BART unveils Bay Area themed anime mascots to attract young riders

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Friday, May 26, 2023
Will BART's anime mascots attract younger riders?
BART has unveiled five Bay Area-themed anime mascots, as part of their efforts to connect with young riders and increase ridership.

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- BART has unveiled five Bay Area-themed anime mascots, as part of their efforts to connect with young riders and increase ridership.

This comes at a time when ridership numbers haven't returned to pre-pandemic levels, which is creating a looming financial cliff.

It's so serious, that the agency and some lawmakers recently asked for a state bailout.

But in the meantime, BART is still trying everything it can to get people back, including this new campaign.

VIDEO: Main reason for low BART ridership, financial issues released in new survey

The Bay Area Council released results of a survey Tuesday showing safety is the main reason why BART is experiencing low ridership numbers.

Baylee the G.O.A.T., an anime character who is supposed to be a star online influencer based in the Bay Area, is one of the five mascots all created by artists in the Golden State.

Her character was inspired by the grazing goats contracted by BART to reduce fire danger on their properties.

"Oh cool! I like the bird!" Gabriel Hare, a BART rider said.

According to their website, BART says these mascots "will help us in our mission to promote public transportation use, especially among youth riders, a growing and reliable ridership demographic."

It's an idea they got from public transit agencies in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, which also use anime characters to connect with their riders.

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It's something daily riders like Bryant Baker say adds to the sense of belonging.

"I think it's kind of nice," Baker said. "Because it's a part of the Bay Area that's not like expanding out more. When I was a kid, there wasn't like a bunch of anime stuff there, now I'm seeing anime stuff like everywhere which I think is kind of dope."

But this comes at a time when ridership still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

"I think if it gets people to ride BART more, that's great, I think it's a really good public transit system," Hare said. "Honestly, I think that the thing that's the bigger sticking point is safety, people need to feel safe."

MORE: Here's what is at stake for Bay Area public transit amid battle for state funding

A Bay Area Council poll from earlier this month says 90% of former riders want to see more frequent cleaning, 79% would like to see better code of conduct enforcement and 73% would like to see more uniformed police on BART.

"Changing one part, changing the promotion is not enough if you don't change the services," Ivan Fedorenko, a professor of marketing at Cal State East Bay, said.

Fedorenko says while it is a fun idea that even his own kids would be interested in seeing, he thinks BART has bigger priorities that still need attention.

"I think for a service like BART, keeping your current customers happy, keeping their business so they keep running with you is so much more important and so much more profitable than trying to attract the youth, one-time passengers, for one ride," he said.

All five of these mascots will make their debut from May 26 to May 29 at FanimeCon, an anime convention, in downtown San Jose at the McEnery Convention Center.

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