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Posts from the "BART" Category

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Eyes on the Street: BART Lets Station Agents Park Inside MacArthur Station

Think the inside of a transit station is a completely inappropriate place to store automobiles? BART begs to differ.

BART is officially allowing its station agents to store their private automobiles inside MacArthur Station in Oakland. You can’t make this stuff up.

Daniel Diiullio tweeted two photos of cars parked right next to the agent booth and inside the bike parking area yesterday morning. When asked about these oddly-placed autos, BART spokesperson Luna Salaver said the agency is totally fine with it because some employee parking spaces have been removed by an adjacent housing construction project:

For this reason Station Agent parking is and will be a real problem there because of the ongoing work. As long as their designated parking spaces are obstructed and cannot be used, Station Agents will be allowed to park on the plaza (when they can safely do so). Their personal safety is the primary reason for this temporary parking situation. Because they are responsible for opening and closing the station in the wee hours of the morning, we want them to have safe access to their cars. We appreciate our customers’ understanding in this situation!

So there you have it — when reserved parking spots aren’t available, the only option is to put cars in the space for people and bikes. Problem solved.

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BART Lifts Bike Bans Permanently

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BART has finally dropped its outdated policy of banning bicycles aboard trains during rush hours. After an uneventful four-month trial, the BART Board of Directors voted unanimously this morning to lift the bans permanently.

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition tweeted that Robert Raburn, its former executive director and a current BART board member, was “pinching himself of course.”

“By making full access for bikes on BART a permanent policy change, East Bay residents will have a new healthy and convenient commute option,” said EBBC Executive Director Renee Rivera in a statement. “This particularly benefits those who commute within the East Bay on BART lines where there is ample room for bikes, but who are restricted from bringing bikes on board by the current rules.”

The policy change was long overdue, but the BART Board was apparently convinced after three different trial periods spanning more than a year resulted in no noticeable problems, as bike-toting commuters avoided cramming on to crowded train cars. By now, 79 percent of commuters surveyed by BART approve of lifting bike blackouts, according to BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo. ”With each bike pilot, the level of bike acceptance grew,” he said.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum called the vote “a momentous occasion.”

“For years, people on both sides of the Bay have had to contort their lives simply because they needed to take a bike on BART but couldn’t during critical times,” she said.

Bike advocates from both sides of the Bay celebrate their victory. Photo: EBBC/Twitter

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Civic Center Bike Station Delayed Another Year, Riders Left Crossing Fingers

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Photo: Bryan Goebel

The bike station that was supposed to be installed at Civic Center Station in June won’t come for at least another year, according to BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo. No word yet on what’s caused the delay, but Beroldo said the station hasn’t even been fully designed yet (it’s at “95 percent”). BART does have full funding to build the station, however.

The delay is sure to be a big disappointment for BART and Muni Metro riders looking for a bit more peace of mind when leaving their bikes at the station. Streetsblog SF’s founding editor, Bryan Goebel, would’ve been one of the latest victims of theft this week, had BART police not saved the day.

Goebel had parked at Civic Center to take BART to Oakland to report on the agency’s labor hearings. When he returned, he found that BART officers caught a thief stealing parts off his bike and others parked at the racks, which are accessible to anyone inside the fare gates.

In the thief’s bag, Goebel said police found his rear bike light along with ”items which lead them to believe he’s been picking parts off other bikes.” The thief was arrested and will reportedly be charged with burglary.

Goebel noted that it’s “frustrating” that the only options for getting to the East Bay by bike and BART are to take his bike on the train or bike to Embarcadero — the farthest station on the east side of Market, and SF’s only BART stop with a bike station — to find secure parking. Bike stations, like those at the Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, and Fruitvale BART stations, are typically accessible only by electronic card or key and are sometimes staffed.

“Having [a bike station] at Civic Center will be so convenient when I need to go the East Bay,” Goebel said.

Until then, BART might want to consider trying to scare off thieves with a cardboard cutout of one of its officers. Seriously.

