Bay Area Rapid Transit
(BART, pronounced like the name of a certain The Simpsons
character, not "bee ay arr tee") is the token rapid transit system of the San Francisco
Bay Area. While smaller than most metro systems, with only 104 miles of track and 44 stations, it is nonetheless a major staple of the Bay Area's image and a lifeline of daily Bay Area commute...unless you live in the North Bay, the Peninsula, or in the South Bay.
Launched in 1972, BART initially opened up for service with one line between the MacArthur station in Oakland
and Fremont Station in, well, Fremont. Since then, BART has expanded to cover more of the East Bay, as well as the San Francisco side of the SF Bay via the famous Transbay Tube, a tube that runs under the bay to parallel the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Currently, five lines serve the BART network:
- Richmond - Fremont: The very first BART line. Only one of five to not touch San Francisco.
- Pittsburg/Bay Point - SFO/Millbrae: Runs from the Pittsburg/Bay Point station (yes, that's one station) and goes through Oakland, San Francisco, various smaller cities past SF, before terminating at either San Francisco International Airport (on weekdays during the day and evenings) or Millbrae (all other days and times). Yes, the use of slashes is a little confusing. Currently being extended (via the "eBART" Diesel line) to Antioch, with an option to continue all the way to Brentwood.
- Fremont - Daly City: Goes up from Fremont like the Richmond - Fremont line, before diverging at Oakland to travel to San Francisco and eventually Daly City.
- Richmond - Daly City/Millbrae: Follows the Richmond - Fremont line before splitting off to cross the Bay and terminate at Daly City or Millbrae. The Millbrae station also services Caltrain, which runs to San Jose (with limited commuter service all the way to Gilroy).
- Dublin/Pleasanton - Daly City: The most recent line, it follows the Fremont - Daly City line going from Daly City to Bay Fair station in San Leandro, then splits off to travel through Castro Valley and into Dublin and Pleasanton to the Dublin/Pleasanton station (also one station).
Despite the name, not all of the Bay Area is covered by BART. The North Bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge, has no service and there are currently no plans to address this. The Peninsula, from Millbrae to the South Bay, receives no BART coverage as well, although that area is served by Caltrain commuter rail anyway. Finally, and most infamously, the South Bay itself has no coverage due to local transit authorities at the time of BART's planning refusing to participate, although construction on a South Bay extension began in 2012 and is expected to end in 2016, with the extension reaching out to the Berryessa neighborhood of San Jose. A second phase of the extension, going down to Santa Clara, is currently awaiting additional funds.
Fare is distance-based, with a few exceptions. A one-way trip will cost anywhere between $1.75 and $10.90. Going through the Transbay Tube, San Mateo County (including Millbrae Station), or entering or exiting at SF Airport will incur additional charges; as an example, going from San Bruno to Millbrae or vice versa (2 stations away) will run you only $2.95, but going from San Bruno to the airport (one less station) will cost you a particularly brutal $7
. And before you ask about unlimited-ride passes, no, there aren't any.
The closest there is is the San Francisco Muni "A" pass, which allows unlimited rides between San Francisco stations. By default, tickets are provided in the form of resuable paper passes, which you insert into the fare gate on entry and exit; exiting a station with exact fare will capture the ticket. Frequent riders are advised to get the wave-and-pay Clipper cards, which are compatible with other Bay Area transit networks and can be pre-loaded with fare and are eligable for bulk tickets, with purchases of $48 and $64 tickets costing only $45 and $60, respectively. Riding on certain Amtrak lines will allow you to purchase $10 tickets for $8. K-12 students whose schools participate in the BART discount program can get a 50% discount on weekday rides, and children, seniors, and disabled passengers can ride at a 62.5% discount. These are the only fare reliefs you will get, short of working for BART. In short, BART is expensive.
Fare is only charged when you exit a station, so transfers come at no extra cost. However, because your fare is not charged until you exit a station, this can result in situations where the fare gates bar you from exiting because you don't have enough fare to leave. Previously, Clipper users could exit the station with a negative fare of up to -$11.25 just fine, but in September 2013, exiting with a negative fare is no longer allowed. For this reason, there are Addfare machines that will allow you to add just enough fare to get out of the system. To prevent people from simply boarding a train, travelling all over the network, and then coming back, a $5.25 excursion fee is applied for exiting the same station you last entered
For those who do the whole park-and-ride routine, parking is available at select BART stations. Parking is $2.50 for the day if you arrive between 4 AM and 3 PM during weekdays. Otherwise, it's free. You can even park overnight during weekends; even the official website mentions this
Trains run every 15-20 minutes per line. Obviously, frequencies stack if you're at a station served by multiple lines; in San Francisco, which is served by no less than four lines during peak hours, one train every five minutes is fairly common. Some lines will close early or have no service on Saturdays and especially Sundays, necessitating transfers in order to complete the trip. Some stations are built with transfers in mind, having three or four tracks in use; trains at these stations traveling in particular directions will make prolonged stops in order to accomodate transferring passengers.
The stations are often in "have seen better days" status. While they have bathrooms, using them is not recommended; buy something at the nearest Starbucks and use their bathroom instead if you value hygiene. The homeless, as well as musicians of varying quality, are a fairly common sight in the unpaid sections of the station, as well as around the station entrance if the station is underground. Once on the platform, LED signs coupled with automated, robotic-sounding announcements periodically indicate when the next trains will show up, grouped by line. The platform edges have black segments indicating where the doors will be when the train stops, though the trains usually fail to line up accordingly, like a bad Densha De Go
Trains have anywhere between 3-10 cars. The seats are infamous for being filthy and carrying several strains of dangerous bacteria, thanks in no small part to less sanitary passengers; reports of vagrants "using the bathroom" on the train
are not unheard of. Thankfully, recent projects have been aimed at replacing these crappy old seats with fresh-looking and easier-to-clean new ones. The car floors are usually made of carpet, but some cars will have composite flooring instead; there are plans to eventually apply this to call cars in the system.
The trains are known for being very noisy, particularly in the subway sections. Bring noise-isolating headphones and music, especially if you're going through the Transbay Tube, which will easily take five minutes to cross.
BART's subways are some of the few in the United States to offer cellphone coverage, so feel free to check your Facebook, send text messages, or browse TV Tropes
while riding. Do not expect this same amenity on other subway networks.
Notoriously, in 2011, BART shut down cellphone service to hamper protests following the shooting of Charles Hill in 2011, which was not particularly well-received amongst passengers and especially Anonymous
BART has its own branch of the police. BART Police's reputation has not been particularly positive, especially after the shooting of Oscar Grant in 2009 (the details and discussion of which are best left off of this page
) and the aforementioned Charles Hill. In early 2014, for the first time in the system's history a BART police officer was killed in the line of duty when he was accidentally shot by a fellow officer while serving a search warrant.
In 2013, a variety of disputes led to BART workers going on several strikes, with each strike completely shutting down BART service and dealing a huge blow to the Bay Area commute.
"The doors are closing. Please stand clear of the doors."