Why Is the Bay Area Rapid Transit System So Unsafe?

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is a public transit system that consists of 50 stations in the San Francisco Bay area. As of 2022, it has a daily ridership of about 136,200 people. Despite being backed by millions of dollars in public funding, BART has fallen short of riders’ expectations in terms of safety, cleanliness and reliability. Chronic mismanagement has led to dangerous trains, crime-ridden stations, and a high number of documented incidents and attacks.

Reported Incidents on the BART System

Recently, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system’s safety problems were highlighted when it became the recipient of the Independent Institute’s California Golden Fleece Award. This is a dishonor given to agencies and projects that the Independent Institute believes have broken the public trust. The Institute’s report on BART states that the system has continuously failed to fulfill its promise to Bay Area residents to provide “safe, reliable, clean, quality transit services” for its riders.

Crimes and incidents that have been documented on BART trains include: 

  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual assault
  • Physical attacks
  • Assault and battery
  • Stabbings
  • Shootings
  • Robberies and theft
  • Drug crimes
  • Gun crimes
  • Homicides 
  • Other violent crimes

Crime can happen on any BART train and at any station in the Bay Area. However, some stations are statistically more dangerous than others. An analysis of BART police incident reports shows that the station with the highest amount of crime is the Busy Powell Street Station, at the junction of the Tenderloin and Union Square. However, on a per-passenger basis, crime is more likely to be encountered at BART stations in southern Alameda County and eastern Contra Costa.

What Is to Blame for BART’s Safety Problems?

Statistics show that in a single year, there were about four violent crimes for every million riders on the BART system. This is more than double the 1.61 per million rate on New York’s Metro system. Several issues have been blamed for the unsafe conditions on BART. The Independent Institute’s report blamed it in part on immense financial mismanagement, which includes BART’s excessive employee compensation. 

The report found that BART is motivated by profits rather than what its riders need – such as basic safety. Mismanagement and poor performance standards by BART over the years have failed to prevent the transit system from becoming riddled with dangerous crime. One example of this is the fake surveillance cameras installed by BART in 2016 – which were discovered after authorities tried and failed to obtain security footage of a fatal shooting onboard a crowded BART train.

What Can You Do After Being Assaulted or Attacked as a BART Rider?

BART and other government-funded systems have a responsibility to ensure the reasonable safety of the public. Unfortunately, mismanagement and other such issues have gotten in the way of this obligation and resulted in serious rider injuries and deaths. If BART is found to have been negligent in protecting its riders, it could be held liable (financially responsible) for harm done to any victims of crimes on its trains.

As the victim of a crime that involved the Bay Area BART system, you should notify the authorities right away. Call 911 to report the incident. Request help from paramedics if you are injured or go to a hospital in San Francisco without delay. Document what happened as much as you can by writing down a detailed description of events. If there were any eyewitnesses, write down their names and phone numbers. Ask for a copy of your police report, as well as copies of any medical records.

If you were attacked or assaulted while riding a BART train or while waiting at one of the stations located around the Bay Area, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The BART sexual assault lawyers at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi can help you determine your rights after a free review of your case. You may have grounds to bring a claim against BART for negligently failing to keep you and other riders safe from criminal activity, including sex crimes.