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SPUR on What the BART Strike Means for the Regional Transit Agenda

Cross-posted from the SPUR blog. Gabriel Metcalf and Ratna Amin are SPUR’s executive director and transportation policy director, respectively.

For a group like SPUR — one that works to promote transit, walking and biking as primary forms of mobility — there’s no question that a transit strike is a major setback. It instills in people the sense, consciously or unconsciously, that they cannot count on transit being there when they need it. People who don’t have the flexibility in their jobs to work from home, or who need to get their kids to school, are getting the message that they can’t rely on transit for daily trips.

All of this is deeply unfortunate.

What does it mean for our broader transportation agenda when something like this happens?

The Numbers

Fully 63.5 percent of the 400,000 daily trips on BART are to or from the San Francisco downtown area, and 50.1 percent of all BART trips go through the Transbay Tube, according to data from BART’s monthly ridership reports. On weekday mornings it carries about 21,000 people per hour to the west side of the bay. By comparison, the Bay Bridge carries about 24,000 people per hour in the same direction. Both systems are currently very congested for much of the morning and afternoon peak hours (though not all the cars on the bridge are full), according to a Bay Bridge congestion study.

Although only about 5 percent of the region’s workers use BART during the morning peak, taking that 5 percent off the road brings tremendous benefits to our roadways and other travelers. With BART’s closure, we see how moving that small number of people off transit and onto roads causes “chaos” through much of the region. Many of the highway corridors that BART serves are operating near capacity at peak hours already — which is part of why BART keeps breaking ridership records. When highways are operating near capacity, it takes very few added cars for congestion to become gridlock.

Our region is projected to grow from 7.2 million people today to 9.3 million people in 2040 — that’s 2.1 million new people who will need to get around the bay. Auto demand on highway links like the Bay Bridge already exceeds capacity. Assuming we are not going to add more road capacity on these corridors, we actually need transit to carry significantly more people each year than it did the year before.

The BART strike focuses us on the need for a reliable public transit system. And it contains some important lessons for our broader transit agenda.

Lesson No. 1: The Need for Redundancy

Losing BART to a strike is somewhat like losing BART to an earthquake. And it just so happens that SPUR has conducted an in-depth study on how to provide resilience in our transportation system in the event that we lose segments of our network to an earthquake.

Read more…

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BART Board Votes to Lift Bike Bans for Another Five-Month Trial

The BART Board of Directors last night voted to lift bike blackout periods for another five-month trial starting in July. At the end of November, the board will once again consider changing the policy permanently.

Photo: SFBC

The trial was approved with a 6-3 vote, with directors Tom Radulovich, Robert Raburn, and James Fang voting against it, instead favoring a permanent removal of the bans.

“What I keep hearing from staff is we’re there, we’re ready to do this,” said Radulovich. “So let’s do it tonight.”

Despite the board’s hesitance to fully commit, bike advocates lauded the move toward a change in policy, which BART surveys show is supported by 76 percent of riders. According to KQED, “an overwhelming 95 percent of the roughly 400 people who sent letters or emails prior to the meeting urged that the ban be lifted.”

“Today’s BART decision is a momentous occasion,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum in a statement. “For years people on both sides of the Bay have had to contort their lives simply because they needed to take a bike on BART but couldn’t during commute times. We commend BART for taking the smart steps toward opening up regional travel by bike.”

BART board member Joel Keller of Brentwood, who said he initiated the board’s 1997 vote to remove the permit requirement for bikes brought aboard trains, was confident the policy would be successful but still favored limiting it to a trial period to err on the side of caution. “I’m prepared to support this on November 30, assuming that the facts don’t change,” he said, “and there’s no reason for me to believe the facts will change.”

See more coverage of the two-hour hearing from the SF Chronicle and KTVU.

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Will the BART Board Take the Sensible Step of Lifting Bike Bans?

After a second uneventful trial, it’s as clear as ever that BART is due to lift the ban on bikes during rush hours.

A commuter takes a bike aboard BART during the March trial period, and the sky doesn't fall. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The BART Board of Directors, which is set to vote on the policy change next week, held a hearing last week on the results of a one-week trial in March, during which the agency surveyed passengers about the effect of allowing bikes on trains during rush hours. The trial followed an initial experiment in August that lifted bike bans on four Fridays.

The results of the March trial were similar to those of the August trial, with 75 percent of survey respondents reporting that the change had “little or no effect on their trip.” More promising is the finding that the number of respondents who favored retaining the bike blackout periods dropped from 37 percent in August to 23 percent in March.

“The bottom line is it was a non-event,” said Alan Smith, vice chair of the BART Accessibility Task Force, who observed behavior on BART during the March trial.

Shirley Johnson, who conducted research for the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Bikes ONboard campaign, pointed out that out of 36 major transit systems in the U.S., 75 percent allow bikes on board during rush hours, including the New York City subway.

BART board member Gail Murray is one of the strongest critics of lifting bike bans. “They talk back to you, they don’t listen to you,” she said of "rude" bike-toting customers. Image: BART Board TV

Johnson also pointed out that ”cyclists are already avoiding crowded trains” on BART during the periods when they are allowed on board, since not all of the most crowded trains run during the current blackout periods.

As a condition of lifting the bike blackouts, BART staff propose keeping bikes off only the first three cars of trains during rush hours — a provision that was included the March trial. BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo said the agency is also taking measures to better accommodate bikes, including expanding designated on-board areas for bikes and wheelchairs, as well as adding bike parking at stations. BART plans to launch a “bike etiquette” campaign to remind bike-carrying riders not to board crowded trains and to follow other rules, like the prohibition against bringing bikes on escalators.

“Our ultimate goal is not large numbers of bikes on trains, but a higher percentage of riders using bikes to access BART,” said Beroldo.

Read more…

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A Week of Bikes on BART: How’s Your Commute Been?

In the third day of BART’s week-long trial to let bikes aboard during rush hours, the sky doesn’t seem to have fallen, just as it didn’t in the first trial during Fridays last August.

BART says it’s already received 850 survey submissions in the first two days, and the results will tell if the operation runs smoothly enough to warrant a permanent removal of the ban. But the picture so far from media reports and tweets from BART riders looks pretty regular — and better-than-regular for commuters who are no longer forced to board in the off-hours if they want to use their bikes on either end of their trip.

As KALW’s Isabell Angel noted after observing the Monday commute, “It seems like what hadn’t been working was the ban.”

Meanwhile, take a look at the contrast in Monday coverage from ABC 7, which reported a pretty uneventful day on BART, and KRON 4 below, which focused on the minority of riders who voiced opposition to the change in policy.

Whether you BART with or without a bike, how has your commute been this week? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to fill out the BART survey.

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BART to Launch Second Trial Week Without Rush-Hour Bike Ban

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BART will implement another trial to allow bikes aboard trains during rush hours, the agency announced today. Unlike the first trial, which tested the policy change during four Fridays in August, the new trial will run during the entire work week from Monday, March 18, through Friday, March 22.

The survey results from the August trial yielded some promising findings in favor of allowing BART riders to bring bikes aboard, provided they still abide by other rules against blocking doors and squeezing onto crowded train cars. While there were some mixed messages from the survey, overall 90 percent of BART riders said they didn’t notice a difference during the trial period.

“Our first pilot offered us great insight, but Fridays in August tend to be slow, and another round of testing and customer feedback is required before permanent changes to our bike access policy are considered,” said BART Board President Tom Radulovich in a statement.

Advocates from the SF and East Bay Bike Coalitions, which held outreach campaigns to encourage bike-toting BART riders to use courtesy during the August pilot, applauded BART’s initiative to take the next step on making the long-overdue change and pledged to continue their education efforts.

