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A man with a careful affectation emerged from the Embarcadero BART base in San Francisco on March 23 during the COVID-19 shelter-at-home emergency.
By Julie Sneider, Senior Associate Editor
In January, Accepted Administrator Bob Powers was administering an advancing “listening tour” at Bay Breadth Rapid Transit’s (BART) alms stations and on trains, breadth he’d accommodated with riders to get their opinions on the agency’s account affection and policies.
BART Accepted Administrator Bob Powers
Powers was agent GM for two years aback he was broke in July 2019 to accomplish backward GM Grace Crunican. He abutting BART in 2012 as abettor accepted administrator of planning, development and construction. A able engineer, Powers had decades of acquaintance in accessible transportation, administering above basement projects and busline programs.
So aback he became BART’s top executive, Powers was answerable with carrying its above projects — namely, the Fleet of the Future plan to alter crumbling abuse cars; the system’s basement rebuilding plan to alter beat rails, retrofit the Transbay Tube and amend waterproofing in tunnels and added structures; the accession of a 40-plus-year-old alternation ascendancy system; and the account amplification to Santa Clara County.
He additionally took ascendancy at a analytical point for BART. In accession to those above projects underway, the bureau was adverse sliding ridership numbers.
“Our chump achievement levels are unacceptable,” Powers told The Mercury News aftermost summer, alliance to apprehend anon from riders during a alert tour.
But beneath than a year later, the alert bout is on authority as Powers and BART’s board — forth with alteration agencies beyond the country — bulk out how to best serve the accessible during and afterwards a all-around communicable that has absolute a big aperture in bureau budgets.
BART admiral began discussing the coronavirus’s abeyant appulse on the arena in mid-January, aback the aboriginal U.S. case became accessible knowledge. The agency, which above-mentioned to the communicable had a catching ache plan in place, formed an centralized assignment force to activate arrest the issues. That accumulation is still at work, says BART agent James Allison, who responded to questions via email.
The bureau took its aboriginal public-facing activity on March 11, aback it began installing hand-sanitizer dispensers at all 48 stations. Afterwards that, BART implemented a hiring benumb — the agency’s headcount was 4,452 employees. (As of April 16, none had been furloughed.)
By March 16, six San Francisco Bay Breadth counties had shelter-at-home orders. And by March 19, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order, which as of columnist time had no set cessation date. Newsome is analogous with the governors of Oregon and Washington to reopen their states’ economies already six benchmarks are met.
Now, Powers and added Bay Breadth alteration admiral are spending all their time accession out how to abide ashen account during the accessible bloom crisis.
Powers has been speaking with his alteration bureau counterparts via appointment and/or one-on-one calls about daily, Allison says. The admiral accept accommodating their corresponding agencies’ account reductions to ensure a buoy of accessible busline charcoal in operation for the region’s basic workers; and they’ve discussed options for disbursing accompaniment and federal emergency allotment to advice abode the pandemic’s appulse on anniversary agency.
Statewide, alteration agencies’ ridership plummeted in the 70 percent to 90 percent range, with the steepest declines occurring on abuse services, according to the California Alteration Association (CTA). Ridership on BART, Caltrain, the Capitol Corridor and the Altamont Corridor Express abuse routes alone amid 94 percent to 95 percent. BART’s circadian ridership, for example, was 24,204 on April 22 compared to circadian ridership of about 380,000 in aboriginal March.
The affecting dropoff in ridership has had a adverse appulse agencies’ budgets, according to CTA Agent Controlling Director Michael Pimentel.
The Metropolitan Busline Commission (MTC) on April 22 accustomed the allocation of added than $780 actor in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Bread-and-butter Security (CARES) Act bang funds for Bay Breadth alteration agencies. MTC is the busline planning, costs and analogous bureau for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. Developed by MTC and alteration bureau staff, the allocations represent the aboriginal of two distributions of the estimated $1.3 billion in federal allotment that area’s agencies will accept beneath the bang bill.
The aboriginal allocation is advised to advice the agencies accommodated the actual crisis. As agencies appraise the abounding ambit of what they’ll accept to do to admission up in a post-pandemic recovery, the actual CARES allotment will be allocated, MTC admiral said in a columnist release.
Of the aboriginal allocation, BART accustomed the better bulk at $251.6 million. Added accompaniment allotment to abutment alteration agencies’ acknowledgment to COVID-19 acceptable will be evaluated this summer, as Newsom and the California Legislature adapt a fiscal-year 2020-2021 budget.
BART’s Powell Street Base in San Francisco was about abandoned on March 28. The burghal has been beneath a shelter-in-place adjustment aback March 16.
BART’s account cachet has been alive about every day. In an April 21 letter to MTC Chair Scott Haggerty, Powers acclaimed the agency’s 94 percent ridership abatement meant it was accident added than $9 actor in book acquirement a week. The aboriginal CARES Act allotment administration will advice balance its accepted fiscal-year budget, which has a projected arrears of over $170 million, and advice lift the FY2021 budget, which has a projected arrears of $300 actor to $500 million, Powers wrote.
While they’re able to accommodate ashen account over the abbreviate run, BART’s and added California alteration agencies’ abounding accretion from the communicable will be challenging, says CTA’s Pimentel. The actual account of the CARES Act is to stop the bleeding, but an added beverage of bang allotment will be all-important for the alteration industry to get aback to normal,“ he says.
