In an astonishing display of simplemindedness, the folks who run Bart have floated a trial balloon suggesting they might charge higher prices during commute hours.
The purported goal is to "spread out" rush-hour traffic by encouraging commuters to shift their trips outside those congested hours.
My opinion is this is just code for decreasing demand for Bart because they can't figure out how to run the system efficiently enough to handle the influx of passengers as gas prices have skyrocketed.
When you think about it, it's pretty amazing that a public agency in the Bay Area would suggest such a thing. Increasing tolls on area bridges during commute hours makes good public-policy sense by discouraging folks from driving. But why would we want to discourage usage of public transit, particularly as it becomes more cost-effective due to fuel prices?
Anyone who rides Bart daily knows that the system suffers from some issues. It's not uncommon for trains to run slowly or stop running altogther for a period of time. Still, the system works decently, and I think a few minor modifications would enable it to accomodate far more passengers during rush hour, obviating the need for this idiotic price increase.
First, during rush hour, all trains should be 10 cars long -- the maximum the system can handle. It always surprises me to see lines of eight- and nine-car trains during rush hour. These shortened trains create a nuisance for passengers and slow boarding as people must rush over from the edges of the platform where there are no cars.
Second, Bart should change the cars' ridiculous seat placement, at least for the cars used during rush hour. Removing the seats and placing benches along the walls, as they do in New York City, would probably allow 50 percent more people per car.
Third, Bart should actually enforce rules prohibiting bicycles on the trains during rush hour. And, while I'm at it, Bart should also enforce rules making it illegal to use the system without paying. I see dozens of people each week either jump the fare gate or use the elevators to avoid paying.
Finally, I'm sure there are technological solutions which would enable Bart to space trains more closely. I'm no train engineer, but it would seem Bay Area environmentalists and liberals would be willing to figure this element out to avoid steering people away from public transit.
I don't support Bart being free either, by the way. I used to cringe every time they declared a "spare the air" day, as that pretty much meant you'd face throngs of teenagers running up and down the cars as you tried to commute.
I think it makes sense to charge a reasonable price for using Bart. But if anything, the price should be reduced. If congestion pricing is to be implemented anywhere, it should occur on area bridges, with the profits diverted toward mass transit.
I can't believe Bart's plan is even under consideration. What happened to the area's liberals?