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Are BART Safety Initiatives Starting to Pay Off?

New data implies trains are delayed less frequently due to police incidents

BART. Photo: LocalWiki

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

BART delays due to police activity seem to be down, according to a BART report released Tuesday. To be precise: total train minutes lost due to BART police incidents dropped from 9,878 in May to 6,380 in October. “Fewer delays due to BART police incidents not only shows safety is improving but it helps our on-time performance," said BART General Manager Bob Powers in a statement. "This is a win-win for riders as we deliver on our commitment to ensure BART is the safest way to travel around the Bay.”

Of course, BART is already the "safest way to travel around the Bay." A person is roughly 30 times more likely to die on any given trip in a car than if they take rail transit. Nevertheless, if BART crime and antisocial behavior is high enough to deter ridership, that still means ridership drops--and, ironically, more people will drive instead, increasing vehicle miles traveled and precipitating more deaths and injuries.

That's indicated by a separate poll from the Bay Area Council from last spring that showed that "BART riders and others who have stopped using the system or reduced their use dramatically say they would return in significant numbers if crime, safety, and cleanliness issues are addressed." More than three-quarters of respondents to the Bay Area Council Poll said they would ride BART more often if it was "significantly cleaner and safer."

Ambassador Sequoia Taylor. Photo: BART 

BART has increased police patrols (BART currently has 207 cops) and added to the department's twenty Crisis Intervention Specialists and nine Transit Ambassadors. The BART police department is currently recruiting for 28 officers and one more Transit Ambassador. The Ambassador program was launched in February 2020.

Meanwhile, the transit agency is also planning to install new and more secure fare gates starting in December. These new gates were piloted at some BART elevators and at Rockridge station (See pic below).

BART will be rolling out more fare gates like these

In addition, the new schedule, introduced last month, allowed BART to eliminate near-empty train cars by shortening the least-crowded trains, wrote BART in its statement. People generally don't feel safe riding in near-empty cars.

Before the pandemic, BART averaged about 433,000 weekday trips. Ridership is still only 172,000 weekday trips now, although that number is slowly rising. BART is trying to pivot from a rush-hour commute service to one that is more in tune with all-day transportation needs. The agency has also begun discussing a merger with Caltrain to consolidate costs and grow ridership by making transfers easier.

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