BART collects feedback from new riders in hopes of keeping them on transit

BART collects feedback from new riders in hopes of keeping them on transit

Now that the Bay Bridge has reopened, BART is studying ridership data and feedback from new and infrequent riders, in hopes of attracting them to take public transit on a regular basis..

BART saw record ridership during the emergency bridge closure, suggesting that many Bay Area residents can take public transit when the bridge is out -- but for various reasons don’t do so regularly under normal conditions.

On Wednesday, the first full day of the emergency bridge closure, BART began an online survey aimed at finding out more about those reasons. The survey will close at the end of business Tuesday, Nov. 3, so if you used BART during the bridge closure, there's still time to submit your feedback.

Around 1,500 people responded to the survey, which was posted on the homepage of BART’s website and promoted through social web channels including @SFBART on Twitter, the SFBART blog and Facebook fan page. Although anyone could take the survey, analysis will focus on the responses from first-time or infrequent riders.

Suggestions given in verbatim, open-ended comments for what would get people to ride BART more frequently included: expanding service, improving parking availability at stations, making machines easier to use, ensuring announcements and signage are clear, keeping trains clean and providing more police presence. BART will dig deeper into the statistical data from questions about trip origins, destinations and frequency.

“This data gives us great insight into people’s decisions,” said Steve Beroldo, BART Principal Research Analyst “It will help us to address the concerns they raise and, we hope, eventually see more of these occasional riders become regular riders.”

Getting more people out of their cars and onto trains is good not only for BART, but also for reducing environmental impacts of highway congestion, he said. For example, during the first two full days of the bridge closure on Wednesday and Thursday, BART estimated that riders took 163,000 extra BART trips. If they had driven vehicles for those trips, the trips would have resulted in about 1.8 million pounds of CO2 emissions.

Some customers commented that the potential flip side of increased ridership is crowded trains and filled parking lots at BART stations – which in turn can deter people from taking transit. During the emergency closure many people made adjustments to mitigate those problems, but in the long term, finding funds to increase BART capacity will be important to meet future demand.

Riders heeded advice to stagger their travel to avoid the “peak of the peak” of rush-hour commutes, generally between 7 a.m. – 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. With many employers amenable to flexible scheduling, workers came in early or started late, spreading the load out over more hours. Many also found ways to get dropped off at stations, take a bus, carpool or walk in groups to stations, or bike to stations with folding bikes that can be taken on trains at any time.

During the emergency bridge closure, BART had the challenging job of optimizing train capacity while ensuring reliability and time for necessary maintenance. It’s a big concern with an aging fleet, which includes many cars that were first put in service when BART opened back in 1972. Transportation supervisors are like maestros conducting a symphony, adding cars to trains or even extra trains when possible, watching passenger loads in real time, ensuring planned maintenance and also responding on the fly to unexpected conditions – like the power outage Oct. 27 at South Hayward.

BART will study the customer survey feedback, along with data from a similar survey done during the scheduled Bay Bridge closure over Labor Day weekend, to look for feasible ideas for action. The hope is for more customers like the one who responded to the survey by saying: Taking BART is “a smart alternative. I may do this again in the future!”

BART has many resources available for new customers thinking about sticking with transit, including:

• Information on commuter tax benefits
• High-value discount tickets
• Reserved parking system
• Real-time arrival information
• Information pages about each of the 43 stations
• Free personalized trip planning by phone