BART will offer $50 free ride tickets to members of the armed services on leave from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Over the objection of one director who said it's unwise to give away tickets as the transit system faces grim financial times, the transit board on Thursday said those on break from the war deserve a thank-you gesture.
"This is not for virtue. It's for patriotism," said John McPartland, a board member from Castro Valley and a veteran. "This is to show appreciation for those who put themselves in harm's way." The vote to allow the free tickets was 8-1.
Effective Jan. 1, active members of the armed services on leave from the wars would be eligible to apply for one electronic ticket loaded with $50 in fares. BART will not spend more than $50,000 on the free tickets in the first year, the board said.
To get the tickets, military members would need to appear at a BART ticket center and present their military identification and leave papers.
In casting the dissenting vote, Tom Radulovich, a board member from San Francisco, said military members perform a valuable service, but so do firefighters, ambulance drivers, doctors and relief workers — and they don't get free tickets. "I would love to be Father Christmas and reward all virtue, but I don't see it," he said.
He also said it is poor timing to give away tickets. Because of the recession, BART anticipates having to eliminate 70 to 80 jobs in the next seven months, and it's trying to do that through attrition.
The transit system already gives free ride passes to BART district employees and their dependents. Bay Area police get free rides when they present their badges at train stations.