BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Freeways, Ridership Statistics

BART Sets Ridership Record During Bay Bridge Closure

A quick remark on the slow posting around here lately: I am now in the middle of a several-week period of time that has been one of the personal busiest and most stressful periods in recent memory. There are several posts and news developments that I have been wanting to write about, but there has just been literally no time to blog. My apologies for the erratic schedule. Things will probably continue to be slow here for a couple weeks, and there will probably have to be a similar “hiatus” in December, as well. During that time, I will try to catch up on queued posts as I can, albeit a bit sporadically. I appreciate your patience.

For now, just a quick update. As you know, the weekday commute shutdown of the Bay Bridge that we just narrowly avoided on the first Tuesday after Labor Day finally caught up to us when the Bay Bridge was shut down for emergency repairs, and we are now on the second consecutive workday without this critical regional link. I suspect that while some people may have stayed at home yesterday, more will find that to be difficult a second day in a row, so the crowds on transit and the freeways may have worsened somewhat as compared to Wednesday. In any event, here is a traffic snapshot, depicting the state of the Bay Area’s freeways around 6:20 p.m. on the night of October 28, the first day of bridge closure:

Bay Area Traffic during October 28, 2009 Bay Bridge closure
Courtesy of Google Maps.

We also have a new BART ridership record, that gives us a preview of what it will be like to ride BART in the future, when higher fuel prices, increased population, and an outward-bound expansion policy all put additional strain on the system’s core bottlenecks, which are begging for increased capacity.

On Wednesday, October 28, BART set a record of 437,200 riders. However, the very next day, BART surpassed that to set its new historical record: 442,000 riders on Thursday, October 29. Both counts outpace the last record of 405,400 riders set on September 8, 2008, when many sports fans headed for Raiders and Giants games mingled with weekday commuters. On Wednesday, there was a 53% increase in transbay riderhip (253,400 total transbay riders), and system-wide ridership increased 26% as compared to normal conditions.

Even by Thursday morning, it was looked like BART would set a higher record that day — in light of the fact that transbay ridership this morning has been 60% higher than normal — as compared to Wednesday morning, where transbay ridership was 49% higher than normal. Also, system-wide morning ridership was 29% higher than normal today, as compared to 24% higher than a normal morning on Wednesday. On Thursday, ridership across the system was 24% higher than normal, and there were 260,600 total transbay riders (57% higher than normal).

Check back later, as I will continue to update this post with ridership statistics throughout the duration of the bridge closure.



12 thoughts on “BART Sets Ridership Record During Bay Bridge Closure

  1. Regarding your map, it would be interesting to compare it against a typical day when the Bay Bridge is open. What bottlenecks are normal, and what delays are induced by this closure?

    I can speak for 101 South near SJC, and 101 North at the 237/85/101 junction — those are normal rush hour jams. However, some of my co-workers did observe an increase in traffic on 101 N in San Jose and on 237 this morning.

    Posted by Ed in Santa Clara | 29 October 2009, 6:32 pm
  2. The major changes were the northward sweep through the Golden Gate/Richmond-San Rafael bridges, and the southward sweep to the San Mateo bridge. For parts of the Bay Area further from the Bay Bridge, I expect you’re right: the effect would be a matter of degree, not kind.

    Posted by Eric | 29 October 2009, 10:47 pm
  3. Bart has given in to reality sort of. Overnight service to a few stations Fri, Sat, not Sun.

    Posted by david vartanoff | 30 October 2009, 6:47 pm
  4. I have to wonder, why can’t BART run just an overnight shuttle service? Embarcadero to 12th St in Oakland or something. You only need about 3 stations open, you can probably get away with running service on a single track and with just one train. And it would make a much better substitute than running the all-nighter bus over the San Mateo bridge.

    Posted by anonymouse | 31 October 2009, 11:03 am
  5. Notice the end points not served! Richmond, PBP, Fremont. AND the excuse for no overnight service

    BART does not provide regular 24-hour service because many safety sensitive, essential and/or California Public Utilities Commission mandated maintenance work can only take place when the trains are not running. This weekend’s 24-hour service will mean that BART will have to play catch up on essential maintenance work. If BART were to offer 24-hour service on a
    regular basis, BART would not be able to ensure the safety and reliability of the railroad for passengers.

    Contrary to popular belief, the London Underground, the Paris Metro system and Washington, DC Metro do not run 24-hours per day. In fact, BART has longer hours of operation than most of those subway systems.”

    The TRUTH.
    BART has no interest in same. New York and Chicago run 24/7 on many 2 track segments(same as BART) but manage to do maintenance. The 4 hour(approximate ) window between the last ‘sweep’ train arriving and the first morning train leaving the yard is NOT an 8 hour shift. What do those maintenance workers do to fill out a full “day”?
    As to safety, as anonymouse above pointed out, a single track shuttle (as BART occasionally does during regular service hours) could be run while the second track was OOS for work.
    Lack of late night service negates ridership during the evening because the all nighter is so ingrequent.

