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:
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:
"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!"