New BART manager rides the rails, talks to passengers

BART's new general manager rode the rails Wednesday, talking with passengers getting a sense of the mood for his fellow commuters.

Every weekday BART carries an estimated 410,000 passengers and every one of them has a story to tell or an opinion about Bay Area Rapid Transit. That's one of the reasons BART's GM took the day to ride with those passengers.

Coming onto the platform General Manager Bob Powers, said first impressions count, like when he steps out onto the platform of the 19th Street Station in Oakland.

"So, right now it's pretty clean," said Powers. "I mean, right now there's no trash on the platform not that there always is, but if there is I'll go and pick it up."

Passengers got a chance to ask their questions directly. "So, I'm on a listening tour, and I'm trying to learn from you, the riders how we could be better," said Powers.

"Cheaper," said rider Anthony Van Buren. "Especially for everyday riders. We take BART to work every day, you should think about making it cheaper for us."

Onboard a San Francisco bound train, Powers said cost is a common issue.

Passengers have also been asking about air conditioning on older cars, the new higher fare gates aimed at reducing fare evasion and safety. 

Powers said the agency just swore in 14 new officers. "One of my top-three priorities is to fully staff the BART Police Department," said Powers. "That's sworn officers, community service officers, CSO's, and proof of payment folks."

Powers said he'd like to see those officers walking the trains and platforms to make a visual statement about safety.

Powers said this will be an ongoing conversation. BART said he rides the transit system regularly, but Powers said he plans on riding the system every Wednesday well into 2020 to hear from other regular riders.