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No Fare Is Fair

Plans for a huge BART fare hike would create a crushing burden for most people who ride BART. BART management boasts that they haven't jacked up fares since 1986. But for more than ten years, average wages have not kept pace with the cost of living. Under current plans, standard ticket prices are going to go up 40% or more in the next three years, and senior, handicapped and youth tickets will go up from $1.60 to $4.50, a 300% increase for those least able to pay.

BART bureaucrats claim they need more money to pay for rehabilitation of facilities and recent extensions to the BART system. But BART managers find substantial amounts of money when they really want to. BART managers cruise the area served by BART in a huge fleet of late-model cars. BART has the highest percentage of managers to employees of any public transit system in the country. BART maintains an entire parallel level of management whose only purpose is to break possible strikes. In 1994, 84 BART managers made more than $80,000 per year, and 22 of these made more than $100,000. Thus the top 84 bureaucrats took home more than $7.7 million.

BART management claims that a fare hike will go to "increased system-wide security." In other words, the fare increase will go to pay BART cops to make sure that we pay the fare increase.

In addition, BART management, with the aid of the unions, has recently extracted significant benefit and pay cuts from those least able to afford them, BART workers. Under the terms of the recent contract, BART workers are stuck with:

$25 per month co-pay, plus $5 deductibles for medicine and medical visits

A two-tier wage structure; at the end of three years, new hires will be paid 10% less while doing the same work. This is a $6 million giveback

And pay increases locked at a lousy 2% level for the next three years; with inflation this is a 6% pay cut

Having successfully attacked BART employees with this giveback contract, BART management is now attacking BART riders with a fare increase.

Having to pay for mass transit is like having a parking meter mounted on the inside door of a jail cell. Mass transit is not a privilege. Mass transit is necessary because corporations and bosses need a way for their wage slaves to get to work.

To give a democratic veneer to their bureaucratic command, BART management has held a series of phony public meetings. At these meetings we were expected to blow off steam and give the stamp of approval to their plans to squeeze us further. The option of there being NO fare increase was not up for discussion.

BART management is painfully aware of something most BART riders don't know; their ability to impose a fare increase depends on our passively going along with their plans. BART fares rise based on how much BART management feels it can force people to pay. In a related recent episode, SF mayor Frank Jordan and Muni transit bureaucrats were forced to back down altogether on their attempt to raise fares and eliminate transfers in 1993 and '94. This was due to individual and collective resistance from riders and Muni employees.

The anger of BART workers at the recent giveback contract and the anger of BART riders at being squeezed for increased fares can come together to prevent a fare increase and to form the basis of future common action.

What we can do:


Talk to the BART employees you see every day - the station agents and train drivers. Discuss your common grievances against BART management, and possible common actions -
Suggest to station agents that they should let BART riders in and out of the system for free. This is a frequent method of struggle used in France, Italy and South Korea, among other places.
Get together with friends and co-workers to do your own fare reduction. Go in and out through the gate or over the turnstiles in large numbers.
BART employees:
You can get back at management by letting other wage workers and poor people ride BART without paying. You have nothing to gain from riders paying fares. Look the other way when people don`t pay.
To avoid being screwed over by management and the unions the next time there is a contract dispute, begin talking now with other transit workers (AC, Muni, SamTrans, etc.) to establish direct, person-to-person contacts outside of and against the control of the unions and BART management. Start doing it now instead of waiting for the moment of crisis. Only self-organization outside of and against the unions can prevent rip-offs like the last contract.

"I've labored long, I've labored hard

for honor, fame and riches

but on my corns too long you've tread

you fine-haired sons of bitches!"

Black Bart*

* One hundred years ago, Black Bart was a poet and stagecoach robber with a critique of the public transit system of his day. He only took from Wells Fargo and never harmed drivers or riders.