Fruit vendors, book stores, technology centers and take-out restaurants might someday replace the drab, mostly featureless environs of BART stations.
Today, the agency’s board of directors could authorize negotiations with a private company on a proposal that would transform stations into commercial centers. If the board approves the negotiations, the two sides will have three years to figure out how to bring in retail opportunities.
The developer, TransMart, believes retail centers would be ideal for about 10 of BART’s busiest stations, including all four in downtown San Francisco, agency spokesman Jim Allison said. Other possibilities include the stations in downtown Berkeley and at the San Francisco International Airport.
Along with food, books and tech centers, retail opportunities could include hair salons, health facilities, bike-rental outlets and local bank branches.
TransMart, which would recruit and manage the retailers, has established similar centers in Boston and Chicago. Part of the negotiations with BART could include revenue benefits for the agency, Allison said.
The amenities, which would all be located outside BART’s fare gates, are intended to make the passenger experience more enjoyable, Allison said. Nonetheless, he said, BART would retain its policy of barring food and drinks from its trains, due to cleanliness issues.
In 2008, BART added Peet’s Coffee kiosks at the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations, and there are assorted small businesses, such as flower stands and food trucks, throughout the system.
However, most stations offer little in the way of amenities. James Fang, president of BART’s board of directors, supports additional retail and said it might be worth revisiting the agency’s policy against food and drinks on trains.
“This is a model that has shown to work throughout the world,” Fang said, “and I think it’s the next sensible step in our transit development.”
But fellow Director Tom Radulovich said he felt uncomfortable giving so much control to TransMart.
“I really don’t want BART to be like airports, where it’s the same five vendors everywhere,” Radulovich said. “I have grave concerns we’re going to be seeing Starbucks and Burger Kings in all of our stations, and there will be nothing we can do about it.”
BART's busiest hubs
The most traveled BART stations, based on average weekday boarding exits by passengers:
Powell Street: 24,676
Civic Center: 18,432
Balboa Park: 12,414
12th Street/Oakland City Center: 11,856
24th Street Mission: 11,576
16th Street Mission: 10,546
19th Street Oakland: 9,161