BART to Hand Out 120,000 Free Tickets on Thursday for Holiday Promotion

Photo: Matthew Roth
Photo: Matthew Roth

In the spirit of the holidays, BART will be handing out 120,000 free tickets to commuters tomorrow morning from 6 am to 9 am, what BART calls “an early holiday gift.” Each ticket will be valid for one ride anywhere in the system during the next three weekends, December 4th, 5th, 11th, 12th, 18th and 19th. BART will give pairs of free tickets to 60,000 commuters at the Downtown Berkeley, 12th St./Oakland City Center, Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell and Civic Center stations, while supplies last.

According to BART spokesperson Linton Johnson, a lot of people forget that BART accesses several of the busiest shopping areas in the region, from downtown San Francisco to Oakland to Walnut Creek. What’s more, said Johnson, “our parking spaces tend to be mostly empty on weekends, and they’re free. People tend to fight for that parking spot during holiday shopping. We’re killing two birds with one stone.”

The promotion will cost BART roughly $386,400 in ticket value (assuming average ride cost of $3.22), but Johnson said the agency believed the increase in ridership from friends and family traveling with the beneficiaries of the promotion would more than make up the expense. “In the end, people don’t make just one shopping trip, if we can increase just a percent or two, then we’ve improved our overall picture,” he said.

The funding for the promotion is part of a board-approved rider development fund. After use, the tickets will be returned by the fare gates but will have no remaining value and may be discarded. Further, after using the free tickets, recipients who visit to fill out a survey (available by the first day of the promotion) will be entered to win a Clipper card loaded with $300 worth of value.

  • East Lake Rider

    Another silly rider promotion from BART. Robert Raburn comes on board (literally) this Friday, and it can’t come soon enough. With $386,400 there must be better ways to increase ridership instead of giving it away.

    If I get a pair of free tickets I’d ride out to SFO just for the hell of it, that would be more than $3.22 each way.

  • Great idea. Transit systems have excess capacity on weekends and it makes sense to try to fill trains, especially if it means more future riders.

    I also think it will cost much less than $386,400.

    -Operating costs are fixed, and adding more riders does nothing to increase costs.

    -Many of the tickets will not be redeemed

    -Many of the riders (the majority?) would not have ridden anyway. Meaning you never would have made money from them.

    So “lost” revenue is much smaller. Only people who would have made the trip anyway

  • david vartanoff

    great. Given that the S/As, T/Os are fixed costs the net loss on discounted additional riders is very low. In some earlier years BART also ran added Sunday service on those weekends.

  • This is a great promotional idea, and potential lost revenue is minimal. BART should also offer weekend “Kids Ride Free” (up to 2 children under 12 ride free per paying adult) so that families will take BART into the city rather than loading up the minivans. However, they should do this every weekend, not just in December. And so should Caltrain!!!

  • Family travel “packs” should be standard, as taomom said. Or maybe like Munich where 4 people can travel together on one ticket for a discounted price. Maybe $5/day for a family of 4.

    I bet a big reason people drive into the city is because they only have to pay to park one car, but have to pay to transport 4 people on BART/Caltrain.

  • Brandon

    taomom, ESPECIALLY caltrain, since theres no turnstile shenanigans to worry about.

  • Can imagine how many people would ride caltrain on the weekend if:

    -family pass (2 parents and kids ride free under 18)
    -baby bullet service
    -N line still when all the way to 4th/King on Sat/Sun
    -discounted Muni family pass with Caltrain ticket

    Added benefits would come from:
    -30/45 had enforced bus only lanes up 3rd, down 4th
    -Stockton was transit only
    -Stockton south of the tunnel was two-way and provided a direct connection to Union Square

    On the other hand, I don’t have much of a problem with these free tickets for BART. I just don’t think the people who will need them will have access to them. I mean, look who they are giving them to:

    “BART will give pairs of free tickets to 60,000 commuters at the Downtown Berkeley, 12th St./Oakland City Center, Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell and Civic Center stations, while supplies last.”

    That says commuters – people who are already familiar with the system and probably have high value cards. If anything, they should be handing them out at the toll booth to the Bay Bridge for THOSE commuters.

  • @mikesonn – the schedule for Caltrain bullets is out.

    NB bullets leaving SJ at 10:35 AM and 5:35 PM. Not bad. Lunchtime, Dinnertime in SF. Also arrives at a very good time for weekend Giants home games.

    SB bullets leave SF at noon and 7 PM. So it does give Peninsula folk at 11:40 AM to 7 PM window to take bullets each way. If I go to Palo Alto, it’s noon, and 5:58 PM. Not horrible.

    The biggest downer is that people coming to the city for a nice dinner get to take a Milk Train back home.

    It’s not perfect but it’s a pilot. Even without added ridership, the stats will show that people select the bullets over locals – if the bullets have the higher ridership maybe they’ll just go to almost all bullets – or say run every other train as a bullet, with hourly departures.

    Stations are 4th, Millbrae, San Mateo, Hillsdale, Redwood City, PA, MV, Sunnyvale, SJ. A stop or two too many for my taste but still saves 32 minutes end to end. I’d probably get rid of Hillsdale, then Sunnyvale due to proximity to MV, but Sunnyvale is a very successful commute day regular commute bullet, so the potential is there and people may also take it SV->PA.

    We’ll see how it goes. I’m pretty excited.

  • John – Thanks!

    Yeah, I agree that it’s maybe a couple stops too many, but SV is a big pull but I think Hillsdale is weak (maybe they picked it because of the available parking and the mall?) especially since it is so close to SM.

    I also agree with you about dinner in the city, I doubt people will use it since the last train out of the city is, what, midnight? And that’ll get you back to SJ at almost 2am. Don’t think people will take that later bullet up to the city for a night that they plan on returning home on the peninsula.

    But I am very excited and think this will prove to be very popular.


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