To bite a phrase coined by Gary Peterson of the San Jose Mercury News, the revelation that a high-profile quality of life public transit law is basically dead in the water is yet another case where people are shaking their heads and saying "it's all so BART."
Of course you remember BART's so-called "seat-hog" ordinance: First proposed by BART Director Joel Keller back in March of 2016, it was intended to make it illegal for BART riders to occupy more than a single seat when it would prevent others from sitting down. (People with medical conditions or of a size that requires multiple seats are exempted, and it wouldn't be enforced on trains full of empty seats.)
BART's Board approved the law in April, and by June, then-BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey appeared to have the penalty plan firmly in place: After a warning, fines would be $100 for a first offense, $200 the next, and $500 each time after that. Criminal background checks for all offenders were possible, Rainey said.
The ordinance kicked in in September of last year, but I'm apparently using "kicked in" loosely, as the Chron reports today that unless everyone stopped manspreading and passing out since last fall (ha ha ha ha yeah right) it looks like it's never been enforced.
Basically, it's been one big buck-passing mess, the Chron reports:
BART police are waiting for an enforcement policy to be approved by the board, said BART spokesman Taylor Huckaby. But the board is waiting for the Police Department, which has been without a chief since the end of the year, to recommend a strategy. BART’s new police chief, Carl Rojas, is to start May 24.
Meanwhile, the composition of BART’s board has changed, and its president, Rebecca Saltzman, never a fan of the ordinance, says she’ll try to get it overturned if an enforcement plan is ever put in place.
Keller tells the Chron that he's "surprised the law hadn’t been put into effect yet," which means, improbably, that people on BART's board are still capable of surprise. “It’s disappointing," he says. "I know it was controversial, but a lot of people thought it was a step toward ensuring that the limited number of seats (on a train) is available...They get tired of seeing seats taken up by luggage, personal property and people sleeping on two seats.”
Another member of the BART organization that might be a little surprised is whoever's manning the store at BART Watch, the transit agency's citizen crime-reporting app. According to aggrieved app user and software engineer Jon Krueger, who takes BART from the Dublin/Pleasanton Station to Montgomery Street, his reports of seat hogs have been met with perplexing results.
On at least a couple of occasions over the past six months, Krueger used the BART Watch app on his phone to notify agency police of passengers sprawled across multiple seats on his train. Typically reports were met with silence or a suggestion that he request a “welfare check” on the safety of a snoozing rider taking up more than a single seat.
But last Monday, he got a confusing response after reporting two riders sprawled across seats.
“There is no ‘Seat Hog Rule,’” the unsigned message read. “Although BART is trying to get one established.”
Krueger, incensed, contacted the Chron to expose this Keystone-Coppery, saying “There is a law...What was the BART board doing? If you can’t get it done in a year, you can’t get it done.”
Krueger will likely be disappointed to hear that the law might never take effect, if new Board president Rebecca Saltzman has her way. The Chron reports that Saltzman "said she sees the ordinance as an attack on homeless people and a waste of BART’s limited police resources. With three new directors on the board, she believes the law can be rescinded."
The deciding vote to rescind will likely come from Oakland BART director Lateefah Simon...and the signs don't look good for Keller's baby. as she says that “When it comes up, I can guarantee you that Director Saltzman and I and other directors who care about equity will make sure it sunsets."
Much discussed, caught in rounds of meetings, and with a buck passed round and round going nowhere? Like I said, it's all so BART.