A new poll suggests that it’s not remote work, but safety and lack of cleanliness keeping people off of BART. But the survey is from a business group with a history of somewhat dubious polls.
In the spring of 2022, BART was touting its increasing ridership numbers as a sign the transit system would return to its pre-pandemic normal. But things have hit a snag, as last month the Chronicle reported that BART ridership “has remained stagnant since September at about 40% of 2019 levels.” And it’s sensible to blame the remote work trend, considering the enormous amounts of empty office space in SF, and to a lesser degree Oakland and the Peninsula.
But KPIX reports on a new poll that finds that safety and cleanliness concerns are what’s keeping BART riders from returning. The Chronicle picks up the same poll from the Bay Area Council, with the headline “‘BART must treat this like a crisis’: New poll calls on rail agency to hire more police to recover riders.”
BART should hire more sworn police officers and double down on keeping trains clean if it hopes to see any significant boost in ridership, according to a new poll. https://t.co/J4rR98NW0y— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) May 9, 2023
“There can be no higher priority for BART and the future survival of the system than to direct every ounce of energy and resources into making the system safer and cleaner,” Bay Area Council president and CEO Jim Wunderman said in the poll’s press release. “We specifically call on BART to immediately and significantly increase police and security personnel on trains, vigorously enforce the rider code of conduct, and install new fare gates within a year. BART must treat this like a crisis, because it is a crisis.”
But BART did not commission this poll, the Bay Area Council did. Who is this Bay Area Council?
They are a pro-business, chamber-of-commerce type group, responsible for some fairly dubious shock polls in the past. They claimed in 2016 that one-third of the Bay Area was moving away, but since then, the Bay Area population has actually increased. The same Bay Area Council claimed the following year that nearly half of Millennials were leaving the Bay Area, which Census data has shown to be bullshit. So they’ve cried wolf a few times.
But, this poll also reflects some of the same results that a BART poll found in early 2020, prior to the pandemic, when the agency was attempting to figure out why it had lost 10 million riders on nights and weekends in 2019 compared to the previous year.
The poll announcement may be an attempt to wag the dog, and push the “More cops” solution to every Bay Area problem. BART seems to already doing the things that the Bay Area Council seems to want, they’re hiring more police and investing in supposedly fare evasion-proof gates. But maybe the local captains of industry thinks that more “doom loop” headlines are necessary to get BART to complete the job. Though I don’t know how many local captains of industry I’ve seen riding BART, even before the pandemic.
Image: @espiekermann via Twitter
This article has been updated to include tje reference to the BART-commissioned poll in 2020.