In an effort to slow stormwater in a more environmentally friendly way, BART stations across the San Francisco Bay Area have been implementing rain gardens and bioswales to capture stormwater.
The rain gardens, which are areas of vegetation meant to absorb rainwater and filter out pollutants before it continues on to local water bodies, all use plants native to the Bay Area, according to a BART press release. Bioswales operate similarly, channeling and slowing stormwater to local water bodies while plants and soil filter it.
“Plant roots also create conditions in the soil that promote infiltration and support microbes that further reduce pollutants,” said BART representative James Allison in an email. “The plants in the rain gardens also provide essential habitats for insects and birds.”
Some plants populating these fixtures include strawberry trees, western redbuds and California poppies.
The press release states that the gardens are currently found at the Richmond Intermodal, Warm Springs Station, Berkeley Plaza, Lafayette Intermodal, El Cerrito del Norte and the Antioch parking lot. According to Allison, these installations are meant to advance regional sustainability.
“The rain gardens and bioswales performed as designed,” Allison said in the email. “For example, at Lafayette Station, storm runoff from the parking lot was filtered by rain gardens and flowed into storm drains that release into Happy Valley Creek.”
Additionally, Lafayette Station has installed permeable pavement that allows rainwater to seep into the ground and prevent flooding, according to the press release. BART stations all around have also been using drought-resistant plants and irrigation systems, as well as recycling systems for water being used to wash their train cars.
On the passenger side of the issue, the press release includes suggestions for consumers to travel more sustainably, noting that using reusable travel mugs, avoiding printed tickets at the station and ensuring regular maintenance and washing of cars used to get to BART stations are all potential methods of becoming more individually eco-friendly.
Local organizations such as The Watershed Project hope to construct more bioswales and rain gardens across Richmond and San Pablo in the future, since they absorb 30% more stormwater into the ground than conventional lawns, according to its website.
“Bioswales and rain gardens are critical means of reducing runoff into the Bay and serve to promote biodiversity,” said District 4 Councilmember Kate Harrison in an email. “It is important to use native plants to support biodiversity and our local ecosystem.”