In an effort to help boost its weekend ridership, BART is handing out free round-trip tickets that are good for a trip on any weekend until December 18th. The agency has already distributed about 25,000 of these tickets to riders at Embarcadero, Montgomery Street, Coliseum, and Downtown Berkeley stations.
According to the Chronicle, an average round trip on BART costs $7.60, which places the total cost of this promotion at $194,560 thus far. BART spokesperson Jim Allison explained that they aren't too concerned with the cost, as they hope folks would get to explore the system on days they normally wouldn't, and in the process, may also bring along friends and family—i.e., paying riders. (Also, BART recently discussed how the 17,000+ employee and friends-and-family passes they give out for free each year don't really cost the system anything either.)
Though BART usually caps out during commuting hours, it continues to struggle with ridership over its weekend and night running times. Officials contend that Lyft and Uber are cutting into BART's bottom line, as the customer base for those apps has grown quite healthily over the past few years, with Lyft gradually outpacing the socially beleaguered Uber. BART usually also takes to the weekends and holidays to perform extended maintenance on the aging track system, which is a process that's long been seen by critics as something of an uphill battle. Add to that all those train delays and elevator/escalator outages that are near-daily occurrences, and you might be able to see why folks are opting to use some of the aforementioned ride sharing services over BART.
That being said, BART is working to upgrade its system, hoping to have a couple of those "Fleet of the Future" cars ready to carry passengers by the end of the month, with even more cars rolling out by the end of the year.
If you're trying to figure out how you can score one of your own golden tickets (which are actually orange and yellow), good luck. Allison also said that they "are not just giving them out willy-nilly." Still, the promotional program's far from over, as officials have said that they're looking to give even more out over the coming weeks.
Of course, BART's also hoping to learn from this promotion, as they're asking the free ticket holders to also complete a survey (which could lead to even more free rides, as there's a $300 Clipper card giveaway attached to that, too).