As BART’s driver shortage hangover from the pandemic continues to frustrate commuters with canceled trains, packed carriages and ticket inspector hold-ups—the operator has said the chaos will end by summer.
Pittsburg resident Christian Martin said he sees two to three cancelations a week on BART’s Antioch line out of San Francisco.
“The cancellations have gotten more frequent,” Martin said. “And that means that the next train is that much busier.”
Martin said that despite lower ridership figures, rush hour trains are still packed.
“They’re packed, standing room only,” Martin said.
BART said that while it has the level of staff on-hand to meet current service demand, more staff have been on leave since the pandemic, and there is not enough standby staff to fill in gaps, resulting in canceled trips.
BART added it is hiring more standby staff by summer 2023, and projects that cancelations will be “rare” at that point.
“To keep up with normal attrition, we need to keep hiring and certifying new operators to prevent canceled trips,” a BART spokesperson said.
Other riders have ticket inspectors to thank for delayed trains.
Guido Nunez commutes from SF to Berkeley for work. He said that his trips are delayed between 15 and 20 minutes because of frequent rounds by BART fare inspectors. Nunez said that when inspectors board, the train has to remain parked for an infuriating amount of time as inspectors check Clipper cards.
“I’m fucking pissed off,” said Nunez. “It’s adds 15 to 20 minutes to my commute.”
BART said in an email that fare enforcement went into effect in 2018 and that enforcement levels and patrols have remained constant.
Other riders said they felt indifferent, as cancellations and delays were nothing new for them.
Tammy Contreras, a seven-year Mission District resident, said she hasn’t noticed an uptick in delays, and that BART has always run into issues as long as she has been riding it.
“It’s public transit. It is what it is; you gotta expect delays,” Contreras said.
BART bosses recently approved an exemption from the $6.40 excursion fee in a roundabout effort to boost flagging ridership numbers—so long as the rider leaves the station within 30 minutes of entering.
It comes after reports that a worst-case-scenario fiscal crisis could mean the end of weekend service on BART, among other cutbacks, claims strongly denied by BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at [email protected]