With restrictions on work and travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic beginning to ease, Bay Area Rapid Transit is hoping to ease riders’ concerns with an extensive plan to ensure health and safety.
BART said the steps begin with using hospital-grade disinfectant in stations and on trains. The agency said train poles are being wiped down at the end of the line during service hours. Crews are also using electrostatic foggers on train cars to spray a disinfecting mist that coats and clings to surfaces. Hand sanitizer will continue to be available at all BART stations.
The agency is also introducing personal hand straps that riders can take home for cleaning after every trip. BART will initially hand out straps to welcome riders back to the transit system; later they will be offered for sale at the Lake Merritt station or through a soon-to-be-launched online store.
All riders 13 and older will be required to wear face masks, according to the agency, even if individual counties relax their regulations, and BART police will have masks to hand out. Riders should also expect to see a greater police presence, with more attention paid to keeping station entryways clear and safe.
The agency said it is also ensuring that every run has enough cars for riders to spread out for social distancing. BART said 30 riders per car would allow for social distancing of six feet, while 60 riders per car still allows for social distancing of three feet. BART is currently running trains at 30-minute intervals on weekdays, but said it would increase frequency to every 15 minutes during commute times if trains consistently exceed more than 30 riders per car.
BART will continue to post daily ridership numbers at www.bart.gov/covid, including data showing the number of riders on specific trains and how those riders can spread out among the cars. While not available in real time, the agency said the data would allow people to make informed decisions about what time of day they want to ride.
Although BART doesn’t plan to block off seats to maintain social distancing, its new cars allow for modular seating, and the agency said it would “pilot a new configuration of seats” to create more space between riders.
BART continues to encourage riders to use its reloadable Clipper smart card to pay for transit fares, instead of cash, to reduce lines at ticket vending machines, and said it would speed up efforts to go to Clipper-only at stations systemwide in the coming months.
Station agents have been instructed to stay inside their booths as much as possible to avoid physical contact with riders, and BART employees are being offered personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing.
BART said it would be encouraging large employers to adopt staggered shifts to spread out ridership and avoid crowding at peak times. The agency still plans to end service at 9 p.m.