Safe to ride Bay Area Rapid Transit in the Covid-era?
August 19, 2020 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I have a dentist appointment in SF (near our mostly-shuttered office) coming up, and I'll have to come in from the East Bay where I've been working from home. I'm hoping not to deal with $$ garages (which could be full anyway) or 1-hour street parking, so I was just wondering if it'd be relatively safe (i.e. not a Covid hot-zone) to ride BART at the moment. (The office is on Sansome a few blocks from Market, if that helps).
posted by gtrwolf to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco Bay Area, CA (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I used to work a few blocks from there. I can't answer any questions about BART the safety, but that location is really walkable from the Ferry Terminal. If you board from the Oakland side the underground parking is dirt cheap near Jack London Square ($1.50 for the first hour, $1.50 for subsequent half hours), and unlikely to be full with everyone working from home.
posted by Alison at 12:36 PM on August 19, 2020

BART is publishing crowding charts showing the average number of passengers per car on each scheduled train, aggregated week-by-week. They might help you decide how easy it is to stay a comfortable distance from other people. In the aggregate (see this page), they seem to be operating at somewhere between 10–15% of their normal ridership (85–90% below "baseline".)
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:00 PM on August 19, 2020

Everyone has to have masks, of course. If I could I'd start at an open-air station (ie, not Oakland/Berkeley), and exit to Market promptly.
Bart has train crowding charts to facilitate social distancing.
posted by TDIpod at 1:00 PM on August 19, 2020

I've taken bart a few times recently, from west oak to embarcadero and 16th mission and as long as it's not rush hour, the trains are pretty empty. Even in rush hours I've been able to keep 6 feet apart. Everyone I've seen is masked, and they are sanitizing the trains daily.

If you have one, wear an n95 if you have one, but add a fabric mask if it has a vent. Bring hand sanitizer and you should be ok.
posted by ananci at 1:26 PM on August 19, 2020

Hi, I work for BART and produce those crowding charts (with a lot of technical help). The charts are our best guess of ridership by train/date using fare gate data. They are fairly accurate, but can be off because riders tend to crowd into the middle cars of a train--if you head toward the back of the train to board, you are more likely to be able to social distance.

We also just published an interesting article on how often the air is replaced in each car (about every 70 secs). (There is a pretty funny Twitter thread that my coworker started when asked how long it would take a fart to clear--he used the term "shart" in his response).

There is an article we update daily that talks about everything else we are doing to keep our system safe in terms of overnight disinfecting, wiping down all touch points throughout the day, etc.. We are running trains at about 30 minute intervals so allow extra time for your trip. I am working from home these days, but my coworkers who are going into the office say they feel safe.

Wear a mask and go ahead and take the train. Thank you for riding BART!
posted by agatha_magatha at 1:29 PM on August 19, 2020 [61 favorites]

Available evidence points to a masked and distanced BART ride as fairly low risk right now. My kid has been riding.
posted by latkes at 1:31 PM on August 19, 2020

Personally, I'd get myself to Jack London Square and take the open-air, outdoor ferry across. Beautiful, fun, scenic, and safe.
posted by amaire at 4:13 PM on August 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've ridden BART a bunch of times in the past month or so (generally between 24th and Montgomery). It's been super sparsely occupied and I've felt about as safe on the train as I have doing anything else in public indoor spaces. I got tested for COVID again last week and so far so good!
posted by ludwig_van at 4:51 PM on August 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

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