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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Time Management: BART Willing to Pay You to Show Up Late to Work

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 1:27 PM

click image MOJADO.COM
  • Mojado.com

It’s no secret that riders have been piling onto BART in record numbers in the past five or so years as the Bay Area, and San Francisco in particular, enjoys healthy economic activity.

Social media is chock full of commute woes on a daily basis (just type in #BART on Twitter). But there are hard numbers supporting your more crowded commute: BART says its average weekday ridership has increased by more than 100,000 people since 2010, and now stands at 430,000, per the Chronicle — which used to be the kind of crowd you'd only see when the Giants won the World Series.

That’s a lot of bodies. But not only is it crowded, BART is expensive — and there's no "monthly pass" or other discount for suffering the ignominy of being stuffed into a tube on the bottom of the Bay twice a day.

But they are trying to do something about it, as in paying you to tweak your travel habits. If you’re lucky enough to have an employer who’s flexible with your schedule, or if you have the ability to set your own hours because you’re the boss of you, you could finally get close to enjoying on BART one of those heavy-use discounts enjoyed by the riders of virtually every other transit agency in the known universe. 

Last year, BART and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority announced a project to offer rewards to commuters who use the system more during off-peak hours. Although details of the rewards have not been released, the program is expected to start this spring. It’s modeled after a program in Singapore that, according to the SFCTA, has resulted in a 10% shift of the peak travel period thanks to the participation of 300,000 riders.

As it stands, BART does offer a discount when you buy a “high-value” pass. That means $48 for the price of $45, or $64 for the price of $60. For a lot of riders, it’s basically a free one-way trip, but still a total Scrooge move when compared to other public transit systems. Muni, on the other hand, offers a $70 per month unlimited rides pass (it’s $83 if you tack on free BART trips within San Francisco).

The big difference for BART in not offering an unlimited pass is that the price of its rides vary depending on where the trip starts and where it ends. With Muni, one-way bus and train rides cost $2.25 apiece no matter how far you travel.

In Singapore, riders accrue points based on when they travel. Those points can then be redeemed for cash and/or a monthly drawing for $1,500. The idea is to travel more in off-peak hours to receive more points toward cash redemption.

There’s a good chance this will be popular in the Bay Area, but how feasible is it for a large number of people to change their work times and thus travel habits? BART told the Chronicle that it hopes 25,000 people enlist in the six-month pilot project. If some 1,250 people commuted earlier or later than the peak periods, BART says that will noticeably reduce train crowding.

This, of course, is another Band-Aid solution for a transit agency with decades-old cars that is waiting for a huge capacity boost when its Fleet of the Future hits the tracks.
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Max DeNike

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