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BART, SamTrans dispute operating subsidies for SFO extension

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) designed its SFO extension to San Francisco International Airport so passengers could access connections with SanMateo County Transit District (SamTrans) services. But now, just eight months after the line opened, BART and SamTrans are anything but connected.

On March 10, BART announced plans to file a lawsuit against SamTrans if it didn’t pay $11 million to help subsidize operating costs for the new extension. Opened in June 2003, the line included a cross-over platform at Millbrae Station to enable passengers to access Caltrain commuter-rail service, which is operated by SamTrans. SamTrans currently is in breach of its contract, says BART spokesman Mike Healy.

On March 11, SamTrans’ board voted to pay $8.9 million in operating costs if BART adjusts service and eliminates subsidies after fiscal-year 2004. The payment offer excludes a pro-rated portion of a $2.5 million annual fee to retire SFO debt service on airport improvements — capital costs that are BART’s responsibility, SamTrans officials said in a prepared statement.

BART and SamTrans’ SFO agreement states that the extension must be operated without resorting to subsidies, and BART "has not fulfilled all of its contractual obligations," said SamTrans Chair Mike Nevin. The extension’s ridership and revenue are below projections, and SamTrans officials said they warned BART officials last fall that invoices were exceeding SamTrans’ start-up budget for the extension.

In addition, SamTrans said it loaned $10 million to BART four years ago to improve cash flow during the project’s construction, and the amount has not yet been repaid. SamTrans will seek reimbursement from BART for the loan if the agency files suit, SamTrans officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/12/2004