The Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART as it is commonly known, is an expansive public transit system in California’s San Francisco Bay Area that has a reputation for being unsafe. Transit police is not a concept unique to just this system, but the BART Police are a strong presence throughout the 44 different stations nevertheless.
The lines run through a variety of neighborhoods, ranging from high-end suburbs to crime-ridden urban centers. For these reasons, you will see BART Police patrolling certain stations while completely absent at others.
Over the course of my years living in the Bay Area, I have heard many stories of friends or acquaintances being mugged at BART stations. Riders are often targeted coming to and from stops because they are distracted when using their smart phones. Community gatherings have taken place focused solely on how to solve this issue.
If you search web content on this topic, you will see that the most dangerous stations have lines that run above the road. These are generally lower-income neighborhoods with higher crime rates that could not afford to have their BART station be built underground.
For example, the West Oakland BART station runs directly through the neighborhood, acting as a divider between the commercial/residential section and the industrial area. During the holiday season, local enforcement utilized volunteer escorts to assist riders who wanted an extra body while walking to their vehicles.
It is an unfortunate circumstance as it makes encouraging public transit ridership difficult knowing safety concerns are legitimate. Fortunately, efforts are being made to improve this situation, such as the implementation of Assembly Bill 716. The bill would issue a “prohibition order” against anyone who commits an offense on BART property, which could ban them from anywhere between 30 days to a year.
This is a challenging situation for urban planners because it clearly goes beyond the BART stations. The general safety of the surrounding neighborhoods ultimately determines the safety at those spots. Although the police are there for your protection, it is not necessarily the most reassuring feeling knowing they have to be there.
What challenges do your local public transit systems face?
Credits: Photos by Robert Poole. Data linked to sources.