BART, a result of poor leadership
Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) has served the people of San Francisco Bay Area, California since 1972. There have been ups and downs regarding the system, however, the recent trends are so worrying; however, the Bart Board of Directors neither seem to be concerned nor are they attempting to correct the situation. Instead, they come up with non-issues to conceal the dwindling public transit system. If the BART Board of Directors could pay attention, then the public transit system would be critically improved at this point. The Bart Board of Directors is out of touch with reality as they focus on hot headlines instead of core issues like losing ridership, increased violent crime, and meeting the basics of public transit.
Between 2010 and 2015 BART ridership was on the growing trend with the strong Bay Area economy. Since then, the ridership and approval ratings have shockingly plunged, making it harder to keep a higher number of rides in the process. October 2016 ridership dropped by 1.7% from 2015 numbers, followed by a 2.3% drop in the subsequent year. The declining trend continued by approximately 3% every fiscal year between 2016 and 2019. Moreover, the current customer satisfaction study indicates that BART’s overall approval rating is at its all-time low after the 2018 survey, a trend that is raising eyebrows in the wake of the recent insights.
In 2015 BART had an annual ridership of 127 Million riders; in 2015 they had an annual ridership of 120 million. A staggering decline of 7 million annual riders.
Moreover, violent crime may be a factor in this decline. As violent crime on BART has more than doubled since 2014 according to reports by a Civil Jury. The report indicated a 128% increase in robberies up from 2014’s 153 to 349 in 2019 while aggravated assaults increased from 71 to 130 in the same period. BART is unable to maintain public safety standards which is another reason for the decline of ridership by 35% of the respondents according to the Civil Jury. Among other safety issues, riders cited lack of cleanliness, overcrowding, and rampant crime.
These are factors that BART has control over and if it has to continue this way, then the Board is to blame. Janice Li, Board Member, who attended the protest for the ticketing food consumption on BART, declined to comment on the condemnation by the BART police union.
According to Keith Garcia in a local news article, president of the BART Police Officers Association, “[Janice] Li is undermining the authority of BART police by advocating lawlessness and making our job as law enforcement officers that much harder.”
Earlier in the day, however, Janice Li said she was “surprised” to see such incidents happen, as she has a strong statement against the incidents. “This story has continued to capture the public’s imagination,” she told the San Francisco Examiner. “It’s sustaining international attention.” Following the same incident, BART police called for an apology from Li over her decision to join the protest over sandwich citation.
Moreover, BART is now considered one of the most dangerous transportation system in the country by NBC Bay Area in a detailed report of how rampant crimes have become in all its stations. Last year alone, there were four violent crimes for every million rides on the BART system according to the report with Oakland Coliseum station being the most dangerous with 154 violent crimes within the last five years.
Janice Li, who recently protested against the Bart Police noted,“The reason folks are not taking BART is we don’t have that presence at stations ... [I]t feels like it’s very empty at a platform level.” Board Member Li believes BART needs community liaisons who can assist the public directly in stations. This out of touch idea, that people need directions more than they need safety, is a core failing of our system. The result is that these people get away with crime.
Another pertinent issue is drug use. There have been several public outcries over the open use of hard drugs inside the BART stations, especially San Francisco. One commuter even shared videos of this ordeal; the BART Board of Directors behaved stunned but fumbled when asked by KPIX 5 how they would fix the mess.
BART Director in charge of the Civic Center Station, Bevan Dufty, said, “You know, this is a very sobering video to see. I am, frankly, glad the rider has shared this." He further noted that their homeless outreach programs are underway in the most affected areas and that there is already some reduction in drug use.
Statistics, however, show the contrary; 128 and 83 percent increases in thefts and aggravated assaults respectively between 2014 and 2019.
Another complaint is the issue with the BART system is that of prices. Fares have hit highest compared to most subways especially for the long trips; this is one of the reasons why riders have opted to use ride-sharing services.
One does not have to wonder why these prices are swelling when the Board votes on one of the largest contracts of $96.5 million to replace the escalators in the next 7 years.
With poor service, lack of security, and broken facilities, fares rising yearly. You guessed right because we have representatives who don't care about getting more security, who show no signs of system improvement with constant delays year in year out. Board Member Janice Li further compares BART’s weekend service to the Golden State Warriors in their rough season, “Hard to keep watching.”
In conclusion, so many things have been going wrong for both the BART officers and BART commuters. Challenges that the board of directors should help to alleviate seem to be chronic and affecting the needs of the people who need the services. More should be done to express the conditions and concerns of all the stakeholders.
There is a clear notion of the Bart Board of Directors being out of touch; as they focus on hot headlines instead of core issues like losing ridership, increased violent crime, and meeting the basics of public transit.