SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — On Tuesday morning, the Bay Area Council revealed the results of a new survey about BART. The transit agency has struggled with low ridership and safety concerns since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic three years ago.

BART ridership is down by about 60% and the Bay Area Council, which helped create BART in the 1950s, wanted to know what it would take to get riders back on board.

Over the past few months, the Bay Area Council conducted interviews with 1,000 people from around the Bay Area, asking a wide variety of questions about BART. What they found is that the public has an evenly split opinion of the transit system with 49% viewing it favorably and 49% having a negative opinion.

One of the survey’s most revealing takeaways was that remote work was not the main reason most respondents said they were not riding. The survey found that it’s primarily safety and security concerns that are keeping people from riding BART, with only 17% saying they feel safe on the trains and only 16% describing the transit system as being clean.

The survey’s key findings revealed:

  • 79% say they feel more comfortable riding BART when there is a uniformed police officer or security present
  • 73% say BART should prioritize adding more uniformed police on trains and in stations
  • 62% say BART should improve fare gates to prevent fare evaders; 66% want fare gates to fully enclose station entrances
  • 79% say BART should eject people from the system that violate the passenger code of conduct, which prohibits drugs, smoking, drinking and other illegal or unacceptable behavior
  • 65% say BART should focus on core operations and leave social service issues to other public agencies
  • 90% put high priority on more frequent cleaning

Support for additional policing on BART was also strong, with riders saying they want the transit agency to crack down on rule breakers.

“Riders and residents overall are crystal clear about what the main barriers are for them to returning to BART,” read the survey in part. “Among all respondents, including those that never or rarely ride BART, 78% said they would ride BART more often if it was significantly cleaner and safer. This number is particularly striking when compared to the far fewer 46% of respondents who stated they would ride BART more often if they had to commute to work or school more frequently.

In announcing the results of the survey, Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman said improving confidence in the BART system is critical.

“As the BART goes, to some degree the Bay Area goes,” Wunderman said. “So this is a serious situation.”

Wunderman did acknowledge that BART is making safety improvements, including putting more BART Police officers on the trains. He said that more needs to be done and that if BART can restore rider confidence, the entire Bay Area could benefit.

“BART is not responsible for the vacant feeling downtowns but it’s a contributory factor,” Wunderman said. “If people are more willing to get back on BART we think we would see an improvement there and that would build upon itself.”

In a statement to KRON 4 Tuesday afternoon, BART said it is working to address the concerns by adding additional officers and doubling the amount of cleaning on trains and at stations. 

The statement read in part:

“We are committed to building on these safety and cleaning initiatives as we move forward because we know that’s what our riders expect of us.”