BART must do better for the commuters who depend on it

BAY AREA AFFAIRS: In making decisions that impact thousands, BART must be inclusive and sensitive to low-income and minority commuters

Alexander Hong/Staff

Starting in February of next year, 2,900 Bay Area commuters will have to find alternative routes to their early-morning jobs for the next four years — because BART has decided it needs to save 5 percent of its total construction costs.

This decision will leave thousands of predominantly low-income and minority individuals, many of whom travel more than 90 minutes to work, with longer and more complex travel schedules. BART’s Transbay Tube is being seismically retrofitted — a substantial project that will cost $313 million. In order to shave four months off the four-year construction time and $15 million off the hundreds of millions the transit system is spending on the project, BART will no longer offer its early-morning transit service between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Many of these California residents, who are waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. to get to their jobs, will soon need to find other ways to make this crucial trip. BART has offered some alternatives — officials have outlined a plan by which commuters will be able to take buses into the city, circumventing BART stations that will be closed for retrofitting. But while this solution does show an effort to mitigate some of the costs and drawbacks of this construction for early-morning riders, it is far from enough.

Traveling by bus, as opposed to via BART, will significantly increase the travel time for commuters. Buses — especially transbay buses — must contend with traffic, stoplights and a multitude of other obstacles that trains eliminate. These commuters will have to add more layers to an already stressful early-morning transit. BART’s promises of shortened construction and reduced project costs do not seem to outweigh the impending consequences for these marginalized groups.

Measure AA, a 2004 bond measure approved by voters in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties, provides $980 million in funding to strengthen the existing BART system. Additional funding for construction on the Transbay Tube comes from Measure RR, passed in 2016. With access to so much taxpayer funding for this project, why is BART making budgeting decisions that hinder commuters who depend on its services?

BART riders already pay exorbitant fares. Riders often face overcrowding and train delays. And BART has a violent history of failing to hold its law enforcement and officials accountable. The decision to cut early-morning transit is just another example of BART becoming increasingly inaccessible and alienating to minority and low-income Bay Area commuters.

BART needs to do better. Public transit systems should be making people’s lives easier. Instead, BART is disadvantaging those in the Bay Area who face the most challenges already.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.