If you are a frequent BART rider, you know the scoop already -- when even a minor earthquake hits in the BART service area, trains are stopped so that routine safety checks can be performed. The delays are usually pretty short, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, but can cause a ripple effect systemwide. It's part of BART's commitment to putting safety first. Many riders report not even feeling these minor shakes while on BART, but say they don't mind the inconvenience of delays to be sure everything is good to go before trains start up again.
Today, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 3.3 hit at around 9:30 a.m. near San Pablo.
So what type of things happen during these routine safety checks?
"Basically, there is a 5-minute hold," said Kimberly Johnson, a train controller with 20 years' experience who works in BART's Operations Control Center. "We have to do an inspection of the track way, since we don't know right away what might have happened." This also allows time to assess for any immediate aftershocks.
"Then, the trains begin to move at a very slow speed, as slow as they can possibly go, for safety reasons, so we can check everything out," Johnson said. "And if everything is OK then it starts picking up." Asked what advice she had for riders in the system during these delays, Johnson said, "We hope they can just be patient with us, because we are trying to keep them safe."
While these routine checks may be the most noticeable thing, BART actually has an ongoing, major, in-depth program committed to earthquake safety. Find out more about our earthquake safety program.