RAIL TRANSIT: S.F.’s BART launches “Perks” program to ease jammed commute routes

March 7, 2016

The program is being characterized as a passenger-friendly alternative to a more traditional congestion-pricing scheme

San Francisco BART trains and station platforms are notoriously crowded, notably during heavy commute times, so in effort to assuage some of the frustration plaguing passengers, the transit system is going to try to use fun and games—and, of course, money—to persuade some riders to take trains that are a little less packed.

Beginning this spring, commuters will be encouraged to enlist in BART Perks, a program that rewards passengers who agree to shift their trips from the busiest time of day with points, which can also be earned by referring friends and may be redeemed for small cash rewards or allow participants to play games like spin-the-wheel or Snakes and Ladders for a chance at cash prizes of up to $100.

The program, which will be piloted for at least 6 months, is an attempt to entice enough East Bay riders to shift their commutes outside of the busy 7:00-8:30 a.m. period to help ease crowding on trains and at the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations in downtown San Francisco.

It’s the transit agency’s first foray into what transportation officials call “demand management,” an attempt to change riders’ behavior to reduce crowding. A common strategy employed in such situations is congestion pricing, raising prices at peak travel times, which is already being done on the Bay Bridge and in Bay Area express lanes. BART Perks is being launched as a passenger-friendly alternative to that more traditional congestion-pricing scheme.

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