BART’s Record Setting August
Yesterday we looked at rising ridership on Caltrain. Today, it’s BART that is posting record ridership gains, this time in the month of August.
BART set weekday ridership records in August, with an average of 384,295 trips per weekday. It also saw four all-time peak-ridership days in recent weeks.
BART has been working to add capacity to the system to handle the rising ridership, including added service on trains to Richmond. BART has long-term capacity management issues, and among the solutions will be some form of new tracks. Ridership increases will almost certainly rekindle discussions of a second Transbay Tube and ways to increase capacity in the urban cores in SF and Oakland.
What does that mean for high speed rail? Aside from BART being an important feeder system for the HSR stations and trains, this is further evidence that demand for passenger trains in California is very strong, and getting stronger over time. During the recession, when unemployment soared and ridership fell, it became easier for opponents of HSR to claim that not enough people would ride the trains to make the system financially viable. Now that those exceptional circumstances have passed, the latent demand for trains is reasserting itself with a vengeance.
I’m sure HSR opponents will continue to argue that the trains will struggle to attract riders, but recent numbers from BART and Caltrain will make those claims harder to justify. And of course, Amtrak California continues to see ridership growth on its existing intercity trains, further solidifying the point.
People will ride trains in California, as long as the option is given to them.
UPDATE: Michael Cabantuan has an excellent overview of BART on its 40th birthday.