Analytics keep Bay Area Rapid Transit on time


When I was growing up, summertime always meant a road trip to see my grandparents and great-grandparents in Concord, California, just outside San Francisco. Most of our time in Concord was spent shuffling between relatives but my parents always made time for a day trip into San Francisco.

On these days, my dad would try his best to clean out the car, remove our cross-country kid-related road trip necessities, and then pile me and my little brother in the backseat for the 30 mile trip.

Inevitably, while he emptied the car, my great-grandma would hover and lecture him about the benefits of transit and how much easier it would be to make the trip into the city on BART. BART was pretty new on the scene and had a huge fan in my great-grandma. She loved taking BART into San Francisco to go to the theater, hit the department stores and always for a side-trip to Ghirardelli Square.

Though my great-grandma was an early BART supporter and nagged her grandson like only a grandma can, we still never took BART into the city. My father insisted on sitting in traffic—those were the kinds of things that added to the experience, at least in his mind. Usually we’d arrive with just enough time to find a parking spot and speed-walk through Fisherman’s Warf and Ghirardelli Square before racing back to the car so we could sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic by 3:30 pm.

What my great-grandma knew in the early 1980’s holds true today, time is valuable. You can spend it sitting in your car in stalled traffic, or you can catch a ride on mass transit. The problem is that even if you take the train or the bus, it can be a gamble whether or not you’ll arrive on time. For many commuters, running that cost-benefit analysis in their head often leads to the same conclusion as my dad, “Why take the risk of not getting there on time when I can drive my own car?”

For commuters in and around San Francisco, they don’t have to take that risk and they don’t have to run their own cost-benefit analysis because BART is doing it for them. Analytics has helped BART streamline operations and improve service with a huge payoff—they’ve achieved an average 95 percent on-time performance.

BART Riders can be confident that they will arrive at their destination on time, every time. This is a big deal for the fifth largest mass transit system in the country—it means the vast majority of the 379,000 daily riders are going to make it to work or school (and back home) on time.

In a time when transit systems across the country are facing substantial funding cuts, it’s never been more important to find ways to do more with less while keeping buses and trains running on time. In a recent blog post on AllAnalytics, Beth Schultz delves deeper into the BART analytics story based on an interview with Roy Henrichs. Mr. Henrichs tells the story of how BART keeps the Bay Area running on time—getting people where they need to go safely, efficiently and reliably. My great-grandma would’ve been proud!


About Author

Melissa Savage

Sr Industry Consultant, State and Local Government

Melissa Savage is a subject matter expert with SAS Institute, Inc. focusing on transportation issues facing state and local governments. Prior to her position with SAS Institute, Inc. Ms. Savage was a Program Director at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in the Energy, Environment & Transportation program. During her 13 years with NCSL, Ms. Savage authored several publications on transportation issues, testified before state legislative committees and represented NCSL and the interests of state legislatures before national transportation organizations and working groups on a variety of topics. Before working at NCSL, Melissa worked in the Office of Legislative Legal Services at the Colorado General Assembly. She received her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado and her bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University.

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