BART will increase the frequency of key commuter trains during peak hours, an encouraging development in an otherwise bleak time for the Bay Area transit agency and the largest increase in service since the coronavirus pandemic forced cost-saving adjustments to frequencies and operating hours starting in March.
Effective Monday September 14, four trains each will be added to the Antioch-Daly City, Richmond-Millbrae and Berryessa/North San Jose-Daly City lines so they can run every 15 minutes during their busiest weekday commute hours.
All five BART routes will see weekend frequencies decrease slightly to 30-minute headways in order to track with ridership demands on Saturday and Sunday.
Trains will continue to run during shorter operating hours from 5am to 9pm on weekdays and 8am-9pm on weekends.
Matching service with demand
More trains mean more room for social distancing, a key part of the agency’s 15 Step Plan to bring riders back to the rail network safely.
Staff estimates 30 people can ride within a single car while still keeping 6-feet between them, and committed to implementing 15-minute headways should ridership data show a need for more than this number of passengers per car “consistently” during peak hours.
BART ridership crested 49,000 on September 2, the highest number since the statewide shelter-in-place order came down and the third daily bump in a row.
Though the pandemic record still falls 88 percent below the anticipated baseline prior to COVID-19, it was enough to cross a demand threshold laid out by the 15 Step Plan for restoring service.
“We are following through on our commitment to match service to demand,” spokesperson Alicia Trost said in her announcement of the service increases on Twitter.
Most crowds were seen on the three lines that will receive a bump in the number of trains in order to create more space.
The other two lines will continue to have trains every 30 minutes, as the ridership data doesn’t yet show riders struggling to maintain proper distance while on board.
Agency officials see ridership inching upwards as an opportunity to nurture the burgeoning demand with reliable, safe service.
BART averaged just over 400,000 rides on a typical weekday before the pandemic.
Many of those trips were for commuters between their residences in the East Bay and their technology jobs in downtown San Francisco. When the shelter-in-place mandate forced all but essential businesses in downtown San Francisco to close, ridership was decimated and the agency estimated it would lose $37 million monthly in revenues from fares and parking.
Riders can find details on planned changes for each line at www.bart.gov/news.