As BART turns 50, critics say a futuristic dream has been groped

OAKLAND (KPIX) — BART turns 50 this weekend. Prior to its official opening in September 1972, transit officials envisioned a rail system that would cover the entire Bay Area with lines that would also service the South Bay and the North Bay.

Although there are currently no plans to expand BART in Marin County, the transit agency is slowing its expansion in San Jose, even though the pandemic has decreased BART ridership.

To celebrate the anniversary and in an effort to encourage returning passengers, BART is offering a 50% discount on fares for the entire month of September.

A longtime BART employee, who has worked at the agency for 32 years, believes BART will emerge stronger from the pandemic.

Oscar Rodriguez started as a station attendant at the age of 29. Today, he manages station attendants and oversees some of the security operations.

“It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. I had the opportunity to play a bit of professional football, but BART was absolutely the best thing that could have happened,” Rodriguez said. .

During his three decades at BART, the transit agency has evolved into a workhorse that connects East Bay and San Francisco.

At its peak, around 440,000 people rode BART daily. Ridership fell off a cliff after COVID.

BART officials have now said about 40% of their ridership has returned on weekdays and 60% on weekends.

For all of its supporters, BART has plenty of critics.

“In 1972, BART promised its customers safe, reliable and clean transportation in the Bay Area, and on all three parameters they have failed, especially in recent years,” said Lawrence McQuillan, senior research fellow at the ‘Independent Institute. based in Oakland. Earlier this year, the institute named BART a recipient of the California Golden Fleece Award.

“The transit system has basically been captured over the years by unions and politicians. And BART is more focused on capturing more and more taxpayer subsidies than listening to what customers want” , said McQuillan.

He said BART has become expensive and dangerous with a number of robberies and murders.

“Our crime rate is actually extremely low if you think of us as a public space. Virtually any other public space you’re going to be in will have a much higher crime rate than here at BART,” the door said. -BART spokesperson, Alicia Trost.

One thing supporters and critics can agree on is that BART’s success is vital to the growth of the Bay Area over the next 50 years.

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