SAN LEANDRO (KPIX 5) – Amid talk of a possible holiday surge in COVID-19 cases, BART is taking steps to make passengers feel safe.

The agency is also thinking some more ridership growth might be around the corner, and they’re hoping COVID fears don’t stand in the way of that.

READ MORE: Steph Curry Closes In On 3-Pointers Record As Warriors Top Blazers

“You know, air being changed out every 70 seconds in a car is industry best practice,” BART General Manager Bob Powers said at a briefing Tuesday.

To take it a step further, BART has now upgraded its air filters, a step beyond what is considered best practice.

“As you can see, the pleat design is a lot tighter,” engineer Charles Franz explained to KPIX 5, holding both the old and new filters. “This is the old MERV-8 that we’ve changed out. The 8 only captures material as small as 3 microns. The new MERV-14, as small as 3/10ths of a micron.”

MERV-14 air filter being installed on a BART train, November 23, 2021. (CBS)

MERV-14 air filter being installed on a BART train, November 23, 2021. (CBS)

Beyond the quality of the air filter, there’s another reason passengers might feel comfortable on trains now.

READ MORE: Berkeley Police Arrest Convicted Sex Offender For Allegedly Accosting Teens, Claiming To Be Police Officer

“As long as you stay away from everyone and have your mask on all the time,” said Mary, stepping off a BART train Tuesday.

“It’s not crowded like it used to be,” said Jiban Gurung. “Like before COVID, it was very crowded.”

Weekday ridership is about 25% of pre-COVID levels, a number that has been very closely aligned with the slow return to office space in the Bay Area, and specifically in San Francisco.

“So it is going to take a while to get back to pre-COVID numbers,” Powers said.

Inside a BART train during the COVID-19 pandemic, November 23, 2021. (CBS)

Inside a BART train during the COVID-19 pandemic, November 23, 2021. (CBS)

While BART can’t do much about that, it is expecting more office returns in the coming months. The agency said it’s standing by to lure drivers away from what we’re seeing on roads and highways.

MORE NEWS: 'This Is The Worst Time' – Half Moon Bay Merchants Blast PG&E Utility Work, Highway 92 Backups Before Holidays

“So when folks are coming back in three days or four days, whatever they’re cadence is, that they’re taking public transit and not getting in their car,” Powers said. “You’ve seen traffic. Traffic is at pre-COVID levels right now, right? Gas prices are going up.”