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BART approval disintegrates

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A 2018 survey of passengers show satisfaction sinking to new lows

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Thursday’s meeting of the BART Board of Directors will come with a special delivery of bad news, as the board will consider the dismal results of its most recent rider satisfaction survey.

The 2018 Customer Satisfaction Study shows that BART’s overall approval rating has plunged a shocking degree in a relatively short period of time.

BART conducted the survey of 5,292 people between September and October of 2018. While historically popular throughout the region, BART has seen its approval ratings slide in recent years, a trend that has become only more pointed with these new insights.

Among other things, BART directors will learn Thursday:

  • Rider satisfaction is way down. While a majority of riders—56 percent—still say they’re happy with BART overall, that’s a 13 percent decline compared to two years prior.
  • Locals are less likely to recommend BART use. Of those surveyed, 73 percent would “definitely” or “probably” recommend that out-of-town visitors use BART; previously, it was 85 percent. The number of passengers who say “definitely not” tripled from one percent to three.
  • Declines in BART popularity are relatively recent. Between 1998 and 2004 BART’s satisfaction rating climbed each year, all the way up to an all-time high of 86 percent. It then remained relatively flat for almost a decade, coming out to 84 percent in 2013. But after that the figures fell off a cliff, plunging to 74 percent in 2014 and descending ever since.
  • Riders say BART is dirty, unsafe. The most commonly cited reason (35 percent) for decreasing BART use was that riders had moved somewhere with less access. But of those factors that BART has control over the most common complaint was a perceived lack of cleanliness on trains (27 percent), worries about crime (23 percent), and gripes about crowding (21 percent).
New trains get higher marks from riders.
Courtesy BART
  • Some small things improved. Riders in 2018 said trains were less noisy, were slightly happier with BART’s hours of operation and the ease of use of its website. In an encouraging sign, riders’ happiness with the elevators at Civic Center station leaped from 44 percent to 93 percent after BART began posting attendants to safeguard the conveyances last year.
  • New vehicles increase satisfaction. Another hopeful sign for the system is that the new train cars appear to be popular with riders, particularly in terms of cleanliness—90 percent of those surveyed say they appreciate the degree of visible sanitation in new cars, versus just 57 percent for older vehicles.