Now that BART has met the challenge of carrying unprecedented numbers of passengers during the emergency closure of the Bay Bridge, the agency’s next challenge is to keep as many of the new passengers as possible. On Monday, BART carried 393,200 passengers but with the Bay Bridge now reopened, some commuters might be tempted to return to their cars despite the affordability and convenience of BART.
"We’re overjoyed that commuters turned to BART in record numbers during the bridge closure," BART Board President Thomas M. Blalock said. "Time will tell how many of the new riders will stick with BART. The economy is one of the most important factors in ridership. Until the economy improves, we may see the ridership trend downward again now that people have the option to drive across the Bay Bridge."
BART’S EFFORTS TO KEEP NEW RIDERS
BART saw record ridership during the emergency bridge closure, suggesting that many Bay Area residents can take public transit when the bridge is out, but for various reasons don’t do so regularly under normal conditions On Wednesday, Oct. 28, the first full day of the emergency bridge closure, BART began an online survey aimed at finding out more about those reasons.
“We care about what our passengers have to say,” BART Board Vice President James Fang said. Vice President Fang is the longest serving member of the Board of Directors. “We’re especially interested to hear from people who took BART during the bridge closure but don’t do so regularly when the bridge is open. We’d like them to switch to BART for the long-term.”
The survey will close at the end of business today, Tuesday, November 3, 2009. Each survey respondent has a chance to win a $100 gift card. More than 1,500 people have responded to the survey. BART will study feedback from this survey, along with data from a similar survey done during the scheduled Bay Bridge closure over Labor Day weekend, to look for feasible ideas for action.
BART ENCOURAGES USE OF MONTHLY PARKING PERMITS
Many passengers discovered that parking at BART stations was in especially high demand during the Bay Bridge closure. While most commuters found alternate ways to get to BART stations, each one of the agency’s 46,000 parking spaces filled quickly during the closure. For commuters who wish to park at a station before taking BART, the agency is encouraging them to consider buying Monthly Reserved Parking Permits at stations where such permits are still available. Monthly Reserved Permits cost between $30 and $115.50 per month (subject to change). They guarantee a space within a designated parking area close to the station Monday through Friday from 4 a.m. until 10 a.m.
Customers can buy Monthly Reserved Permits online at www.bart.gov/parking, with a credit card. There are a limited number of permits at each station. BART sells them on a first-come, first-served basis, but maintains a waiting list after a station is sold out. Customers need to display their permit on the lower left hand corner (driver's side) of your windshield when they park. After 10 a.m., any unoccupied spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis to all customers.
Stations with Available Monthly Parking Permits as of Nov. 3:
Pittsburg /Bay Point
El Cerrito del Norte
El Cerrito Plaza
BART STILL CALCULATING COSTS OF EXTRA SERVICE
Yesterday’s ridership total of 393,200 was the seventh-highest in BART’s 37-year history. BART’s three highest ridership days came during the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge emergency closure. On Thursday, trains carried 442,000 riders, beating Wednesday’s 437,200 riders. Thursday there were 86,000 or 24% more customers than on a typical Thursday.
Even with the record-shattering ridership days last Wednesday and Thursday, overall ridership for October was down 3.5% compared with October 2008. The number of people buying tickets is the biggest single source of operating funds for BART, which is struggling with its budget in the wake of an extraordinary drop in sales tax revenues and massive funding cuts by the State of California. It’s too early to determine how much the extra revenue from the additional riders will help the agency address its budget challenges. BART officials will need at least a couple of weeks to calculate the cost of the extra service provided during the closure.