Responding to stinging public criticism, BART directors on Thursday will consider terminating a perk that gives them and their family members free travel on the train system for life.
A month after voting 5-3 vote to keep the benefit, the transit board members will consider limiting their free travel passes to their time in office.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit District is the only large Bay Area public transit agency that offers free travel privileges for life to board members, spouses and dependents.
"It's a perk that needs to go," said BART Director Robert Raburn of Oakland, who voted a month ago to keep the benefit but tighten eligibility rules. "We didn't go far enough last month."
Raburn noted that an online reader poll in this newspaper found that more than 93 percent of the participants favored ending the lifetime perk. "I think the people have spoken," he said.
A smart card provides directors free travel on BART but not on other transit systems.
Board members defend the free passes for current board members. They say that riding the trains keeps directors in touch with riders and the transit system.
Board President Joel Keller of Brentwood said this week that doing away with the lifetime pass "is the right thing to do" and would bring BART benefits more in line with other transit agencies.
It's a change of heart for Keller, who last month successfully proposed setting an eight-year service requirement for board members to receive the lifetime passes, over the objections of directors Zakhary Mallett and Gail Murray, who wanted to end the free rides.
Some residents have picked up the pen to express their displeasure with the lifetime perk.
"It is a disgrace this ever came to pass and has been continuing all along," Ralph Hernandez of Antioch wrote in a letter to the editor of this paper. "Stop the BART gravy train and let them pay for their own darned choo-choo train ride.
Former BART Director Robert Allen of Livermore, however, supported lifetime privileges for board members with eight years in office.
"One who has passed the grueling tests of running and winning two elections to the BART board and serving two full terms merits being treated as a career employee," Allen wrote.
Under BART employment contracts, employees who work at least five years at the transit agency get lifetime passes when they retire.
The board meets at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Kaiser 20th Street Mall, third floor, 344 20th St., Oakland.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.