Friday's Spare the Air Day BART ridership results
BART is projecting at least a 5% increase in ridership today as a result of today's Spare the Air free ride day. That means about 16,000 more riders will have chosen BART instead of driving to and from work. BART was expecting to carry about 314,000 riders today. In general, ridership on Fridays is lower than on other weekdays. The 16,000 figure is a conservative estimate.
That's because it's based on morning commute counts, which do not factor in the number of leisure riders who may choose to take advantage of free BART rides tonight to go to Friday evening sporting events and other social activities.
As a result, commuters who chose to ditch their vehicles and ride BART instead, prevented more 704,000 pounds of pollutants from spilling into the air. According to the Institute of Local Self Reliance, the average commuter spews 44 pounds of pollutants into the Bay Area's air each day.
Thursday's Spare the Air free rides day resulted in approximately 33,000 more people using BART than normal. That's about a ten percent increase in ridership. BART was expecting to carry about 329,000 riders on Thursday.
2004 & 2005 RESULTS
There were two free ride Spare the Air days in 2004. On September 7, 2004 the free rides resulted in 16,000 additional BART riders. On September 8, 2004 the free rides resulted in 24,000 additional BART riders. There was only one free ride day in 2005. On July 26, 2005 there was no noticeable difference in BART ridership.
ENVIRONMENTAL & ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF RIDING BART
Air pollution claims 70,000 lives a year in the United States and emissions from driving are a major contributor. However, BART trains virtually avoid contributing to air pollution because they get their power primarily from hydroelectric power plants. According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance, the typical commuter who rides BART instead of driving a midsize car:
• Avoids spewing 44 lbs of pollutants per day from their vehicle into the air (5 tons per year).
• Can realize direct economic savings of $5,500 - $10,000 per year. The study takes into account the savings that come from putting fewer miles on their vehicle, using less gas and not having to pay parking and bridge toll fees.
WHAT'S REALLY AT STAKE
The point of the free rides program is to protect billions of transportation dollars and reduce Bay Area smog during the summer months when pollution levels are the highest. The federal government could, for air quality reasons, withhold or even cancel billions of highway and transit dollars earmarked for the Bay Area. That's money that regional transportation agencies are counting on to fund projects designed to get commuters out of gridlock.
The Air District declares a Spare the Air day when it expects air pollution to reach unhealthy concentrations, which typically occur on hot, windless days. The public can get advance notification of Spare the Air days by registering for Air Alerts at www.sparetheair.org.