Restoring public confidence in the safety of BART is critical to restoring ridership on the Bay Area’s backbone public transit system. That was the overarching message that came from a roundtable discussion the Bay Area Council hosted yesterday (Feb. 16) with our members, BART Board President Janice Li, General Manager Bob Powers, BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez and other top system leaders. BART leaders highlighted the significant challenges confronting the system, including police staffing shortages and a growing homelessness problem that has spilled into BART’s parking lots, stations and trains, and outlined some of the strategies the agency is taking to address them, including boosting hiring incentives for police officers, increasing patrols on trains and in stations and securing funding to install new and more secure fare gates.
While the pandemic shift to remote work has taken a huge bite out of BART ridership that has been stubbornly slow to recover, many companies also say employee concerns about safety are a major reason riders are staying away. With ridership hovering at around 40% of pre-pandemic levels, reduced fare revenue is threatening the system’s financial survival. The Council was instrumental in the creation of BART and we are committed to partnering with BART to ensure its future, including advocating for additional transit funding in the state budget and working to address safety concerns. A new communications campaign (see item below) BART is rolling out is also focused on making the system easier to use and highlighting new safety measures. To engage in our transportation safety work, please contact Policy Director Laura Hill.