BART to reconsider proposal to penalize seat-hogs

BART riders may soon be fined for hogging two seats.

That’s the proposal of Joel Keller, a member of BART’s Board of Directors, which will go before the board Thursday for approval. It was tabled early last month after concerns sent Keller back to the drawing board.

“We listened. I listened,” Keller told the San Francisco Examiner.

Originally, the proposal sought to fine BART riders who used more than one seat by $100, and up to $500 for repeat offenses. The enforcement would be complaint-driven, with riders summoning BART police to enforce against those occupying more than one seat.

In March, some BART directors cried foul over the proposal, saying BART’s previous experience with complaints — chiefly, with its BART Watch app — showed riders selectively complained about black and brown riders, which was uncovered by the East Bay Express last year.

“There are some BART riders who want to target other particular riders, whether they’re homeless people or people of color,” BART Board Director Rebecca Saltzman told the Examiner. Riders are more likely to complain about those groups, Saltzman said, than “a man with a scooter and a piece of luggage.”

The seat provision now applies only during weekday commute hours — 6-10 a.m. and 3-7:30 p.m. — to avoid penalizing those who occupy more than one seat when trains are empty, according to the new language of the ordinance. Warnings must also be given before citations can be issued.

“No one, including me, wants this directed towards a targeted population,” Keller said.

Saltzman told the Examiner she’s not convinced the changes are enough and said she’s “extremely concerned” reporting seat-hogs may lead to train delays.

The ordinance will also not take effect for six months, which, Keller said, would allow BART time to educate riders. There is also a provision to exempt those who by virtue of their “physique” naturally occupy more than one seat, or those with medical ailments.

Keller said the ordinance is inspired by real events. “There was a young person, sprawled across two seats, and he had his feet on another two seats. One person, taking up four seats! … a whole lot of people had to stand because one person was taking up [those seats].”

Keller and other BART riders may soon have a place to rest.

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