BART ridership down 30 percent, agency losing $450K-$600K in fares per weekday because of virus, agency says

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- BART ridership on Monday was down 25 percent from just two weeks ago, signaling a loss of more than 101,000 passengers as more Bay Area employees stay home amid novel coronavirus fears.

BART General Manager Bob Powers stopped by the Warm Springs BART station Wednesday morning as a part of his "Listening Tour," an initiative he started shortly after becoming the head of the transit agency seven months ago. He spoke to passengers to get their feedback on what the mass transit operator could do to improve. Wednesday, the station was noticeably empty.

"A loss of 25 percent of ridership -- we're at the pain point," Powers said.

The ridership numbers shared by BART for Monday were 301,547 compared to 403,002 riders just two weeks ago on Monday, Feb. 24.

One week ago, ridership was down only 8 percent and this Tuesday's ridership was down 30 percent, the agency said.

More than 101,000 passengers opted not to ride on Monday, what is usually the agency's busiest day.

The transit agency is hurting.

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The "coronavirus effect" is now gripping BART's bottom line.

"BART is an agency that absolutely depends on our ridership" said Powers. "Our fares go directly into our operating budget."

Fares made up a third of BART's budget in 2019 to the tune of $482 million.

On Tuesday, the agency said BART staff is currently assessing the financial impact of the virus.

The agency estimates a $450,000 to $600,000 in fare revenue loss each weekday.

Powers said the agency is doing everything it can to sanitize trains and combat the spread of the coronavirus by wiping them down with "hospital-grade" cleaning supplies at the end of the line each night.

He said trains are also spot checked at various stations throughout the day.

ABC7 News cameras caught cleaning crews rushing cars as they pulled into the Warm Spring station, using Lysol wipes to scrub down handrails and ticket machines at the entrance.

However, riders we spoke to are still looking for more protection.

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"It's better than nothing, but still probably not good enough" said BART rider Natasha Jain.

Jain rides the train in from Warm Springs to Lake Merritt everyday and said she's also noticed fewer passengers.

Usually, she said, "I can't get a seat, but nowadays I usually find one."

Moses Gamarra echoed Jain's message on cleanliness.

"So far it looks OK, but I think they can do much more," he said.

Gamarra suggested the station handed out gloves and mask to wear on board.

The CDC recommends only wearing a face masks if you believe you're ill and are worried about spreading an illness to others.

With BART ridership in free fall with no end in sight as the coronavirus crisis worsens, Powers said he plans on asking for help.

He said he will bring up concerns over BART's finances at Thursday's board meeting.

The agency will also start actively pursuing emergency aid from local, state and federal sources to keep its budget whole.

Powers said he wants to "make sure that the lawmakers are aware of our situation and that they're ready to help."
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