per month per employee, he said.