Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

Political Notebook: BART to increase service for SF Pride

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

BART board member Rebecca Saltzman. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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During last year's Pride parade and celebration in San Francisco, lesbian BART board member Rebecca Saltzman skipped the festivities in order to attend her grandfather-in-law's 90th birthday party.

Yet the LGBT event was not far from Saltzman's mind that Sunday, as constituents of the East Bay district she represents on the transit system's oversight body were contacting her to complain about being stuck on station platforms unable to board overcrowded BART trains.

Emails and phone calls about BART's lackluster service on the day of Pride continued for several days, recalled Saltzman, one of two out BART board members.

"It was definitely a problem last year and everybody at BART recognizes that," Saltzman told the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview this week. "On the day of the Pride parade, I got a lot of constituent contact on it. I, and other board members, contacted BART staff right away to find out what went wrong."

The problem, said Saltzman, stemmed from the fact that the BART employee in charge that day never before had overseen the system the day of Pride. Thus, not enough special event trains were put into service that Sunday.

"That was a big problem," said Saltzman, who plans to march in this year's parade.

It is one the agency has pledged not to repeat during this year's Pride parade and festival, set to take place Sunday, June 28. BART's staff and board have finalized a plan to ensure there is increased service to handle the hundreds of thousands of people expected to turn out for Pride.

Improved BART service this year will be critical, as Pride organizers are predicting record crowds due to the release next month of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in a marriage equality case that could legalize same-sex marriage across the country. Adding to the need for increased BART service that Sunday, both the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants baseball teams have home games.

Over the last several months BART staff, members of the agency's board of directors, and leaders of the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, an LGBT political group, have been meeting to craft a plan for Pride day service, said Saltzman.

"The new plan in writing lays out what will happen and how many trains will run," she said.

The service plan was laid out in a letter dated May 15 that Paul Oversier, BART's assistant general manager for operations, sent to Brendalynn Goodall, president of the Stonewall club.

"As you are probably aware, the key lesson learned from last year is to run more special event trains," wrote Oversier. "We will not operate weekday service levels because the projected ridership is less than a typical weekday and all extra service over and above Sunday service is dependent on employees volunteering for overtime."

BART's labor contracts restrict it from mirroring on a Sunday its normal Saturday schedule with all five of its lines running, as the LGBT leaders had inquired about doing.

The normal Sunday schedule sees three of the lines in service with a mixture of short and long trains cycling through the system every 20 minutes.

"We will, however, closely emulate Saturday service and at certain times exceed it," wrote Oversier.

The morning of Pride BART stations will open at 8 a.m. per usual on Sundays, but trains will be sized for regular weekday peak commute service at a length of eight to 10 cars. In addition to the 25 trains that normally run Sundays, BART will be adding 14 special event trains that day.

According to Oversier's letter, most of the event trains will be deployed on the Fremont and Richmond lines to "closely mimic Saturday service on those two lines." Trains should arrive at 10-minute intervals between Richmond, Bay Fair, Daly City, and San Francisco.

Additional event trains on the Dublin, Concord, and SFO/Millbrae lines will increase capacity on "the 20-minute single route service that operates on those branches on Sundays," wrote Oversier.

The event trains will make return trips to suburban intermediate stations such as Bay Fair, Pleasant Hill, and El Cerrito del Norte and "cycle continuously throughout the morning," added Oversier, noting that most of the extra trains would then be stationed at Daly City/Millbrae until the afternoon "to provide additional capacity for the trip home."

Some of those trains would then be reserved for service on the East Bay lines for the A's game that afternoon, while others would be routed to pick up Giants fans.

"Because train operator staffing of event trains is through voluntary overtime, we will not publish a formal schedule for these trains," explained Oversier.

While the plan for Pride service this year should eliminate the problems riders experienced last June, Saltzman nonetheless warned BART users to be prepared to find crowded stations and packed cars again this year on Pride Sunday.

"It is going to be a really busy day in the Bay Area," she predicted. "When there are big events sometimes it takes time to clear the platform. I encourage people to be patient, but I think it will be much better service than last year."

Gay El Cerrito City Councilman Gabriel Quinto , whose town is serviced by two BART stations, was caught up in the system's logjam last Pride both in the morning and again later in the day as he tried to return home.

"It was a horrible experience, I remember," recalled Quinto, who was one of the people to contact Saltzman about the problems. "She got back to me right away last year, so I know that I am not the only one who was affected by this. Everybody in the East Bay was."

Quinto will once again be taking BART into the city for this year's Pride festivities. He told the B.A.R. this week that he is confident the transit system's leaders have learned from last year's mistakes.

"They know they have to make some improvements," he said. "They also mentioned that they will combine their efforts with AC Transit to make sure they will be working together and making sure the morning commute for the parade will be okay if you need to get there before 8 o'clock."

Saltzman and fellow BART board member Gail Murray will be answering the public's questions about BART service and the transit agency's budget priorities during an online town hall being held from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 3.

Questions can be emailed beforehand and during the event to mailto:betterbart@bart.gov or tweet questions to @SFBART.

The town hall will be screened live online at http://www.bart.gov/townhall.

 

Web Extra: Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, was on hiatus this week due to the Memorial Day holiday. The column will return Monday, June 1.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes.

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com.






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