Coronavirus Has Yet to Disrupt BART Ridership

A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train operator waits for passengers to enter the train at the Daly City station on August 15, 2011 in Daly City, California.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Top BART and Muni officials say they are preparing for the potential spread of the novel coronavirus in the Bay Area and are engaged in regular meetings with public health officials, who are advising them against making operational changes just yet.

Meanwhile, Oakland-based AC Transit, which serves the East Bay, including Alameda and Contra Costa counties, has “activated enhanced cleaning precautions” for commonly touched surfaces on its buses, and it’s got the Twitter photos to prove it.

Muni buses and trains are cleaned every night with products including disinfectant wipes and sprays, “along with bleach when necessary,” said Kristen Holland, a spokeswoman for San Francisco’s transit agency, in an email.

“We are closely monitoring developments in response to the declaration of a local emergency in San Francisco,” Holland said.

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For now, BART officials say they are continuing business-as-usual cleaning of hand-holding straps and poles with disinfectant wipes and providing masks and hand sanitizers for employees.

At least for now, the rise in confirmed cases in California has not impacted BART ridership, which was actually higher last week than the previous, the agency says.

Holland said Muni's ridership numbers are steady compared to the same time last year, but the agency won't attribute any change in ridership due to a specific event. "There are many factors that can influence daily use," she said.

Jeff Lau, BART’s chief safety officer, and Robert Powers, its general manager, briefed the agency’s board last week on the measures they are taking to prevent the spread of the virus with protective products.

Lau said the agency has stockpiled disinfectant spray. “If we have a confirmed case in the service area, we will roll out that application to spray disinfectant in the cars,” he said.

Riding public transit in the Bay Area and concerned about the novel coronavirus?

Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing; and, if you are feeling sick, consider staying home. If you can’t stay home, wearing a mask can protect other riders, says Art Reingold, division head of epidemiology at UC Berkeley’s public health school.

“Hand-washing is an important tool in preventing infection with the coronavirus,” Reingold said. “On a BART car or on public transit, you are likely to end up holding onto a pole or a strap. Hand-washing with soap and water is great and trying not to put your hands to your face is helpful.”

“These are the messages that public health [experts] have been pounding away at for the past couple weeks, and they are all still true,” he added.