I’ve written before about the problems on BART trains which include rising crime and a substantial increase in the number of homeless people using the trains as a moving shelter (and occasionally a bathroom). Not surprisingly, those and other problems have led to a substantial decrease in ridership.
Though trains continue to fill during rush hour, fewer people are riding BART to museums, parks or shopping centers.
Outside the peak commute times, ridership plummeted — from 62.2 million in 2015 to 52.7 million last year…
A recent BART survey of 662 commuters in five counties may help explain the evening and weekend drops in ridership. Nearly a third — 29% — of respondents said they take BART less often on weekends than they did a year ago. The primary reasons: They’re not traveling to places served by the rail system, and weekend rail service is too sparse.
Yet they also cited misgivings about crime, filth and homeless people seeking shelter on the rail system, which, according to the survey, were a bigger deterrent than service delays, the cost of fares or disruptions from weekend track repair.
In short, people don’t want to ride the trains unless they have to do so for work. The article notes there are other reasons for this, including the popularity of ride-share services and the decline of gas prices even as fares have gone up (5% on January 1st of this year). But the reports of crime, drugs and filth are certainly playing a role in the decline. In fact, in response to an article blaming the decline on ride-share companies like Uber, the Mercury News received responses from readers saying that wasn’t the reason:
The quality of riding on a BART train has been degrading for years. It is not the service provided by BART; it’s the quality of the rider experience. It feels less safe and less clean. There are more homeless people occupying the cars.
We used to take BART to Giants games, but now we drive or don’t go at all. Going on a non-work-related trip is discretionary, so if the trip feels unsafe or unclean, then that is a factor in deciding if the entire event is worth doing. This is especially true for evening events.
Last year BART did a tally and concluded there were 292 homeless people for every 100 train cars. Another reader wrote:
Last Friday at the Richmond Station parking garage, there were four elevators. One was broken, one had a large pool of vomit at the elevator entrance and inside, and on the sixth floor (top level), there was tons of pigeon poop in front of the elevator doors. So walk through vomit to get on the elevator and bird poop to get off.
And there was no agent in the booth, and no visible police or security. Separately, the double-tall pay gate made me feel like I was entering and exiting a prison.
And one more:
A few days ago, my aunt took Uber from Oakland to the mid-Peninsula instead of taking BART because last time she was on BART, she was disturbed by an almost-naked crazy man on the train.
Just yesterday the Chronicle reported on a violent attack on a stranger that took place on a BART train:
A man was beaten with a chain in an unprovoked attack aboard a BART train during Tuesday evening commuting hours, leaving him with injuries that required hospital treatment, officials said.
The unidentified victim was on a Daly City-bound train approaching Lake Merritt Station shortly after 6 p.m. when another man allegedly asked for directions and then hit him, according to BART spokesman Jim Allison.
The attack was unprovoked, a witness told police.
The man responsible hasn’t been caught. Why would anyone who doesn’t have to be on the train for work want to risk it? Here’s one part of the five-part series on BART produced by NBC Bay Area back in November: