The concurrent rise in gas prices and return to physical workplaces in downtown SF and elsewhere has spurned a sudden and unexpected boom in ridership for both BART and commuter ferries.
Marin County ferries are seeing a significant rise in ridership after nearly two years of being half empty. As some Marin commuters tell KRON4, they've gotten used to have no problem finding a seat, but all that's changed in the last couple of weeks, and the ferries have been packed again at rush hours.
A one-way ferry trip is $7 from Sausalito to San Francisco if you have a Clipper card — a bit more than a gallon of gas currently, but it saves you parking and traffic, and the Golden Gate Bridge toll is up to $9, or $8.05 if you have Fastrak.
Likewise, BART is seeing some of its biggest ridership days this week since the pandemic began. On Tuesday, BART tweeted that the system "served 7,834 more trips compared to the previous Tuesday." And Wednesday was a to-date record-breaking day for the pandemic on BART, with over 125,500 exits across the system. BART says that exit levels at the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations are up 15-20% over last month.
Also, "Our power supply is 100% greenhouse gas free," BART brags.
🚨Pandemic ridership record breaker!🚨— BART (@SFBART) March 10, 2022
Wednesday had the highest ridership since the start of the pandemic with 125,534 exits.
Embarcadero and Montgomery stations are up 15-20% over February exit levels, indicating people are coming back to the office and opting for BART. https://t.co/vzkDPX5woG
Also, in keeping with trends already seen last month, BART is seeing much more of a return on weekends than on weekdays. Both Saturday and Sunday, March 5 and 6, saw ridership back at about 50% of pre-pandemic levels. That's compared to weekdays, where ridership, even with the latest spike, was up to 31% of pre-pandemic levels on Wednesday.
With experts saying that gas prices are going to continue going up before they go down, that likely spells an ongoing boom for BART and the ferry system, which is welcome news — especially as BART was facing potentially another year or two of budget woes if ridership didn't recover.
In related news, the TSA announced Thursday that the mask mandate for public transit, nationwide, is extended until April 18, but local agencies may opt to extend it further.
Photo from pre-pandemic times by Corey Agopian