“We heard from countless bike riders on both sides of the Bay that the August pilot opened up regional commuting by bike for both experienced bike riders and those wanting to give it a try for the first time,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum.

Lifting bike blackout periods is one measure BART is pursuing as part of its Bike Plan, which aims to double bike-to-BART ridership within the next ten years. BART Board member Robert Raburn noted in a statement that the policy change is an important step in “expanding access and parking for bicyclists encourages riders to ditch their cars, freeing up car parking spaces for those who have no other option than driving.”

“BART is installing more bike lockers and racks monitored by security cameras, but when bike parking is filled the remaining option is to bring the bicycle on board,” he added.

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Are SFPD and BART Police Starting to Take Bike Theft Seriously?

BART police had some welcome news for Bay Area cyclists this week: An undercover sting led to the arrest of an alleged thief in possession of ten bikes and more than 100 bike parts. It’s a nice follow-up to the SFPD’s arrest last July of a thief who had 114 stolen bicycles.

Some stolen bicycles recovered by BART police this week. Photo via CBS 5

Stories of successful bike theft crackdowns in San Francisco aren’t common, but it’s promising to hear that local law enforcement officials are directing resources to address the problem, since the perceived low risk of stealing bikes is what makes bicycles such an appealing target for thieves.

As Streetsblog New York City relayed last August, the Priceonomics Blog looked at why bike theft is so prevalent, even when “it seems as if stealing bikes shouldn’t be a lucrative form of criminal activity.” The conclusion? Bike thieves are rarely caught, and even if they are, they rarely face jail time, and that’s what draws them to the business.

A 2007 estimate of SF bike theft put the citywide number at 2,000 to 3,000 bikes per year. In the Mission, an average of 60 bikes are stolen every month, officers said at a workshop on bike theft prevention held by the SFPD last week, according to SF Weekly.

Read more…

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Bike Station Coming to Civic Center BART/Muni Station Next Summer

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A BART bike station at Embarcadero. Photo via Oakland Local

BART and Muni Metro riders who bike to Civic Center Station would have less reason to worry about getting their wheels stolen if a planned bike station is installed next June, potentially adding a sectioned-off parking area and a fix-it-yourself repair station.

The bike station, which is currently being designed, would add 150 to 175 bike parking spaces outside of the paid areas, allowing it to be used by both Muni and BART passengers. The number of regular bike racks inside the paid BART area would also be expanded.

“The existing facilities are at capacity, and projections for demand just keep going up and up,” said Maria Lombardo of the SF County Transportation Authority in a recent presentation to the agency’s board of directors.

Currently, Civic Center Station has 63 bike racks, which can be reached by anyone inside BART’s paid fare gate area. Muni Metro riders, who aren’t allowed to bring bikes aboard trains, have no bike parking available in the station.

Bike stations, which are typically accessible only by electronic card or key and are sometimes staffed, already exist at Embarcadero Station as well as Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, and Fruitvale BART Stations in the East Bay. BART also plans to open a bike station at 19th Street in Oakland by the next Bike to Work Day in May.

Existing bike racks at Civic Center are located inside BART's paid fare gates, but still leave bikes susceptible enough to theft to deter many would-be bike commuters. Photo: bsii/Flickr

Expanding secure bike parking is a key piece of BART’s recently-adopted Bicycle Plan [PDF], which sets out to double bike-to-BART ridership in the next ten years. BART surveys [PDF] show that the existing bike stations are one of the system’s largest draws for bike commuters. Surveys at Downtown Berkeley and Fruitvale stations revealed that 17 percent of bike station users would bike to BART less often without the security offered by a bike station, while another 19 percent said they wouldn’t bike to BART at all. Twenty-one percent said they would instead bring their bikes on BART trains, which are already regularly at capacity.

The Civic Center bike station is expected to cost $830,000 and to be funded with BART Prop 1B Lifeline funds, Prop K sales tax funds, and the Prop AA vehicle registration fee.