After making efforts to clear the homeless out of BART stations, BART police have succeeded in moving more of them onto trains, according to no data. And while complaints about the homeless on trains are not new, the problem appears to have gotten significantly worse this year.
Back in June we the story about BART's end-of-line stations, especially SFO and Pittsburg/Bay Point, dealing with homeless people getting stuck at the end of service, kicked off of trains with nowhere to go. Many chose just to sleep in the parking lot at Pittsburg/Bay Point until trains started running again — though in the rainy winter months this became untenable.
As the Chronicle now reports, BART's marketing and research department has been doing its own surveys on trains, and they found an average of 160 homeless people for every 100 cars on weekends between April and June, up from 79 during the same period in 2018. On weekdays when trains are more crowded, the count was 50 percent higher — 64 people in every 100 cars, versus 45 during the same quarter last year.
Back in the fourth quarter of 2017, only 24 transients were seen on every 100 trains on weekdays, with a seven-day average of 33.
"The data suggests we’re moving them out of stations and onto trains," says BART board member Debora Allen. There was an April "blitz," as the Chronicle reports, in which BART police and yellow-vested agents shooed the homeless out of all downtown stations, ostensibly as a crackdown on fare evasion. But the cause and effect is likely more complicated.
Says BART spokesperson Alicia Trost, "We don’t make assumptions as to why someone spends their time on BART trains. We continue to push for a regional approach to the homeless crisis and work with the counties we serve."
BART has tried various measures to discourage the homeless from riding trains, including a "seat-hog" ordinance that passed in 2016 to cite people for taking up more than one seat. The ordinance was rescinded a year later after the agency seemed reluctant to figure out how to enforce it.
SF's BART board director, Bevan Dufty, suggests that there needs to be an "official" presence onboard the trains, both to discourage sleeping and officer support services. But other directors are wary of how this program would be funded.