BART is a lifeline for many low-income individuals who rely on quick, cost-effective transportation. It’s critical that the burden for making up its budgetary strain doesn’t fall on riders already hurt financially by the pandemic.
My priorities as BART Director will be to hone in on our core rail network, make BART more bike, walk, and transit friendly, and to improve service, safety, and cleanliness. And as an efficient policy advocate, I’ll work with the Board and policymakers to shore up BART for generations to come.
We need less talk and more action. It’s absolutely imperative that we sustain BART long-term by curbing its reliance on fare revenue. San Francisco has always been a north star for innovation and equitability. At this moment we have the opportunity to situate BART as a free transit system for all one day.
I have a passion for public transportation, a firm understanding of the policy and budgetary processes necessary for the job, and a stellar track record of working with others to achieve policy wins for underserved communities.
Safety & Security
I applaud the Board of Directors for recently diverting funds away from armed law enforcement and toward an initiative that provides BART stations and trains with unarmed ambassadors. We want our public safety officers to be approachable, and this is the right first step in doing so.
People want to feel safe and secure while riding BART, and that requires adequate ambassador coverage at stations and on trains. The only way to do that is to divert funding away from sworn and armed BART Police Department officers. Every station in District 9 should have a BART ambassador on-hand and available, not just to provide assistance to travelers, but also to act as a crime deterrent, a resource for homeless riders or those in mental distress, and a conduit to on-call BART PD who can respond to a serious situation that necessitates a response from sworn officers.
I’m encouraged by BART’s partnership with SF HOT (San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team) in connecting unhoused individuals in four of our downtown Market Street stations to helpful services. But I would like to see that effort expanded to other high-trafficked stations and platforms—particularly 16th Street and 24th Street Stations along the Mission Street corridor. I’d also like to see a continuation of the San Francisco Pit Stop program and the elevator attendant program.
I want to make this absolutely clear. It’s imperative that we’re not criminalizing people who are unhoused. BART is uniquely poised to be an intermediary for referrals and provide outreach and resources to our unhoused neighbors. BART needs a better partnership and understanding with city and county leaders, because the onus falls on them to provide adequate housing for those who rely on BART stations and trains for shelter. I would lead the charge in pushing San Francisco and other Bay Area leaders to build more housing, constructing more navigation shelters and supportive housing, and investing in evidence-based programs that are effective at dealing with the factors that contribute to being chronically unhoused.
BART ridership was already in a slump before the pandemic, and now that BART has had to make financial sacrifices to the tune of $200 million in budget cuts, it’s important to guarantee that the burden for making up that financial strain doesn’t fall on riders negatively affected economically by the current health crisis. The largest demographic of people riding BART are low-income individuals who rely on BART to transport them to and from work in a quick and cost-effective manner. I’d like to see the discount pilot program for low-income riders extended indefinitely.
As we face a once-in-a-century pandemic and a subsequent economic crisis, we can take this opportunity to make radical, innovative changes to BART. We can situate BART to be a free transit system someday by shoring up new revenue streams, prospecting for new grant money with a focus on benefiting low-income and historically underserved communities, and making strategic cuts to the budget or adjustments to existing revenue streams.
Lowering fares, and potentially eliminating fares altogether, promotes a better quality of life for those in the Bay Area, and it provides improved accessibility and mobility for all. When people can travel to and from work or patronize restaurants and businesses across the Bay without worrying about cost, that alleviates financial strain and worry about the numerous other costs related to living in such an expensive area.
Given the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, ensuring riders that the train cars are clean and safe is of utmost importance. This speaks to the integrity and reputation of BART, and is one of the safest bets in increasing ridership long-term and building trust in riders. But even more so, train operators and employees need to be sure that they feel protected and safe. Adequate PPE needs to be readily available to every employee. And
I will commit to visiting 16th Street and 24th Street Stations weekly to keep these plazas clean—working in coordination with already dedicated maintenance personnel. This isn’t something new or different for me. As an Eagle Scout that follows the “leave no trace” philosophy, I’ve coordinated street clean-ups and taken it upon myself several times to take empty trash bags into the woods or on hikes or bike rides and come return with full bags of rubbish. From cigarette butts to broken bottles, I’ll be out there picking them up and properly disposing of them.
Bicycling and BART are a great combination. Being able to hop on BART with your bike, take it to your desired station, and then complete your trip with a quick ride to your destination should be as simple as possible. Unfortunately, bike accessibility in and out of stations, as well as safe bike infrastructure to and from stations is still seriously lacking.
Only four stations in BART’s network are equipped with bike ramps, and 16th Street Station is the only one in San Francisco. BART has publicly said they prefer cyclists to park their bikes instead of bringing them on trains, but we know that’s not realistic. Every BART station should be fitted with mini-ramps for bicyclists, and high-use stations should be equipped with secure self-serve bike stations like we see at Civic Center and Embarcadero Stations.
Lastly, bike infrastructure to and from stations needs a major overhaul. Dedicated bike lanes and protected bike lanes are necessary not just for the safety of those who bike, but as a means of encouraging more folks to bike in general, reduce greenhouse emissions, and promote healthier lifestyles.