BART advertises weekend rides with 25,000 free tickets

Public transit systems all over the country are taking a hit as they compete with ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft. In the last two years, BART lost ten percent of its weekend ridership, or about $15 million in ticket sales. In an attempt to reverse the loss, BART distributed about $200,000 worth of free weekend round-trip passes in the last two months.

BART representatives distributed 20,000 free tickets to weekday commuters at Embarcadero Station and Montgomery Street Station in San Francisco. The remaining tickets were split between Downtown Berkley Station commuters and A's game attendees during three weekday games at the Oakland Coliseum Station.

Uber isn't the only culprit luring away potential BART passengers. Track renovation, frequent maintenance and safety concerns have made some weekend travelers wary of using the service. On May 20, 2017, two BART cars derailed between the Daly City and Balboa Park stations. The accident forced two dozen passengers to evacuate, causing major delays and a fair share of bad press. Some BART riders have also raised concerns that Bay Area homeless use the trains as a shelter and are detrimental to the safety of passengers.

BART spokesman Jim Allison hopes that free ticket-holders will bring paying riders with them to their weekend destinations. To gauge the effectiveness of the giveaway, BART is surveying participating riders with a questionnaire asking where they went and whether they brought anyone along.

The move to give out free tickets is contradictory to recent statements from BART director Debora Allen, who called for a cut to the free ride program that BART provides to its employees and their families. According to Allen, the only free rides that BART should be giving to employees are work-related rides for employees monitoring the trains.

Regardless, BART has announced that more ticket giveaways are forthcoming in the ongoing promotion. Dates and station locations have not yet been announced. All lucky passengers who receive one of the orange and yellow round-trip passes will be able to "discover exciting new BARTable destinations" on any weekend until December 18 of this year.


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