BART responds to overcrowding by increasing number of train cars, hours of operation

Michelle Kim/Staff

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In an attempt to combat overcrowding on trains, BART on Monday set in motion plans for an increased number of train cars, new turnaround rates and increased hours of operation.

For the first major schedule change in several years, the transit agency is adding more rush hour trains to the Pittsburg-Bay Point to SFO line, extending the Richmond to Millbrae line weekday service until 9 p.m., adding cars during commuting hours, eliminating the three-car train and increasing “show-up-and-go” service to the Oakland airport station.

According to BART spokesperson Jim Allison, the average weekday ridership in August was 429,750 riders, whereas ridership three years ago was about 390,000 riders per weekday.

Allison noted that this increase in ridership mainly boils down to economic growth. He said that as more people are employed, more commute using both public transportation and roads.

Earl Hall, a regular commuter who stepped onto a train at the Downtown Berkeley BART station the same day the agency implemented the changes, said conditions on the trains have not appeared to change, despite the recent service expansions.

“I was just on a five-car train from Oakland, and we were packed like sardines,” Hall said.

John Jones, another regular BART commuter at the Downtown Berkeley station, said that he usually encounters crowds on his 6:45 a.m. train but that they were noticeably lighter Monday morning.

“I don’t think (the changes) will make a big change in service,” Jones said. “But the experience will be better.”

Additional expansions are in store for Bay Area commuters, as BART intends to implement three major projects by 2018. The first, referred to as the “fleet of the future,” is a new line of trains that will increase capacity.

As part of its public outreach for the new fleet, the agency brought mock train cars to different locations, where more than 35,000 customers filled out surveys, indicating what they liked and what they would change.

Part of the project’s funding is provided by the federal government and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a regional agency that funds transportation throughout the Bay Area.

Funds come from state revenue — including monies from gas taxes and bridge tolls — among other sources, said Randy Rentschler, the commission’s director of legislation and public affairs.

The transit agency also plans to modernize its train control system and create the Hayward Maintenance Complex to maintain the new rail cars. Allison said 72 percent of rider fares is funneled into operating expenses.

“We are very appreciative that people are riding,” Allison said. “It makes it easier for us to provide good service.”

Contact Maxwell Jenkins-Goetz and Elaina Provencio at [email protected].