Gas prices bring riders back to BART, Caltrain, and VTA

By Eliyahu Kamisher, The Mercury News, March 14, 2022

“With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fueling a 22 percent spike in statewide gas prices over the last month, many commuters are now mulling cheaper alternatives. Transit agencies across the Bay Area, like BART, Caltrain and the VTA … have kicked their public relations into high gear … after the pandemic and shift to remote work decimated Bay Area transit.

“ ‘You couldn’t time historic high gas prices and offices reopening any better for transit recovery,’ said Alicia Trost, a BART spokesperson, who pointed to a recent 15-to-20 percent surge in riders at the office-oriented Embarcadero and Montgomery stations in downtown San Francisco.

“The bump in riders doesn’t mean public transit will be packed again anytime soon [as] it was before COVID, when BART tallied over 400,000 passenger trips each day. For now, it’s still hovering around 30 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The loss in passenger fare revenue has left massive holes in agencies’ operating budgets. Rising fuel costs will likely worsen their deficits, but transit operators say for now they are resistant to hiking fares, as they depend on hundreds of millions in federal relief money to balance their budgets for the coming years.

“On Thursday morning, commuters packed onto standing-room-only trains at BART’s McArthur Station. Much of the passenger congestion was due to the ongoing Red Line closure, which forced San Francisco-bound riders from Richmond through Berkeley to transfer in Oakland, but gas prices were on the minds of many passengers.”

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