BART focused on boosting service and enhancing traditional cleaning as budget talks move forward


BART focused on boosting service and enhancing traditional cleaning as budget talks move forward

Increasing train service, reprioritizing traditional cleaning methods, and boosting visible safety staff dedicated to riding trains are among the initiatives prioritized in BART’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget planning.  BART’s Board of Directors will meet on Thursday, April 22nd to discuss the recently released FY22 Preliminary Budget Memo which includes the recommendation to defer the previously planned FY22 fare increase and other initiatives to encourage ridership growth during the Bay Area’s reopening process.

Multiple service scenarios are discussed in the FY22 Preliminary Budget Memo including a proposal to extend BART hours to midnight six days a week starting in September 2021, to increase Saturday service, and reduce the wait time between trains on weekdays back to only 15 minutes from 5am-8pm with 30-minute frequency from 8pm to midnight.

Between now and September BART has the flexibility to add as many as 26 trains mainly during weekday commute hours and a few on Saturdays when ridership numbers show an increase in demand. This data-driven focus on actual rider counts allows BART to boost service in a way that is sustainable, directly improves the rider experience, and maximizes limited resources.

“Throughout the pandemic BART has worked to match service levels with actual ridership demand. This effort has allowed BART to provide ample space for social distancing on trains while saving money during an unprecedented fiscal challenge,” said BART General Manager Bob Powers.  “As more schools and offices reopen, and vaccination rates increase, we will be ready, and we will work to position transit as the preferred option for travel.”

Clean seats and clean bathrooms

In March, BART announced its enhanced cleaning initiative to improve the appearance and cleanliness of trains, stations, and bathrooms in a targeted response to issues cited by riders in the most recent customer satisfaction survey.

BART plans to hire 50 new part-time and 17 new full-time workers to clean cars and to help ensure trains are dispatched free of debris and with clean seats.  Another 22 new part time cleaners will be added to enhance station cleaning. Restroom cleanliness and appearance will be prioritized with dedicated cleaning staff at stations with restrooms and a series of bathroom improvements for all 75 restrooms systemwide such as fresh paint and repairs.

BART is also moving forward with upgrades to its train ventilation systems.  By June all BART trains will be outfitted with denser MERV-14 filters. Trains have previously relied on MERV-8 filters, which have been effective, but the MERV-14 units will be able to filter out smaller particles between 0.3 and 1 microns. With upgraded filters in place, BART can discontinue fogging trains every night and redeploy those employees to more impactful traditional cleaning and scrubbing of train cars.  This move comes in response to rider demands for more traditional cleaning of trains as well as recently updated CDC guidelines noting that risk of surface transmission of COVID-19 is low and daily fogging is not necessary as COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through the air.

BART’s budget planning also continues to prioritize rider security and sense of safety through an increase of BART staff dedicated to riding trains, walking platforms, and responding to calls for service.

Responding to fiscal challenges

Since the onset of the pandemic, operating revenue has plummeted, a reflection of the more than 88% drop in ridership. BART has implemented a series of cost-cutting measures including reductions in service hours and frequency, a hiring freeze, elimination of positions, overtime limitations, and a retirement incentive program.  In addition to these belt-tightening moves BART has relied on $755 million in COVID relief from the federal government to allow the system to continue to operate for essential workers and others who depend on transit. The District expects to be able to balance the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, but with the expectation that federal funding is a limited solution.

BART is confident that riders will return, and when they do, BART will be there for them with safe, clean, and reliable service.