Bay Area Rapid Transit

Bay Area Rapid Transit


Development and origins

Main article: History of the Bay Area Rapid Transit

Some of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System’s current coverage area was once served by the electrified streetcar and suburban train system called the Key System. This early twentieth century system once had regular trans-bay traffic across the lower deck of the Bay Bridge. By the mid-1950s that entire system had been dismantled in favor of highway travel using automobiles and buses – given the explosive growth of expressway construction. A new rapid-transit system was proposed to take the place of the Key System during the late 1940s, and formal planning for it began in the 1950s. Some funding was secured for the BART system in 1959, and construction began a few years later. The first passenger rail service commenced on a few stretches of track in September 1972. The new BART system was hailed by some authorities as a major step forwards in subway technology.

However, questions arose concerning the safety of the BART system and the huge expenditures necessary for the construction of the BART network. Praise for the new transportation system was not unanimous at first.

Recent history

2006 statistics

Number of vehicles


Initial system cost

.6 billion

Equivalent cost in 2004 dollars (replacement cost)


Hourly passenger capacity


Maximum daily capacity


Average weekday ridership


Annual gross fare income

3.65 million

Annual expenses

1.81 million

Annual profits (losses)

(0 million)

Rail cost/passenger mile (excluding capital costs)

$ .323

A recent study shows that along with some Bay Area freeways, some of BART’s overhead structures could be extensively damaged and could potentially collapse in the event of a major earthquake, which is predicted as highly likely to happen in the Bay Area within the next 30 years. Extensive seismic retrofit will be necessary to address many of these deficiencies, although one in particular, the penetration of the Hayward Fault Zone by the Berkeley Hills Tunnel, will be left for correction after any disabling earthquake, with the consequences for in-transit trains, their operators, and their passengers left to chance.

In May 2004, BART became the first transit system in the nation to offer cellular telephone communication to passengers of all wireless carriers on its trains underground. This is in contrast to other systems in United States, which, while having some cellular telephone service, do not provide it for passengers of all the major cell phone carriers. Service was made available for customers of Verizon Wireless, Sprint/Nextel, AT&T Mobility, and T-Mobile in and between the four San Francisco Market Street stations from Civic Center to Embarcadero. In 2005, coverage was made available between Balboa Park and 16th St. Mission. By July 2008, the fifth cell phone network of the Bay Area, MetroPCS, was added. In December 2009, service was expanded to include the Transbay Tube, thus providing continuous cell phone coverage between West Oakland and Balboa Park. Service is planned to be added in downtown Oakland, Berkeley, and the Berkeley Hills Tunnel by the end of the third quarter 2010. Coverage is expected to be added to South San Francisco and San Bruno in 2011. The goal is to provide continuous cell phone and internet service throughout the entire BART system.
Starting on February 20, 2007 BART entered into an agreement to permit a beta test of WiFi Internet access for travelers on the BART system. It initially included the four San Francisco downtown stations; Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell, and Civic Center. To date over 30,000 patrons have utilized the service. The testing and demonstration also includes above ground testing to trains at BART’s Hayward Test Track. The testing and deployment has been extended into the underground interconnecting tubes between the four downtown stations and further. The successful demonstration and testing provided for a 10 year contract with WiFi Rail, Inc. for the services throughout the BART Right Of Way (ROW).
During the months of May 2008 and July 2008 the WiFi service was expanded to include the Transbay Tube and now awaits BART cars which have the necessary WiFi equipment to benefit from the network access.

Since the mid 1990s, BART has been trying to modernize its aging 30-year-old system. The aforementioned fleet rehabilitation is part of this modernization; presently, fire alarms, water-sprinkling systems, yellow tactile platform edge domes, and cemented-mat rubber tiles are being installed. The rough black tiles on the platform edge mark the location of the doorway of approaching trains, allowing passengers to wait at the appropriate locations for the train, instead of waiting until the train arrives to figure out where to board. All faregates and ticket vending machines have also been completely replaced.