“The anguish in our accompaniment is the appulse of the accident of sales tax revenue,” says Pimentel, acquainted California alteration agencies’ above forms of allotment accommodate county-administered sales taxes that accomplish $1.7 billion a year.
“The agencies haven’t acquainted that appulse yet. The accumulating of those taxes is ongoing, but disbursements accept been on a annual basis,” he says. “Those receipts will appear in at altered times.”
Furthermore, some counties accept their own sales taxes to pay for abiding accessible busline amplification projects. Aback sales taxes booty a hit due to lower ridership, those agencies will see a cogent banking impact.
To adapt their turnaround plans, California agencies will seek advice from the American Accessible Busline Association (APTA) and its afresh accustomed Mobility Accretion and Restoration Assignment Force, which will assemble May 1 and complete its assignment by Sept. 1.
Pimentel says California agencies accept a big role in the assignment force, which was set up by APTA Chair Nuria Fernandez, the GM and arch controlling administrator of the Santa Clara Valley Busline Authority in San Jose, and is led by Phillip Washington, CEO of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Busline Authority.
On a added actual level, admiral will abide to acquaint to the accessible how their agencies are befitting trains, stations and added accessories sanitized and clean.
“Additionally, we’ll abide to see alteration and abuse agencies facilitate amusing break on their vehicles,” Pimentel says.
Meanwhile, as Californians abide hunkered bottomward at home to stop the advance of the virus, BART has angry to amusing media to abide in acquaintance with riders and baby businesses. It has adapted its website and added amusing media channels daily. It additionally launched Virtually BARTable, a web affection that highlights the assuming arts, entertainment, antic contest and added activities initially planned for venues abreast BART stations but accept aback confused online during the shelter-at-home period.
“Normally, we accomplice with hundreds of concrete venues and contest anniversary year,” says BART’s Allison.
Moreover, BART is demography added accomplish to abutment baby businesses, including the added than 270 that serve as prime contractors and subcontractors on the agency’s architecture projects. BART’s Baby Businesses Abutment Services, which is allotment of the agency’s Office of Civil Rights, has hosted webinars on assets accessible to baby firms, including one in March on how to admission accompaniment and federal allotment resources. Added than 120 bodies abounding that webinar, which featured speakers from the California Office of the Baby Business Advocate and U.S. Baby Business Administration.
Many alteration projects accept been appointed basic accessible works as allotment of the region’s accessible bloom orders, and BART is a acceptable archetype of agencies application the ridership abeyance to acceleration up basement architecture and abuse arrangement maintenance, says CTA’s Pimentel.
“Scaling aback account gives the frontline aliment aggregation added time to do clue improvements to ability a accompaniment of good-repair so that aback account is brought aback at capacity, BART will be operating added calmly with beneath incidents or breakdowns,” he says.
Others are afterward suit, decidedly those with above basic architecture projects. For example, Caltrain has connected assignment on its electrification activity during the pandemic, Pimentel says.
“Projects like Caltrain’s electrification can move advanced because our governor and accompaniment accept articular architecture workers in key industries like alteration as basic workers,” he adds.
Essential basement jobs BART contractors and subcontractors are alive on during shelter-in-place accommodate abuse backup and grinding; 34.5 kV cable and substations replacements; alternation ascendancy projects that crave new about-face machines and cabling awning boards; the Silicon Valley alteration extension; BART’s rail-car accretion to alter its crumbling fleet; and alternation base upgrades.
With account catastrophe beforehand on weekdays and starting afterwards on Saturdays, BART has been able to body up “wrench time” — the aeon wayside assignment can be accommodated after acquirement alternation interference, according to Allison. The accession of aloof a few hours a night is accepting a “dramatic impact” on basement backup projects, he says.
“Before BART confused the end of account to 9 p.m., workers were replacing 100 anxiety of active abuse a night. With the beforehand closing time, they’re now accepting 500 anxiety of abuse replaced a night,” Allison adds.
Plus, the beforehand closing time has accustomed electric cable backup assignment in city San Francisco to alpha at 7 p.m. on weeknights. For every six weeks that crews can distinct clue at 7 p.m., BART can annihilate six months of single-tracking assignment on Sundays, Allison says.
Once California’s shelter-in-place orders are rescinded, BART will booty a phased access to abating account to pre-pandemic levels. How bound that happens will depend on ridership demand, the action of the operating account and staffing. As of mid-April, the agency’s staffing akin was stable, according to Allison.
To assure the benumbed public, the bureau will abide measures to assure bloom and safety.
“We are currently active all trains at best length, admitting the actuality that our ridership is currently at 6 percent of pre-pandemic levels,” said Allison. “This is to acquiesce for concrete distancing, and we are ecology car-loading abstracts to ensure able break is achievable.”
Also, BART will administer chargeless claimed duke straps that riders can booty home anniversary night and ablution or disinfect, he says.
In the bigger arrangement of things, the bureau will accept a key allotment to comedy in bolstering the Bay Area’s bread-and-butter recovery, BART admiral acknowledge. The agency’s four-county account breadth connects to about every bounded alteration operator. Above-mentioned to the pandemic, BART agitated 54 percent of all commuter afar on accessible alteration in the region.
As Powers said in his letter to the MTC: “We charge abide well-positioned to calmly calibration up account to accommodated demand.”
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