Crime outweighs remote work as reason commuters not returning to BART: poll

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Poll: Riders would return to BART if system was safer, cleaner
Photo credit: BART

Concerns about crime “far outweigh” remote work as the reason commuters who no longer ride BART aren’t returning to the system, according to a new poll released by the Bay Area Council.

The poll conducted by EMC Research surveyed 1,000 residents throughout BART’s service area.  Among poll respondents, including those that never or rarely ride BART, “78 percent said they would ride BART more often if it was significantly cleaner and safer,” the Council stated about the poll. “This number is particularly striking when compared to the far fewer 46 percent of respondents who stated they would ride BART more often if they had to commute to work or school more frequently.”

The Bay Area Council did not view the poll’s findings as negative, saying it reveals a path forward to getting commuters to return to the system. The Council is calling on BART to “immediately and significantly increase police and security personnel on trains, vigorously enforce the rider code of conduct, and install new fare gates within a year.”

“A Bay Area Council analysis of the poll findings suggests that by taking a much stronger and swifter approach to crime, safety and cleanliness, BART could see up to 300,000 more trips over the course of the workweek, pushing ridership above 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels,” the Council stated.

Of those surveyed, 49 percent gave BART an unfavorable rating for safety and cleanliness, compared to a 30 percent unfavorable rating for SF Muni, 23 percent for AC Transit and 15 percent for Caltrain, according to the Bay Area Council.

According to the poll, 53 percent of residents said they know of someone who has been a victim of crime on BART, while 46 percent say they’ve witnessed crime on the system Eighteen percent say they personally have been a victim on crime on BART. Meanwhile, 44 percent of BART riders said they have never or rarely seen a police officer, according to the Council.

“BART must treat this like a crisis, because it is a crisis,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Council. “BART is the mass transit backbone of our region and there’s too much at stake for BART and our region not to be more aggressive in addressing the reasons legions of riders are staying away. BART deserves credit for recent moves to increase police presence and ramp up cleaning, but riders and others are saying they must do more and they must do it now.” 

Poll: Key Findings

  • 79% say they feel more comfortable riding BART when there is a uniformed police officer or security present 
  • 73% say BART should prioritize adding more uniformed police on trains and in stations 
  • 62% say BART should improve fare gates to prevent fare evaders; 66% want fare gates to fully enclose station entrances 
  • 79% say BART should eject people from the system that violate the passenger code of conduct, which prohibits drugs, smoking, drinking and other illegal or unacceptable behavior 
  • 65% say BART should focus on core operations and leave social service issues to other public agencies 
  • 90% put high priority on more frequent cleaning

See the BART poll findings 

Read the full BART poll questionnaire