Uninviting, barren, cement structures are currently the norm for most of the BART system’s stations. A new plan recently approved by the BART Board of Directors hopes to change that, bringing new food kiosks and other shops to the transit hubs in an effort to raise revenue and increase traffic throughout the rail system.
“This can help with our budget,” said BART Director Robert Raburn. “It also will make our stations a more vibrant area.”
Partnering with San Francisco-based company TranSmart, the board will begin considering proposals for individual agreements with vendors after the completion of reports on station capacities, utility access and interference with transit operations. TranSmart’s role will be to find interested vendors and present them to BART.
“We want to make sure this isn’t going to interfere with our business,” said BART President Bob Franklin. “Our primary business is transportation.”
Franklin emphasized that they will be looking primarily for locally-based businesses. Raburn also noted that the system they have in place with TranSmart “allows us, on a station-by-station basis, to look at small businesses that complement the needs in a given area.”
While many BART riders would welcome the additions, it also forces some questions about modifying current BART policy regarding food and beverage consumption on the trains.
“It’s a little confusing,” said SF State junior Eileen Miranda, a family and consumer studies major. “People might assume you can take your coffee, muffin or whatever on the train.”
Franklin said that, given the current upgrades to train car floors, the board might revisit food and beverage consumption on trains in the future.
“We’re replacing floors, so they’re not carpet, and we’re getting a new fleet in 2016, so that’s up to the board at the time,” he said.
Raburn also raised the issue of restrooms.
Currently, restrooms are closed at all underground BART stations for security reasons.
“This pushes us to reassess the bathroom closure,” Raburn said.
Despite the current ban on food or drink on BART, the number of citations issued throughout the system during the last two years has been relatively small given the number of daily riders.
According to BART Police Crime Analyst Officer Ken Dam, in 2009 there were 97 citations issued for violating the code that prohibited smoking, eating and drinking in restricted areas of the transit system.
In 2010, that number rose to 205.
“For us to be able to move forward with this new venture gives me a lot of optimism about the future,” Raburn said. “This is the first baby step toward transit-oriented planning.”