In the spring of 2007, BART experimented with a system of placed advertisement panels in the Transbay Tube, and when riders looking at the windows saw what looked to be a moving commercial for what was Reebok’s “Run Easy” campaign.

On April 10, 2007, BART General Manager Tom Margro, who has been BART chief for eleven years, announced his retirement.

In late May, 2007, BART stated its intention to improve non-peak (night and weekend) headways for each line to only 15 minutes. The current 20-minute headways at these times is viewed as a psychological barrier to ridership. June 2007, BART temporarily reversed its position stating that the shortened wait times would likely not happen due to a 0,000 state revenue budget shortfall. Nevertheless, BART eventually confirmed the implementation of the plan by January 1, 2008.

Furthermore, in June 2007, BART suddenly removed all references to implementation of the TransLink payment system from their website. BART spokesperson Marty Moran stated (via email) that TransLink now may be implemented as early as late 2007. Implementation of TransLink on BART was pushed back even further due to disputes regarding the processing of fares between MTC and BART. TransLink was planned to be rolled out simultaneously on BART, SF Muni, and Caltrain in Spring 2008,. TransLink access was rolled out in May of 2009 .

As BART celebrated the 50th anniversary of its creation by the state legislature, the organization’s management announced their plans for the next 50 years. Their vision includes adding a four-bore transbay tube beneath San Francisco Bay that would run parallel and south of the existing tunnel and emerge at the Transbay Transit Terminal to provide connecting service to Caltrain and the proposed future California High Speed Rail system. The four-bore tunnel would provide two tunnels for BART and two tunnels for conventional/high-speed rail. BART’s plan focus is on improving service and reliability in its core system (where density and ridership is highest), rather than extensions into far-flung suburbia. These plans include: a line that would continue from the Transbay Terminal through the South-of-Market, northwards on Van Ness and terminating in western San Francisco along the Geary corridor, the Presidio, or North Beach; a line along the Interstate Highway 680 corridor; and a fourth set of rail tracks through Oakland.

Numerous rail service changes were implemented beginning on January 1, 2008. Among the changes, the trains on the Pittsburg / Bay Point line extended their service to the San Francisco-Oakland airport (SFO airport) station (at all hours of operation), but they did not continue to the end of the line at Millbrae. (Only a very few late-night Pittsburg / Bay Point trains continued on to Millbrae after stopping at the SFO airport station). During weekdays (until 7:00 pm), the trains on the Richmond line continued on to the Millbrae station, but bypassed the SFO airport station; during weeknights and weekends, trains on the Dublin / Pleasanton line continued to Millbrae, but also bypassed the SFO airport station). All of this meant that there would no longer be a direct train connection between the SFO airport and Millbrae, inconveniencing “Caltrain” passengers who wished to travel to the SFO airport. The BART management discontinued this direct rail connection, citing low ridership between Millbrae and the SFO airport. However, they did implement timed transfers at the San Bruno station for passengers who were traveling from the SFO airport to Millbrae.

With continuing budget constraints, it was necessary for BART to cut back on service beyond Daly City. As of September 14, 2009, the following changes have taken place: The Pittsburg/Bay Point line will still terminate at SFO on weekdays until 7:00 pm. After 7:00 pm, and all day on weekends and holidays, service will extend to Millbrae. The Dublin / Pleasanton line will no longer serve the extension, instead terminating at Daly City Station.

In 2008, BART announced that it would install solar power systems on the roofs of its train yards and maintenance facilities in Richmond and Hayward in addition to car ports with rooftop solar panels at its Orinda station. The board lamented not being able to install them at all stations but it stated that Orinda was the only station with enough sun for them to make money from the project.

Current system


A photo of the third rails used on the BART system. Note how the third rail changes location relative to the train upon entering the station and the crossover walkway crossing the trackway. Note the walkway on the left side of the trackway in the distance, which is the emergency walkway for the aerial trackway leading into the Daly City station again, the third rail positioned opposite of

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