OAKLAND (CBS SF) – BART unveiled a 15-step plan Wednesday to renew passenger confidence in the safety of riding public transit amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The plan continues and builds on the health and safety protocols BART enacted as the pandemic began in earnest in mid-March, including more frequent disinfection and sanitization of train cars and stations and making hand sanitizer available at all stations.READ MORE: Volunteers Spread Out Across Bay Area for Annual Coastal Cleanup
The agency has procured enough hospital-grade disinfectant misters to fully disinfect each train car each night, which BART General Manager Bob Powers said should give passengers peace of mind as they try to avoid spreading or catching the coronavirus.
“If I can put a system out there that is safe and disinfected and clean and I can articulate that to the riders and provide that option, I can shape our ridership and the return to BART,” Powers said.
BART is currently running trains every 30 minutes on weekdays, and all trains will include 10 cars whenever possible to allow for maximum physical distancing. BART officials estimate train cars can hold up to 30 passengers standing 6 feet apart or up to 60 passengers standing 3 feet apart.
As the agency’s ridership increases, Powers said BART will be able to add more frequent train service across the system to maintain that capacity for physical distancing.
On the agency’s new generation of train cars, BART plans to pilot modular seating to create additional space for riders. Similar seating options will not be available on the system’s older train cars. There are about 120 “Fleet of the Future” cars currently in service, according to Powers.
“We think that piloting this with the Fleet of the Future will have a very positive impact on the social distancing,” Powers said.
Face coverings will be required on all trains in accordance with Bay Area public health guidelines. BART will also install signs and markers reminding passengers of best health and safety practices.
As the Bay Area’s economy reopens, BART officials plan to work with employers to encourage staggered shifts, which would reduce crowding during peak morning and evening commute hours. The agency is also providing its employees with personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing to ensure they remain healthy and able to maintain the transit system.READ MORE: San Francisco Celebrates Rise of Lowrider Community With Car Show and Cruise
“We need to be there for when the economy starts to reopen and re-energize itself,” Powers said.
“Starting next week, every train car within BART will be ‘fogged,’ or thoroughly sanitized every night,” says Powers.
Armed with a new set of fogging guns, Powers says the agency is stepping up is cleaning game in anticipation of more passengers, and those passengers should plan on wearing a mask.
“BART police, you know as you enter the system, to make sure that you have a mask,” Powers explains. “And they’ll have additional masks ready to hand out should you not have your mask.”
The convenience of the largely empty trains is not lost on those who are still using the system.
“You kinda want less people, and to have it gradually,” a BART passenger named Brendan said outside Rockridge Station. “If you start just throwing more people in you’re gonna be like ‘oh man, it’s hecka crowded.’ People getting sick and all that. It’s just kind of more anxiety with more people.”
Riders are encouraged to use touchless payment methods across the BART system such as a Clipper card as often as possible. BART riders can also obtain a personal hand strap, allowing them to avoid touching hand rails, by calling (510) 464-7136 or visiting the customer service window at the Lake Merritt station.
More information about the 15-step plan can be found online at https://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2020/news20200526.MORE NEWS: San Francisco Schools, Public Health Dept. Partner to Provide Campus COVID Vaccinations
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