With Bay Area counties in the red tier of California’s COVID-19 reopening plans, BART will be making changes to its schedule starting March 22 to accommodate the region’s progress.
BART will be adding 26 trips to its weekday schedule. Adding more trips will support BART’s plans for 15-minute headways, or the time between trains, according to a BART press release.
“The pandemic has been an evolving situation for the last year and BART has continued to do its best to match service levels with ridership demand,” said BART spokesperson Chris Filippi in an email. “We will continue to run longer trains to provide the space required for distancing to be possible.”
As part of BART’s 15-step plan to welcome back riders, staff will be monitoring ridership rates and changing schedules at stations that show higher levels of activity and more than 30 people entering per car, according to Filippi.
The plan also includes safety measures related to ventilation, train length and cleanliness, Filippi added in the email. BART will continue to require riders to wear face masks. Riders can receive one from station police officers, transit ambassadors or a station agent booth.
Additional changes include the ability to go directly to the San Francisco International Airport BART station from Richmond stations on the weekdays, instead of having to transfer at the MacArthur BART station, according to Filippi. On the weekends, BART’s Saturday service will now be the same as its Sunday service and feature yellow, orange and blue route services.
“That may require some riders to transfer to finish their trips like they do currently on Sundays,” Filippi said in the email. “For example, a Berkeley rider on Saturday will now have to transfer at MacArthur or 19th Street to continue their trip into San Francisco.”
Darrell Owens, public transit and housing activist with East Bay for Everyone, anticipates that changes to weekday services will keep riders safer and at ease, especially with the influx of crowding he has seen recently.
However, Owens noted that while weekday service will improve for the better, weekend service will inconvenience people who need to make additional station transfers.
“That’s just a problem BART’s always had,” Owens said. “It’s going to get worse.”
According to Owens, BART should run its newer Bombardier Transportation trains on the weekdays to accommodate the increased number of passengers and older trains on the weekend. Owens said the newer cars’ air filtration systems are more modern, whereas older trains suffer from a lack of cleanliness.
Alfred Twu, environmental advocate and Berkeley resident, said BART should consider coordinating schedules with other transit companies in order to minimize riders’ wait times and best adapt to people who rely on more than one service.
There is currently not a set date for when this altered schedule will end, according to Filippi.