Wednesday was a commute like none other in BART history – the first time the transit system carried riders into San Francisco for a World Series ticker-tape parade, with extraordinary ridership numbers that could end up setting records.
San Francisco Giants fans poured onto trains Wednesday for a victory parade down Market Street that started at 11 a .m. As of 2 p.m., according to BART ridership estimates, nearly 100,000 extra riders had packed onto trains than would be seen on a typical Wednesday. Final numbers for the day will not be available until Thursday around 11 a.m. However, BART's preliminary estimate suggests ridership will exceed the 400,000 mark by the time service ends at midnight. According to official numbers recorded up until noon on Wednesday, BART had carried 211,300 riders -- about 68,500 more than a typical day in that time period.
By 2 p.m. the crowds were starting to clear out, but they had been so large at times that BART had to selectively close down some of the downtown San Francisco station entrances, to meter the flow of passengers into the system for crowd control. BART reminded riders that if they did have to wait a little extra time to get into a station or onto a train, it was both for safety reasons and to keep trains on time. "If there are so many people on the platform that they crowd onto the yellow safety strip that separates that trains from customers we have to stop or slow down trains as they enter the station or we have to keep the trains from departing until the yellow strip is cleared," BART Operations Control Center Manager Chris Young said.
The day started with a festive atmosphere, with tailgate parties in BART stations happening as the sun rose. Many fans got an early start traveling to the celebration (BART starts running around 4 a.m. on weekdays), and the early-birds were more likely to get seats and parking spaces and have a smooth ride. BART ran trains at maximum lengths before and after the parade, and had advised riders to go in early, and to use an electronic Clipper card (www.clippercard.com) to avoid ticket-machine waits. But even with trains at maximum lengths, as the parade time grew closer in the late morning, some riders experienced long delays to buy tickets or get on trains -- there were even reports on social networks such as Twitter of BART ticket scalping (who'd have expected that?) with some riders selling their tickets above face value to others who wanted to avoid the ticket-machine wait.
BART Police decided to open the faregates at one station, El Cerrito del Norte, to let riders pass through for crowd-control reasons, but riders were expected to pay on the way out. There were scattered reports of faregate jumping, but, overall, relatively few major issues considering the size of the crowds carried.
"We are seeing big ridership numbers today as fans are flocking to BART to beat the Bay Bridge backup," BART Chief Communications Officer Linton Johnson said. "Giants fever has created controlled chaos all over the BART system with tens of thousands of excited folks going nuts over the win. We are seeing an orderly, but happy madness on our trains."
Social networks like Twitter and Facebook were full of status updates from fans on transit to the game, and photos of the sea of orange and black at BART stations and on BART trains.
"Wow...am I at the BART station or AT&T Park?" one rider posted on Twitter. "Giants fans everywhere." Another wrote: "The BART is packed with SF Giants fans on their way to the parade...the only day I don't mind being elbow to elbow with people!" Some workday commuters were peeved with the Giants Nation taking over their trains. "GIANTS FANS CLOGGIN' UP MAH BART CAR," one person wrote, in the upper-case internet equivalent of an angry shout.
Other "regulars" expressed appreciation for a little extra help from BART staff. "Please convey my appreciation to the Dublin/Pleasanton station agent who recognized me (regular disabled rider) and got me through the line," one rider commented.
The highest ridership day in BART history -- with 442,000 riders -- was Oct. 29, 2009, during an emergency closure of the Bay Bridge.
BART's highest daily ridership on a sustained basis, without special circumstances or events, occurred in September 2008 when BART averaged about 380,000 riders per day. Since that time, ridership dipped, largely attributed to the economic slump and high unemployment that followed. But it has begun to rebound this year and is approaching around 350,000 riders per average weekday.
To receive BART news updates or get service advisories via email or text message, you can sign up at www.bart.gov/alerts.
Updated 4 p.m. on Wednesday, November 3, with additional ridership info.