BART's Plan to Bolster Police Force Stalled by Lack of Ridership

BART pledged to hire 94 new officers by 2024, however, the five-year plan is being threatened by a lack of revenue stemming from a dramatic drop in ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic

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On Thursday, BART staff is expected to present the board of directors with the agency’s proposed 2021 budget, which calls for eliminating 19 new officer positions within BART’s police force, according to documents obtained and reviewed by the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit. 

BART’s police department, comprised of about 170 sworn officers, had subscribed to a “five-year strategic patrol staffing plan,” which called for hiring 94 additional police officers by 2024. BART contracted the University of North Texas to develop the plan, which was released in August 2018 and recommended BART hire 19 new officers each year for five years. 

While the agency authorized funding for those positions last year, it doesn’t appear BART will continue with that plan this year, since the agency’s proposed budget eliminates those 19 new officer positions, for a cost savings of $4 million.

BART ridership, which normally exceeded 420,000 daily rides before the COVID-19 outbreak, funds about 55% of the agency’s operating budget. In the midst of the current health crisis, however, ridership is down about 92% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit recently spent months recording on BART trains, interviewing passengers, questioning top BART officials, and analyzing thousands of crime records to explore how a world-class transportation got DERAILED. In fact, the Investigative Unit revealed BART has become one of the most dangerous transportation systems in the country with a higher rate of violent crime than subways in New York, D.C., Los Angeles, and Atlanta.

BART’s board of directors is expected to vote on the new budget on June 25.

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