BART Minutes & Money

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system is a sort of regional subway, an odd hybrid of an urban metro and suburban commuter rail conceived in the 1950s, when the conventional wisdom held that trains had to be made faster, and go farther, to compete with cars (at least, that was the wisdom in the Bay Area; in much of the rest of the country, trains were simply viewed as outmoded). In 1958, streetcars were banished from the Bay Bridge to make way for ten lanes of traffic. But they were always intended to be replaced by something newer, faster, shinier, and more suburban, and in 1972, the first BART stations were opened. The Transbay Tube followed two years later. Unfortunately for the 21st Century city, just eight BART stations were built in San Francisco, and eight more in Oakland (in fairness, there are five more Muni Metro light rail subway stations in the city, and three are under construction). Compare this to BART’s peer, the Washington, D.C. Metro, which has 40 stations in the District. In any case, part of BART’s reinvent-the-wheel approach was a point-to-point fare scheme that, while fairer than flat or zone-based systems, is somewhat complicated. You might not care as you’re swiping your smartcard, but there’s no good reason, given the relative simplicity of the BART system (just 46 stations), that the agency hasn’t adopted station maps like the one below — particularly because it could use such maps to trumpet its car-competitive travel times. For BART, this would be a back-to-the-future approach. Unlike BART’s current map, this map also includes important directional cues, like the “Mission curve” west of Downtown San Francisco.

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