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BART SFO ridership 40% under predictions

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  • 7/19 SMCo. Times
    Published Saturday, July 19, 2003, in the San Mateo County Times BART s new hub starting out slow BART has built airport extension, but in first month, riders
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 21, 2003
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      Published Saturday, July 19, 2003, in the San Mateo County Times

      BART's new hub starting out slow

      BART has built airport extension, but in first month, riders haven't
      come

      By Justin Jouvenal
      Staff Writer

      MILLBRAE -- The new BART station here is billed as a regional
      transit hub, but since it opened June 22 it has decidedly lacked hub-
      bub.

      The station's platforms are thinly populated and its cavernous,
      1,400-space parking garage has row upon row of empty spots.
      Occasionally, San Francisco Airport-bound trains pull away with just
      a few passengers.

      Perhaps for these reasons it best symbolizes the first full-month of
      service on the new $1.5 billion SFO extension. BART has built it,
      but the riders haven't come -- at least not yet.

      Ridership is running 40 percent below BART's pre-opening
      predictions, although it is increasing week-to-week. The extension
      is averaging 24,400 trips a weekday, and it carried more than
      493,000 riders through July 15. BART officials predicted some 39,500
      a day would hop on the new line this month.

      Ridership grew by 6 percent between the extension's first week and
      the week of July 6, the last full week for which BART has tallied
      the numbers.

      Of the 12,400 reserved parking spaces on the extension, riders have
      only snapped up permits for about 4,100 spaces. And revenue is
      running roughly 29 percent below what was budgeted -- bad news for
      SamTrans, which must pay for the operations of the extension.

      County Supervisor Mike Nevin called the opening month a product of
      the times.

      "We couldn't have picked a worse time to open BART from the
      perspective of the economy and the summer months," Nevin said. "But
      it's still too early to make a judgment. In the long run we've built
      it and the ridership will happen."

      BART and SamTrans officials believe the numbers will pick up this
      fall as school resumes and people return from vacations.

      Some rail advocates say BART and SamTrans should take steps to perk
      up ridership. Richard Silver, executive director of the Rail
      Passengers Association of California, said he would like to see a
      60- to 90-day break on the extension's $2-a-day parking fees to
      entice people onto trains.

      "It's not unusual when businesses start up to have a discount or
      double bonus," Silver said. "They need to do something sexy to get
      people in there."

      The low ridership has defied predictions, but so have travel
      patterns. BART officials predicted Millbrae would be the extension's
      busiest station, but so far SFO has been the highlight.

      It is seeing 6,500 trips a day, nearly what BART officials projected
      for the station and roughly 50 percent more than Millbrae's 4,600
      trips. About 16,000 trips were projected to use the Millbrae station
      initially.

      The South San Francisco station averaged 2,700 trips and San Bruno
      averaged 2,500 trips for July. BART projected the stations would
      handle 3,800 and 4,400 trips, respectively.

      It's less clear how the new extension has affected Caltrain, which
      connects with BART at the Millbrae station. Officials said they will
      not perform a ridership survey until September, when the slow summer
      season is over.

      Officials are seeing some positive anecdotal signs.

      "There appeared to be an increase in the number of riders accessing
      Caltrain from Millbrae," said Jayme Maltbie Kunz, a Caltrain
      spokeswoman.

      Though ridership has been lackluster, riders are largely giving the
      BART extension high marks for its convenience and service. They
      reported no major problems.

      "The only big mistake they've made is not building the extension 20
      or 30 years ago," said Todd Stress, who was boarding a San Francisco-
      bound train at Millbrae. "I will be using it quite a bit."

      Kingsley Okereke, a San Mateo resident, has been commuting to work
      on BART since it opened. At the Millbrae station Friday, he said the
      new line has met his expectations.

      "I haven't noticed any glitches," he said. "It's easy to navigate
      the stations and there's ample parking. I only wished it would
      stretch to San Mateo."

      Some riders and one BART employee said there are details BART could
      improve.

      "We need more signs, especially in the parking garages," said the
      BART employee, who did not want his name used.

      Several riders at the Millbrae station said signs aren't clear or
      visible enough and many are confused by the parking procedures.
      Riders pay for parking at BART ticket machines in the stations, but
      many said they initially circled the parking garages looking for
      payment machines.

      The BART employee thinks it will only be a matter of time before the
      stations fill up.

      "People on the Peninsula have been dealing without BART for 30
      years," he said. "BART's asking people to come on board, but it's
      not going to be an instantaneous thing."


      BART-to-SFO's first month

      Ridership by station: Average weekday trips (Projected ridership)
      2,735 ( 3,820 proj.) South San Francisco
      2,509 ( 4,471 proj.) San Bruno
      6,514 ( 6,569 proj.) SFO
      4,599 (15,981 proj.) Millbrae
      24,437 (45,800 Proj.) Total

      Figures are for June 22 to July 15.

      Source: BART

      [BATN: The total for the 4 new stations show above adds up to only
      16,357 -- NOT 24,437 (which evidently includes 8,080 riders from the
      pre-existing Colma station). However, the 68,600 BART/SFO EIR-
      projected 2010 total ridership reportedly DOES NOT include Colma
      ridership.]
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