A Day On BART 2020: What riding the trains is really like

KGO logo
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
A Day On BART 2020: What riding the trains is really like
ABC7 News wants to dig deeper into the challenges facing BART today, so we're sending several ABC7 staffers to ride every line in the system from sunrise to sundown.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- BART is our biggest, most widespread, and most taken mass transit system in the Bay Area. For hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents it's the cheapest, fastest and most reliable form of mass transportation.


But many riders complain about the lack of cleanliness, share their worries about crime and express concern about the homeless on the transit system.

ABC7 News wanted to get a better idea of what riding on BART is really like for commuters, so we held our first Day on BART event in 2019, after the agency's rider satisfaction survey was released.

Now we're going back one year later to see what has changed or improved.

Several ABC7 staffers are currently riding every line in the system from sunrise to sundown, to document what they see and to talk to other riders about their experiences, concerns and possible solutions for building a better mass transit system.

Fare Evasion: Still a battle

In 2019, our crews saw lots of fare evaders and afterwards BART acknowledged that it's costing the agency $25-30 million dollars per year. They vowed to make some changes including bolstering the fare inspection teams which was a new tactic when we held our last Day on BART event.

They also promised to update the structure of fare gates to make it harder for evaders to get through, but that plan showed mixed success when ABC7 News followed up several months later.

So how was it today?

Producer Ken Miguel went to San Leandro BART station Tuesday morning, which was one of the worst stations we saw last year. In a short amount of time, he captured video of a man walking right through the emergency exit gate without paying.

Later, he captured video of another fare evader at the 24th Street Station. It happened right in front of BART Police officers who were helping another passenger.

"While police are busy helping an SF BART passenger, a fare evader slips through the emergency exit - telling the gate agent he doesn't have a ticket - and walking out of the station," tweeted Miguel.

The fare evasion continued into the evening commute; ABC7 News reporter Cornell Barnard tweeted video of people jumping over gates and walking through emergency exits at the Daily City station.

But to give BART credit, they did appear to be fighting to curb this problem. Police were visible near many turnstiles and we saw one fare inspector cruising trains checking that people had paid their fares.

Crime & Safety: Still a passenger concern

When we held last year's Day on BART event, the agency had just released a rider satisfaction survey and the homeless and personal security were the areas were riders had lost the most confidence in BART.

Just a few weeks ago, BART released new figures about ridership and revealed that they still are losing tens of thousands of riders each year. Among top reasons riders listed for this, was concerns about crime and the homeless.

So these issues appear to continue to be top of mind for riders. That was confirmed by our conversations with riders today.

Two reached out to share incidents that they observed today.

In the first, a rider captured BART Police and Alameda County Sheriff's deputies arresting a juvenile armed with a gun at the Bay Fair station. Investigators say that he was wanted for assault with a deadly weapon. But the rider did give BART police credit, saying he doesn't go to Bay Fair often but that they really cleaned up this station of crime.

A rider captured BART Police and Alameda County Sheriff's deputies arresting a juvenile armed with a gun at the Bay Fair station.

Another rider shared video he captured a man using drugs on a train from Embarcadero to West Oakland this morning. Our producer Ken Miguel says he believes he saw the same man later passed out on a train. The rider claims he sees this sort of thing all the time.

Another rider shared video he captured a man using drugs on a train from Embarcadero to West Oakland this morning.

But some of the most problematic areas we saw last year were noticeably better this year.

Last year the Powell street station was full of drug addicts using drugs in full view of thousands of passengers, but this year there the station was clean and clear.

Producer Ken Miguel walked through the Powell station multiple times today and every time it was clean.

Producer Juan Carlos Guerrero noticed the same thing at Civic Center Station

Parking: Still challenging, but riders manage

Parking at BART can be a challenge at time but is still a bargain at $3, if you can find a spot.

However, earlier this year, BART proposed a possible increase in those prices in a push to "open up spaces for people who need them and for people who don't, and get there other ways."

BART Board member Rebecca Saltzman favors a pricing system based more on-demand, perhaps capped at six dollars, as a way to raise revenue and to get people who don't have to drive to BART out of their cars.

But fellow BART Board member Debora Allen predicted it would have the opposite effect.

"We're just making it more expensive to park so wealthier people have the convenience of parking, and people who are struggling to get by, to get to work, they can't afford it anymore," she said.

Doubling the fees could raise an extra $10 million to $15 million a year. But, Allen worries that could be offset by people deciding to drive rather than pay. She also says it clashes with BART's focus on building 20,000 new housing units on BART property. She wants a focus on building a better, more reliable train system.

ABC7 News reporter Amy Hollyfield was in Walnut Creek this morning and tweeted out that is costs $18 a day to park at the BART station's city-owned garage.

Producer Juan Carlos Guerrero met one woman who had to resort to another form of transportation just to get to the station after parking her car.

Cleanliness: A work in progress

Last year, BART's overall approval rating hit a record low at 56% down from 69% in 2016.

"The biggest dissatisfaction I have with BART is the cleanliness," said one rider.

Another rider said, "BART to me is dirty. The trains are not that clean."

Last year, BART's AliciaTrost said drug users and homeless people may also be responsible for the dirty train cars some complain about.

ABC7 News reporter Cornell Barnard was on a Dublin bound train and saw a BART employee picking up trash.

Producer Ken Miguel saw a more promising sight at a location he visited last year that was littered with empty liquor and beer bottles.

And here is what the bathrooms at the Berkeley/Ashby BART station looked like when Producer Juan Carlos Guerrero stopped there this morning.

Riders: Looking on the bright side

Follow along on their journeys here:

Cornell Barnard (Evening/Late Night Commute)

Luz Pena (Midday Commute)

Ken Miguel (Midday Commute)

Amy Hollyfield (Morning Commute)

Juan Carlos Guerrero (Morning Commute)

RELATED: BART looking for ways to rebuild declining ridership after losing 10 million riders on night, weekends

CONTACT US: Have a question, comment or concern about BART? We want to know

Take a look at more stories and videos about BART.

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos.