Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Transportation & Infrastructure
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Published on September 27, 2023
BART Rides Again: San Francisco Celebrates Transit Month and Boosts Ridership to Third Highest Since PandemicSource: InvadingInvader, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Transit Month is underway in the San Francisco Bay Area, aiming to celebrate and raise awareness of the vital role public transit plays in the region. With BART ridership reaching its third highest weekday number since the beginning of the pandemic, as reported by SF BART, the event comes at an opportune time for public transit agencies such as BART, who are working to recover from a significant drop in ridership due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote work.

According to a CBS News article, BART ridership currently stands at around 40% of pre-pandemic levels, reflecting a similar trend across other Bay Area transit operators. The shift towards remote work has transformed the role of public transit, necessitating adjustments to both schedules and services. BART spokesperson Jim Allison stated that this year's Transit Month is critical in signaling the value of public transit and the need for long-term investment, as federal funding is set to run out in the next year and a half.

As part of Transit Month, BART and various other agencies are employing incentives such as contests and prizes to encourage ridership. Additionally, events and discussions surrounding safety and system improvements are set to occur. Safety concerns on BART have been a contentious issue, with perceptions of the system being unsafe despite relatively low crime rates for riders. In addressing these concerns, BART has implemented strategies such as running fewer train cars and allowing police officers to patrol trains more quickly, as detailed in another CBS News report.

Alongside safety improvements, BART is also looking at off-track developments, including the replacement of fare gates across the entire system. By December, the first array of new gates is planned to be in place at the West Oakland station, with all gates replaced within a year and a half. This measure aims to deter unwanted behavior by preventing individuals from accessing the system without payment.