Ridership on BART’s SFO line takes off

Though the start of fall comes with a downswing in air travel — and a resulting dip in BART ridership to San Francisco International Airport — the agency saw record-high September ridership this year, according to BART figures.

During the month of September, average ridership in and out of the SFO station was “soaring” at more than 20 percent higher than officials had planned, with an average of 9,481 trips each weekday, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said. When the agency compiled its budget in January, officials expected that there would be roughly 7,836 trips each weekday in September.

It’s a far cry from fiscal year 2003-04, when ridership to that station in September came in at only 77 percent of projections.

When the station opened in June 2003, it and the whole extension saw dismal ridership figures to start out, as the local economy and airport were suffering from the dot-com bust and fallout from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Because the initial ridership projections were no longer relevant, given these major events, BART re tooled its passenger forecasts and growth accordingly, Johnson said.

“Right now, the SFO station and the other four stations on the extension are exceeding the projections based on today’s reality, which of course is wonderful news,” Johnson said.

The increase has BART optimistic for a better-than-normal fall season, leading up to the expected holiday traffic boom at the end of November, spokesman Jim Allison said.

“Extensions do better as they age, and this is a good example of that,” Allison said, chalking up the increase to the years the extension has had to settle into the region and concurrent promotional campaigns recently undertaken with the airport and Southwest Airlines.

The September boost in ridership comes after an especially busy summer at SFO, which welcomed JetBlue Airways, Virgin America and Southwest Airlines. Airport figures show that the boost in domestic travelers from these three low-cost carriers came with no shortage of people driving to and parking at SFO,which has significantly expanded its parking options over the last several years.

Parking loads at the airport this summer saw an 8 percent increase over the normal level, with an especially large boost in international garage parking at 16 percent, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said.

There are 7,653 hourly parking spaces at the airport. The last time such parking was added was in December 2000, when two hourly parking lots, adding 2,980 spots, were opened as part of the International Terminal project that opened the same month.

There are 4,205 long-term parking spots. In June 2006, a new, nearly 3,100-space long-term lot opened, relocating some spaces and adding a total of 841 new spaces to the airport’s total.

San Bruno to vote on moving utilities

Four years after the San Francisco International Airport BART extension opened, the city stands to have some of its utilities — which were moved out of the way during construction — replaced.

The City Council on Tuesday is set to discuss and vote on an agreement between BART and the city for the removal, reconstruction, extension or relocation and maintenance of San Bruno-owned utilities in connection with the BART-to-SFO extension.

Before construction on the extension even began, gas, electric and sewer lines — some belonging to the city, others to PG&E — were relocated to other areas to make way for the massive new project and its ancillary mechanisms.

Some were not completely restored and the pending agreement would ensure that they are, as agreed upon years ago before construction started.

tramroop@examiner.com

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