Keep those knees together, ladies and gentlemen, and for heaven's sake put that bag on your lap — BART police are on the prowl. With a 5-to-4 vote yesterday, the BART board approved what has come to be known as the seat hog ordinance, allowing for the ticketing of passengers who take up more than a single seat during commute hours. KQED reports that the measure won't go into effect for another six months, but when it does, the fines will be steep — $100 for a first offense, $200 the next, and $500 each time after that.
The measure failed to pass this past March after BART director Rebecca Saltzman and others worried that the law would be used to target the homeless. “If we can’t get specific on this being on crowded trains, there’s no way I’ll support this,” KRON 4 quotes her as saying. “I’m concerned about how it will be implemented, not necessarily by our law enforcement but by the public.”
Saltzman was not the only one to express concern about enforcement, with BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey telling the BART board at a March 10 meeting that he believed the ordinance could result in "more train delays, conflicts with the homeless and possible use of force."
These concerns may have been on the mind of BART Director Joel Keller, who proposed the measure, as what was ultimately voted on and approved limits enforcement hours to between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. “I’m not interested in seeing anyone get fined," he told the Chronicle yesterday. "I’m interested in seeing people only occupy one seat. [...] In those rare cases where we have some knucklehead who refuses to give up a seat, at least an officer has authority to write a ticket.”
People whose size or medical condition results in them occupying more than one seat are exempt from the law.
In speaking of the new ordinance, Officer Keith Garcia of the BART Police Officers’ Association predicted the likely outcome of the law. “Most of these complaints are going to be against the homeless,” he told the Chron. “That may cause a backlash.”