With Commuters Staying Home, Transit Agencies Try to Reinvent Themselves

Three years after the pandemic began, remote work endures as a way of life for many office workers, and few major transit systems in the United States have suffered worse than Bay Area Rapid Transit. The 131-mile network depends heavily on suburban residents who commute daily into San Francisco and less than other transit systems on local passengers trying to get across town.

Weekday ridership on BART is down to 32 percent of what it was before the pandemic began, punctuating a desperate moment for San Francisco. Without daily foot traffic, major retailers are abandoning downtown, and analysts believe the city core has yet to bottom out. Homeless encampments and open drug use have further discouraged visitors, while passengers have complained about safety and a lack of cleanliness.