A BART scheduling change designed to ease travel to the San Francisco International Airport has added up to five minutes to the Berkeley-San Francisco-Daly City commute, raising concern among riders and public transit advocates.
“It gets annoying,” said Ming Yue, a Daly City resident who commutes to her job in Berkeley.
The scheduling change, in effect since Sept. 9, eliminated “timed transfers” for riders on the Richmond line headed to San Francisco and Daly City in the morning, afternoon and early evening hours. Before, in the morning, when direct trains were 15 minutes apart, a Fremont bound train with a timed transfer could save commuters as much as five minutes even though they had to switch to a San Francisco bound train in Oakland. Now BART is telling people to go directly from their first boarding station to San Francisco.
The delayed commute may affect ridership, said Stuart Cohen, executive director of the Oakland-based, nonprofit Transportation and Land Use Coalition.
“Anytime that the waiting times could be increased for transit... it impacts people’s likelihood of taking transit,” Cohen said. “It impacts those marginal riders choosing between BART and driving.”
But BART spokesperson Ron Rodriguez said he could not recall schedule changes making an impact on ridership in the past. He also argued that an additional five-minute wait will not convert BART riders to drivers, and played down the inconvenience for commuters worried about arriving late to work.
“If you or your boss are reducing your day to five- or seven-minute segments, you’re in deep trouble,” he said. “Bosses don’t own us.”
To accommodate an expected ridership jump on Richmond trains, BART has expanded the length of the direct Richmond-San Francisco-Daly City trains from six or eight cars to10 cars.
At night, there is no direct Richmond-San Francisco-Daly City service. BART has kept timed transfers in place at night.
BART eliminated the daytime transfers that had been in place since the early1990s, as part of a larger schedule shakeup in preparation for direct service to San Francisco International Airport, which is scheduled to start in January.
Other schedule changes include extending the Dublin-Pleasanton line to Colma in preparation for service to the airport.
Currently, the transit agency has designated only the Dublin-Pleasanton line for direct service to the airport. But BART spokesperson Ron Rodriguez said the agency may include other lines.
If the Dublin/Pleasanton line provides the only direct service, Berkeley commuters will have to transfer at the West Oakland station to get to the airport. A ride from the Downtown Berkeley BART station to the airport will cost $5.15.
That price includes a $1.50 airport surcharge and a recently-approved, system-wide 5 percent fare increase that goes into effect in January.