BART reaches ridership record
From the San Francisco Chronicle – Its trains packed with people unable to cross the Bay Bridge, BART set a one-day ridership record Wednesday and expected to hit a new high again Thursday, transit system officials said.
The second day of the span shutdown found the thousands of BART newbies learning the quirks of station parking, ticket machines and finding a seat.
“People seem like they’re getting used to it,” said Blanca Chavez, who regularly commutes on BART from Berkeley to the Embarcadero Station in San Francisco. “But yesterday, people were flustered, rushed, uncomfortable. There were shoves and pushes.”
BART officials said Wednesday’s ridership was 437,200, well above the previous high of 405,400, set Sept. 8, 2008 – a Monday when both the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco Giants played home games.
When Thursday’s gate is counted, BART expects it to be even higher. “We are on pace to blow out this record,” spokesman Linton Johnson said.
Ridership on transbay trains during the morning commute was 88,000, 60 percent higher than the usual 55,200. The comparable increase Wednesday was 50 percent.
Johnson said parking lots were packed and riders appeared to be staggering their commutes to avoid the peak of 7 to 8 a.m.
For many riders, parking was the biggest headache. Lisa Ethridge, who regularly commutes from Orinda to the Daly City Station, had to park illegally at a nearby doctor’s office when the Orinda lot filled hours earlier than usual.
“I hope I don’t get a ticket,” said Ethridge, a student at San Francisco State. “But I didn’t have a choice. I had to park somewhere.”
At the stations, new riders continued to fumble with ticket machines and pore over transfer maps. Station agents were busy fixing tickets that had been demagnetized in the months since their owners last used them.
But the general mood was calmer than Wednesday, said Bob Ackerman, Orinda station agent.
“Nobody was cranky, except me,” he said with a laugh. “People were just happy they could get into the city.”
BART had lengthened trains and was running more of them. Johnson said that was “putting a strain on the system,” but it was also attracting new riders.
“I was a little worried about taking public transit, but BART’s been great,” said Linda Bressem of Pinole, whose alternative for reaching San Francisco the last two days was driving across a pair of bridges.
Her round-trip BART fare was 80 cents cheaper than two bridge fares. “It could have been a lot worse,” she said.
By Carolyn Jones and Jaxon Van Derbeken
San Francisco Chronicle