    Posted by david vartanoff | 1 November 2009, 1:55 pm
  6. The truth: Washington Metro runs till 3 am on Friday and Saturday nights. And I think they might start a bit earlier on Sundays as well. The only example of 24 hour service outside the US that I can think of is Berlin, which runs all night service on Friday and Saturday nights. By the way, the way NYC Transit manages to deal with maintenance during nights is by doing as much as possible between the trains, which run at very infrequent headways of 20 minutes. Which just happens to be the baseline level of BART service. Plus, I think BART actually might have bidirectional signalling, which NYCT mostly does not. On the other hand, NYCT shuts down their subway lines for an entire weekend much more frequently than BART does.

    Posted by anonymouse | 1 November 2009, 3:17 pm
  7. BART basically won’t run 24 hour service because it is not cost effective. It also introduces security issue by homeless people staying on the trains all night.

    What BART could do more is to promote AC’s owl service.

    Posted by Andy Chow | 3 November 2009, 2:35 pm
  8. @ Andy, NO transit is cost effective on its own. And yes there would be security issues which should be dealt with far more rigorously than present. That said, most transit only “pays for itself” at the heart of rush hour but we operate many more hours on the principle of “the public necessity and convenience.” As to a once an hour bus, this is NOT a substitute for a train linking stations many of which are out of the weather.

    Posted by david vartanoff | 4 November 2009, 6:23 pm
  9. David Vartanoff,

    The “peak” is the reason most rail systems do not make money! The subsidy paid for rail services is to support that inefficient peak; and in the US most transit agencies have shown little interest in the off-peak services. BART with no peak pricing (read off-peak reductions if you want) and poor off-peak frequencies, yet a very frequent/high capacity peak service, is typical of that model.

    In theory, the best way to run and design a rail transit system is to build and run it to accommodate the anticipated off-peak demand, then price off the excess peak demand. This way the costs of construction are minimized and the utilisation of staff and assets maximised. Of course, there are other factors to consider when determining service provision, and most rail transit systems worldwide therefore do operate on some sort of subsidy. However, don’t think it is all those suits heading to the City who are supporting the system…..

    Posted by Mike Jones | 5 November 2009, 12:36 am
  10. With transit funds being slashed and all that, talking about running overnight trains isn’t helping transit riders. There are better ways to spend whatever we have to improve or protect the services we have.

    And I say that from the regional perspective. When AC Transit and other agencies are cutting their daytime and peak hour service, running overnight trains is simply a luxury.

    The overnight buses provide lifeline service. Running on city streets may not be the fastest but it is sufficient and reasonable (no street congestion so buses run faster than during daytime).

    For those who like to stay out late in the bars and clubs, let the private sector provide transportation. There are companies in some regions that provide shuttle service to and from bars and club to discourage drunk driving. The service may be a bit more expensive, but these folks are spending lots of money on alcohol and other things anyway. It would be much more cost effective for BART to promote overnight buses than having it provide its own trains.

    Posted by Andy Chow | 5 November 2009, 11:51 am
  11. transit systems are sized for rush hour because they are built to transport scheduled workers. Indeed, because this capacity is underused many other hours of the day (particularly in a roll up the sidewalks at dusk culture) the totality of costs are not met by the farebox. However, because we generally employ the drivers as full time and our safety laws limit how many hours a worker can be on duty, we cannot simply operate AM and PM rush. Given these realities, off peak ridership is a BONUS for the farebox.
    Of course none of that takes into account how much superlative transit contributes to the general economy of the service area, nor the value of auto emissions not generated. All of that said, 24/7 service supports a 24/7 lifestyle. I have been on jammed subway trains at 3 AM in NY, and less full but well used owl runs in Chicago. When AC Transit still made an effort the 2:13 AM F bus from F made late evening music in SF feasible. As to peak/off peak fares, this just punishes the workers who have no choice as to shift times. I believe a far more equitable system is to sell passes which in effect give the same discount AND encourage the off peak ridership because “they have already rented the system”. Passes also are faster to use entering a system and as a one time purchase more efficient for the transit agency which can use money market funds to earn a bit. And there is vastly less chance of fare “shtinkage”.
    Bottom line still is that if a potential rider has a reasonable fear that transit will not accomodate a ride home, the discretionary use won’t happen. This cuts post PM rush ridership and encourages more evening auto use.

    Posted by david vartanoff | 5 November 2009, 12:06 pm


  1. Pingback: Bay Bridge Update: It’s Open! « Transbay Blog - 29 October 2009

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