By SHALWAH EVANS AND AMANDA MARTINEZ
Marlon Mendieta, the program director for Dolores Housing Program, said that he can’t afford to live in the city with the income he makes working for a non-profit in the Mission District and is forced to take BART from his home in Benicia.
“Every time BART talks about a fare increase I have to ask myself if it is still cheaper to take public transportation.”
With the BART increase rides will cost him a minimum of $200 a month. Add the $90 a month he pays to shuttle to BART and he will now spend nearly $300 a month on BART.
Mendieta, like others in the Mission District who talked Friday about the July 1 increases of 25 cents on BART and 50 cents on Muni, wondered where the hikes would end. Not there, the BART Board also decided Thursday that the ride to San Francisco International Airport will jump by $2.50 and parking lot fees of a $1 a day will be charged at eight more lots in the East Bay.
Sue Evers who lives on Capp Street doesn’t ride BART everyday but said she loves it for traveling to the airport, and was shocked about the increase to SFO. “That’s like a 300% increase…that’s crazy!” she said. “It’s tough for that kind of increase, especially now, we’re in a recession.”
Jorge Cancha agrees. He was riding his bike down Mission Street while others were waiting impatiently for the bus. He said taking Muni or BART is already too expensive for him. Moreover, he doesn’t like waiting and there will be even more waiting at BART stations as night and weekend trains will run every 20 minutes instead of every 15 minutes starting in September.
So Cancha will continue to ride his bike from his home near 18th and Mission to his job downtown. “It is worth the 20 minute ride to save the $60 a month it would cost me to get to and from work 5 days a week,” he said.
Others don’t have that option. Trivino Vasquez a fruit vendor who sells cut mangos and watermelon from a cart said he has no leeway to add to his monthly expenses. As a senior citizen he is able to take his four rides a day with a Muni fast pass that costs him $10 a month. With a modest income of $300 a month he said the $5 pass increase will be a definite strain. “The Mission has high rent and fifteen dollars will definitely be too much for me to afford,” he said.
Many Latinos in the Mission District appear to have left BART long ago. It’s unclear if it’s price or convenience, but Hispanics represent 50 percent of Mission District residents, according to the 2000 Census, but only 17 percent of the BART riders at the 16th Street station and 18 percent of the riders at the 24th Street station, according to the the 2008 BART Station Profile Study. Some 70 percent of the riders at both stations earn more than $50,000 a year. But, no matter the income, most were unhappy about further hikes.
Tom Zurkan, who works only blocks away from his home in the Mission, wasn’t happy about the increases but had a solution to save his money. “I might walk more. I don’t have a car anymore because of parking tickets,” he said. “If they were going to be actually more frequent so BART is more useful an increase makes sense, otherwise it doesn’t. Service to cost, I’d walk more because it certainly doesn’t make sense to pay $2.00 to go twelve blocks.”
For some, a 25 cent increase to BART seemed a small price to pay for the conveniences that the system has to offer. “My whole point of moving closer to BART was to drive less. I can deal with the increase if I’m not driving,” said Dawn Coleman, who just moved to the Mission from the Richmond District so she could be closer to a BART station. “Even though it sucks that there’s an increase at least I’m not driving and I’m doing my little part to be green. It’s not going to affect my budget, it’s just annoying.”
“Truth be told, I’m going to be all right. It’s just not the kind of thing that’s a big deal to me. I just use my commuter pass,” said Yasir Rashid, a local bartender. “Right now I’m kind of like, whatever. It’s not like I’m rich. I’m riding BART, just bad with money,” he joked.
While many were shocked about the increases, Keli Sarantis said she understood and assumes that the money will be used properly. “Nobody has money these days but I don’t know what the alternative is. They could raise taxes, but people are never happy about a tax increase,” said the 18th Street resident, who rides BART frequently. “It’s not the end of the world but you’re going to have to plan more. More often I’ll check the schedule. She continued, “I’m not going to miss a meal but it will affect my discretionary money.”