BART Grapples with Crowding as Ridership Surges

BART is getting crowded. The transit agency provides about 400,000 rides on a typical weekday. Within the next five years, daily ridership could swell to 500,000 -- more than triple the average in the 1970s.

Soaring ridership has led to overcrowding in train cars; vacant seats have become scarce, and many riders are required to stand for the length of their commute. It has also produced crowded station platforms, where long passenger queues await every rush-hour train.

To deal with surging crowds, BART floated a plan last year to rebuild the platforms of its two busiest stations -- Embarcadero and Montgomery. The plan would cost $900 million and it would take five years to complete. But it still needs to secure funding for those projects.

Relief could come sooner in train cars. In 2017, BART will begin phasing in a new fleet of train cars into service (a model of the new train cars was unveiled on Wednesday). Although the cars are slightly smaller than those currently in use, BART promises to increase capacity by putting more cars in service and running longer trains.

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The agency has 775 cars on order, and it hopes to obtain funding for a total of 1,000 new cars. If BART reaches its goal, it will increase the number of cars in its fleet by 50 percent, and it will increase the number of overall seats by 38 percent.

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But will these solutions be enough for the rail agency to keep pace with a booming metro area?

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