Riders Yin while SF BART Board Members Yang

Last year BART conducted a survey of its riders. The survey results revealed that between 2014 and 2018 general rider satisfaction with BART dropped by 18%, from 74% to 56%. Rider responses were elicited in response to 46 separate elements of BART’s service. The Clipper Card got the highest rating. High ratings were also given to the availability of maps and schedules, on-time performance and the frequency of BART trains.

To most riders it will come as no great surprise to learn that conditions in BART stations, interior on-car noise levels and cleanliness were much farther down the list. And it will come as even less of a surprise that the very lowest ratings included BART’s lax enforcement of its fare evasion problem, and the absence of adequate BART policing at stations, on trains and in BART parking lots. At the very bottom of the list was the riders’ strongly negative reaction to BART’s failure to address its homeless problem.

Missing from the rider survey were questions about often disturbing and sometimes threatening on-car behavior and BART’s unique brand of 90-decibel, in-your-face, busking.

At the October 24, 2019 BART Board meeting, Agenda Item 6A was about panhandling which was also not mentioned in any of the survey questions. But that didn’t stop one member of the Board from repeatedly citing the survey as proof that BART riders didn’t mind being panhandled. Another Board member chimed in with a long dissertation about a subject that was neither covered in the survey nor on the meeting agenda. His primary concern seemed to be what he regarded as BART’s overriding need to accommodate its homeless riders, even if it means severely reducing the usefulness and appeal of BART for most other riders.

Lost in the heat of the Board discussion was the fact, as brought out in the survey, a large majority of BART’s riders would prefer to be left in peace to get to their destinations while sleeping, reading, checking out their cell phones or talking to friends and associates.