BART applied for a grant from the Federal Transit Administration back in 2017, asking for $1.25 billion to increase capacity on the BART system and to pay for some of the fleet of new trains it needs. The application stalled for 18 months, but on Thursday, the agency got word from the FTA that the grant had been approved.
It's unclear which tactic succeeded in winning the grant, but BART had gone for a multi-pronged approach, including getting pressure applied by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein, as BART General Manager Grace Crunican mentions in a video announcement about the grant. The video was posted to Twitter Thursday afternoon right in the middle of a planned Twitter Town Hall BART was hosting with the express purpose of lobbying for the grant.
Welcome to BART’s Twitter Town Hall, where we have gathered our experts for 1 hour to answer your questions on what we can do about crowding and what challenges lie ahead! pic.twitter.com/kH0qgH4xhM— SFBART (@SFBART) June 20, 2019
🚨🚨🚨But first, breaking news!🚨🚨🚨— SFBART (@SFBART) June 20, 2019
Here is our General Manager Grace Crunican with a quick video message with the news from Washington DC. We just recorded this minutes ago. This Town Hall was going to focus on asking the FTA to push this project into engineering. pic.twitter.com/YvDZq4w5nO
The news came from a phone call to Crunican from Jane Williams, Acting Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration.
As the Examiner explains, BART will immediately receive $300 million from the Department of Transportation, with the remainder of the grant contingent on additional steps. The money will go toward BART's Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Program, which will add 306 new rail cars to the fleet, as well as five new traction power stations, and a new train control system so that BART can run more trains closer together, with shorter headways. BART already has $2.3 billion in local funding for the project, but needed the additional $1.25 billion from the feds to get it fully funded.
The project will increase rush-hour capacity in the Transbay Tube from 23 trains per hour, to 30 trains per hour, as illustrated in the animation below.
Right now, we run 23 trains through the Tube per hour during the commute. It’s not enough. Our project will increase that to 30 ten-car trains per hour. pic.twitter.com/YfHhmQXn9l— SFBART (@SFBART) June 20, 2019
Says BART director Bevan Dufty, speaking to the Chronicle, "The Federal Transit Administration, they were tweeting at us today. They were actually sending out positive tweets. It’s a day to remember at BART." (Dufty was marveling in part because the Bay Area, and California in general, hasn't exactly been the subject of any Twitter positivity from the Trump administration.) It's also significant given the fact that the Department of Transportation has, under Trump, been shifting much of its focus toward highways and bridges and away from transit projects.
BART had seized upon a particular recent commuter nightmare, on the morning of May 29, to illustrate why it needed the grant. Crunican made a fresh appeal to the FTA that very day, as the Chronicle reported, having Senators Feinstein and Harris pen a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. In the letter, the California Senators called BART's Core Capacity program "a shining example of the type of infrastructure investment" that the government should be making. And in a statement that same day, Crunican said, "The commute that the Bay Area experienced this morning shows how one accident can impact tens of thousands of people. It’s also a reminder of the vital role BART plays in getting people across the Bay."
On Thursday, Pelosi issued a statement praising Chao, saying, "This critical, multibillion-dollar initiative will create good-paying jobs and finally ensure the Bay Area receives the critical infrastructure investment it needs to continue to thrive."
Crunican also issued a statement thanking the Trump administration for being "focused on investing in and improving infrastructure."
BART is one step closer to increase our Transbay capacity and relieve crowding. Thanks again to @FTA_DOT for allocating $300 mil to move our Core Capacity project to the engineering phase.— SFBART (@SFBART) June 20, 2019
For more information: https://t.co/C2cdiL1Ynh pic.twitter.com/zyXzh5LVPO