By Kiet Do

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Public transit riders in the Bay Area may have noticed less elbow room on buses and trains in recent weeks. Ridership has steadily increased for many agencies, coinciding with the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, which has bolstered rider confidence.

“We’re very excited about what we’re seeing in for ridership,” said Glenn Hendricks, VTA Board Of Directors Chairperson.

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VTA ridership is still down about 75% from pre-pandemic levels. But since the start of the year, VTA total monthly ridership (systemwide weekday boardings) has trended up:

  • Jan 2021 31,579
  • Feb 2021 37,665
  • Mar 2021 41,425

On Monday, VTA also announced it would be relaxing social distancing rules.

“It had been six feet, and is now moving to three feet. This will dramatically increase the capacity we have on our vehicles to serve the community,” said Hendricks.

In the North Bay, SMART is expanding train service, adding ten trips on weekdays and 12 trips for Saturday. Previously there was no service on Saturday.

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“We wanted to make sure that we capture people as they started going back to their life again,” said SMART CFOHeather McKillop. “So going to work, doing leisure activities on the weekends. And we wanted to make sure that we were going to be a part of that, instead of when they’ve already made their travel plans and some new routine.”

Caltrain overall ridership is still 9-10% of pre-pandemic levels. But average weekly ridership has steadily increased, according to Tasha Bartholomew, Communications Manager:

  • January 2021 3,056 Average Weekday Ridership (AWR)
  • February 2021 3,484 (AWR)
  • March 2021 3,954 (AWR)

Last week, BART saw significant gains, reaching new ridership highs on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Weekday ridership is up to about 84% of pre-pandemic levels, weekend ridership is up to about 71% of pre-pandemic levels. BART Weekday Ridership Totals:

  • Dec 2020 45,893
  • Jan 2021 43,012
  • Feb 2021 47,665
  • Mar 2021 51,595
  • Apr 2021 57,886

BART rider Brittany Bastida has noticed more passengers on the trains, adding that social distancing on the trains has become increasingly difficult.

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“Now there’s people standing next to me, or sitting next to me, or there’s like a kid on their lap. I’m just not comfortable with it,” said Bastida.