SAN FRANCISCO - Starting Monday commuters will be seeing more BART trains. BART is saying the move is necessary to catch up to current ridership, the transit agency says it's the biggest increase in service since the pandemic hit.
Transit agencies around the Bay Area are still reeling from the sudden drop of ridership following the pandemic and shutdown.
Now BART is saying some of those passengers are starting to come back, enough riders that the transit agency will begin running trains at 15 minutes intervals at commute hours on the busiest lines.
"From our heat maps we are going to be adding more frequency during commute peak times on several lines to help our riders to be able to maintain social distancing," said BART General Manager Bob Powers.
BART is also beginning to plan for the long term. The transit agency is facing a $975 million shortfall over the next three years.
As with most transit agencies across the country, BART saw a dramatic decrease in ridership as government agencies enforced shelter in place restrictions.
"We know that the containment of COVID-19 is necessary, but it may not be sufficient for ridership recovery," said Pamela Herhold from BART. "So even after the real risk is diminished, it may take time for work places, particularly workplaces downtown to fully reopen and for confidence if rail ridership to return."
Now BART is trying to figure out what the future of transit will be as those restrictions are loosened. BART is anticipating some riders will return, but after experimenting with work from home many employers may not require their workers to commute into the office.
"The number that really stands out to me is 71% of our pre-COVID ridership using BART to go to work, and I think we all recognize that the world of work has changed for the time being," said BART Director Bevan Dufty.
While weekday commute train frequency will be increasing, there will be slightly longer waits for many weekend trains, BART says it is following the data and tailoring service to meet need.