BART speed

For a high-speed rail, the system really slogs. On a commute from North Berkeley to the SF Financial District, during prime commute hours, it can often be faster to take AC Transit than to take BART. So a bus, which makes more stops, and travels on surface streets and then congested I-80, is faster.

A trip from North Berkeley BART to the Fremont BART station, 34.5 miles by car, 29.7 by BART, is 43 minutes by car, and 51 minutes by BART!!! How does this qualify as a high speed rail? What gives???

I emailed BART a few years ago to ask about the speed. I asked why BART moves so incredibly slowly through the west Oakland area. (I would sit and watch as cars on even surface streets passed the train). She said that there must have been some problem at a station. I replied that not only was there no announcement of any delays, this was the norm on the ride between SF and Oakland. I got further explanation.

I wonder, is the system getting slower, or has it always been this slow? What a bill of goods the citizens of the Bay area bought: the high cost of high-speed-rail for the slow speed of light rail.

Is there anything BART can do to remedy this problem? There are all sorts of plans to help deal with the growing number of commuters; it seems to me that the most efficient thing that could be done is to have the trains go faster so that many more people can be served by exactly the same number of (BART) cars and operators.

thank you for your attention.


You can calculate your real cost per mile (factoring in MPG, insurance costs, etc.) at:

boopiejones's picture

what kind of car are you talking about and how is 24 cents/mile cheaper than bart?

the initial example given, north berkeley to fremont, is about 35 miles. That is nearly $9 each way using your 24 cents/mile example. the bart ticket only costs $4.10... so the car is more than 2x as expensive.

boopiejones's picture

you're right. i checked that calculator and the only way to get the cost per mile down to 24 cents is a car that is brand new, less than $20,000, gets 55 miles per gallon, has no maintenance costs, no financing and annual insurance of under $300. basically, it's impossible.

boopiejones's picture

i don't disagree with that. but those cars cost 30 cents/mile (or more) to operate. that is A LOT more expensive than bart. even the mythical 24 cents/mile car is more than double the cost of bart...

boopiejones's picture

last time i checked, there was a bridge between berkeley and embarcadero, so add $4 to your total. now your mythical .24 cents car costs $4.76 each way which, again, last time i checked is more than $3.70. and don't even get me started on parking fees in SF...

boopiejones's picture

"bart is only cheaper than driving if you don't have a car at all."

now you're just being silly. it is free to park my car in my garage at home. $1 to park it at bart all day. if you can tell me where i can find parking in SF for $1/day within a reasonable walk from the financial district then i'll eat my words. actually, bart would STILL be cheaper, because CARS HAVE TO PAY BRIDGE TOLL!!!!!!!!!!!

boopiejones's picture

show me the math that proves a car sitting in a garage makes bart more expensive.

while you are at it, you might as well amortize the cost of any and all potential forms of transportation sitting in your house and tack those on to the cost of a bart ticket - any bikes, rollerblades, go carts, wheelbarrows, walking shoes, etc. and don't forget that if you didn't live in a house in the east bay and instead lived in a cardboard box near a bart station - amortize the value of your home as well. OMG! bart costs $2,267.50 each way!!!

boopiejones's picture

you have to buy auto insurance regardless of whether or not you take bart, and your car is needed for other things. furthermore, the annual cost of your insurance isn't going to be any different if you take bart or not...

by your logic, i am really making a lot lower salary than i think i am, because i am paying for monthly TV, phone and internet access for my house as well as my mortgage and home insurance, but cannot use any of these things during the 8 hours/day when i am at work.

also, using the inverse of your logic, bart suddenly becomes cheaper if i hop in my car and drive around the block for 50 needless miles every evening because the insurance costs are suddenly spread over more miles...

boopiejones's picture

i'm just arguing to argue? i asked you to show it to me mathematically, and you ignored the question. actually, your response was 1+1=2. show me the math.

there are certain things with vehicles that are fixed costs. they can't be changed. insurance is one of them. gas is not. maintenance is not. regardless of whether i keep my car in the garage or drive the hell out of it, i still have to pay insurance. i think this is where you are getting the idea that insurance must be factored in to the cost of a bart ticket. but that is not true. say i stay home from work sick one day, or i take a 2 week vacation to the bahamas. do i have to go to the atm, take out cash equal to 2 weeks worth of my annual insurance and flush it down the toilet?

boopiejones's picture

so simple... yet you'd rather argue about it with me for a whole week than just take a few minutes to type the simple explanation?

boopiejones's picture

thank you.

boopiejones's picture

so that means you wear the same underwear everyday? disgusting!

seriously, give it up...

Theoretically your insurance costs should be related to how much you drive; someone who only drives a few hundred miles a year may be a much smaller risk than someone who drives tens of thousands of miles per year. Assuming their driving records are the same of course...

It's probably not worth the effort for insurance companies to track/enforce that kind of thing though.

Really I wouldn't even call Insurance a "sunk cost" I'd call it a "Regulatory Cost" because if you own a car the state forces you to have insurance on it, at least a minimum liability coverage. Breaking it down to cost per mile is worthless because it doesn't matter if you drive or not, you have to have the insurance to register the car!

Even without financing you still have to pay for it. $20,000/150k miles (frinstance) = 13¢/mile for the purchase alone, not counting maintenance. Though if you skimp on maintenance then a $20,000 car may not make it to 150k miles.

That is if the car is already paid off. If you don't own it yet then the cost is .24/mile plus $20-$30,000 in cash amortized however you want.

Our energy woes might be a lot more manageable if everyone with a car was wealthy enough to just go down to the nearest car store and pay cash for a new, low-maintenance, high-efficiency vehicle.

TreoBART's picture

OK so if you buy a sub 20k car that gets extremely good gas mileage with cash, get minimal insurance, don't pay for parking either at BART or at your workplace, carpool with three to get free bridge toll, and do all your own vehicle maintenance and service, it costs less. I have a feeling your average BART rider doesn't do that.

TreoBART's picture

See now, based on what I see at the East Bay parking lots, I don't think that's true. I'm glad I have a job that gets me to the station early because I always get parking, but I bet there's times people have to drive because the lots are full. There's plenty of people out there who take BART to save money, because they don't like to drive in the city, or because they want to work or read on their way to the office.

That's a study I'd like to see. What is the actual demographic makeup of the people using the BART system, per line. Age, income, race, etc.