eBART Station Without Escalators is a Gyp

The Hillcrest eBART Station will not have escalators, unlike every other BART station.

The Antioch City Council, with the exception of Councilman Brian Kalinowski who was out of town, voted in favor of approving the latest design for the planned eBART station at Hillcrest Avenue. Why would the council approve a station, which will be equipped with 38 closed-circuit cameras and provide shaded parking equipped with solar panels but doesn’t include escalators?

BART indicated it’s providing space for future escalators should passenger volumes warrant their inclusion. You’ve got to be kidding. BART’s own website states ALL BART stations have escalators, which generally operate in the direction of passenger flow which varies depending on time of day and location, and when possible escalator service is provided in both directions.

Folks, Antioch’s getting gypped again – a diesel eBART rather than real BART, the need to transfer at the Pittsburg/Bay Point station and NO escalators!

BART, however, finally did agree to provide public restrooms and a station agent during peak hours (6-8 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.). According to City Manager Jim Jakel, BART will also pay for a community service officer in the morning, afternoon and evening hours when no station agent is available.

I need not remind East County residents about BART’s ever increasing fares and service cuts or the years we’ve waited for BART (not eBART) and the taxes we pay to BART, e.g. a half-cent sales tax (2/3 goes for BART operations, 1/3 goes to AC Transit) and the earthquake retrofit assessment. Now BART wants voters in Contra Costa, Alameda and San Francisco to approve a parcel tax to raise $900 million to $1 billion to replace aging train cars!

Frankly, I’m amazed we’re finally getting a BART station at all, after all of the broken promises and inaccurate financial projects and mismanagement on the part of BART – not to mention being put on the back burner while they made plans to expand to Fremont, then Millbrae and on to San Jose. The BART board just approved a $299 million contract for completion of the Warm Springs extension expected to be completed by 2015.

Ironically, the Millbrae deal might cost the agency millions of dollars because, after two years of closed door meetings, the BART board voted to give exclusive negotiation rights for a development project to transform the Millbrae BART station to Lawrence Lui, a close friend and campaign donor of BART director James Fang (the longest serving director – elected in November 1990) who wants to build a hotel on the site.

According to The Bay Citizen, his mom also owns a large office building around the corner from the Millbrae BART station. Lui donated $1,000 to Fang’s campaign in September and helped pay for a $10,000 trip to China for local officials organized by Fang last summer. BART director Joel Keller (elected in 1994) argued against the decision, saying an office complex, proposed by bidder Republic Urban of Washington, D.C. would attract more riders.

Incidentally, BART pay scales have always been far above the national norm and, although the district is reluctant to release salary and benefit info, we know that former BART General Manager Dorothy Dugan’s total cost of employment (salary and benefit package) pay was $482,264 and she received a severance package of nearly $1 million.

Last year the transit agency’s highest paid employee was police Commander Maria White whose total cost of employment was $482,264. In 2009, the average union worker made $114,000 in wages and benefits and the nine elected BART board directors, who meet the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month, were receiving $1,300 a month and most, but not all, of the same generous benefits that workers receive.

Five of the directors will need to run for re-election in 2012 and four in 2014. Recently Director Fang called for a meeting of the Redistricting Ad Hoc committee in regard to a procurement process for proposals for consulting services for assistance in redistricting of election districts. Incidentally, BART’s rules regarding political contributions are less stringent than some local cities. Companies seeking contracts with BART are not barred from making campaign donations, although contributions can’t exceed $1,000.

For the record, I attempted several times without success to obtain more current information regarding director pay and benefits for this column. Ultimately I received an email from Kenneth Duron, District Secretary stating, “Staff have begun the process of reviewing their records of documents that meet the description of your request To the extent the District has the records requested and they are not otherwise exempt from disclosure under the Act, requested records will be made available to you. You will be advised when the records are available.”

Something’s wrong with this picture, folks.


One Comment to “eBART Station Without Escalators is a Gyp”

  1. Arne Simonsen says:

    Sad that our elected officials are not standing up to BART and demanding what other cities have received over 5 decades at the expense of East County taxpayers.

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