Increased safety proposals by BART general manager underway

Inside of Berkeley BART station
Kristen Tamsil/Staff

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Starting Monday, Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, began efforts to enhance public safety by mandating police and fare inspectors to work extra hours in the service’s busiest areas in order to “bolster their visible presence and enhance public safety,” according to a BART press release.

This effort, addressed in the Safety and Security Action Plan introduced by BART General Manager Grace Crunican in August, comes as a response to riders’ safety concerns and aims to “move illegal and rule violation activities off the trains and out of stations while deterring criminal activity,”according to the press release.

“We are taking concrete action in direct response to the concerns of our riders,” said Crunican in the press release. “Our riders want to see more employees on the trains and platforms and at the fare gates. This plan lets us immediately increase employee presence while we work to hire more police officers.”

Regarding future budget proposals, according to the press release, Crunican will propose adding 19 new police officer positions to the budget for the next fiscal year which would increase police presence systemwide. According to the press release, the BART Police Department has already made significant gains in stepping up patrols due to an effort to bring the officer vacancy rate down from 41 percent to 20 percent. In the past two years, arrests have surged by 56 percent.

Efforts to make it difficult for fare cheats to bypass the fare gates have also been underway such as retrofitting stations with raised railings, adding alarmed swing gates, adding modifications to BART’s existing fare gates and installing upgraded camera systems, according to the press release.

The extra patrol and working hours come as a response to BART’s most recent satisfaction survey, which presented a drop in public safety according to BART communications officer Anna Duckworth.

The BART 2018 Customer Satisfaction Survey consisted of a random sampling of 5,292 riders onboard BART trains “during peak commute, off peak times, weekdays and weekends from September 11, 2018 through October 21, 2018,” according to the survey summary. According to the summary, the survey revealed that 56 percent of its riders are “satisfied overall” with BART’s services, a number that has declined from the 69 percent reported in 2016 and 74 percent reported in 2014.

According to the survey summary, the biggest declines in satisfaction was related to “quality of life issues” which include fare evasion enforcement, personal security in the BART system and the presence of BART police in stations.

“I guess it sounds reasonable to increase manpower before getting physical barriers in place. I didn’t realize this was a problem people (had with) turnstiles,” said BART passenger Mary McBride. McBride also questioned whether increased enforcement would deter anything from happening. She said that there were other questions that needed to be addressed.

According to Duck, BART had a $2.7 million budget to increase safety last year. The budget for designing and constructing safety improvements was $1.2 million.

Contact Sarah Chung at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sarahchungdc.