BART slaps seat hogs with triple-digit fines

People who put their feet up on BART trains or set their bag next to them could face some stiff penalties soon if they don’t make room when asked.

BART’s Board of Directors enacted an ordinance that would fine seat hogs up to $500 for not making room on a crowded train. The law will only be in effect for commute hours — defined as weekdays between 6 and 10 a.m. and between 3 and 7:30 p.m. — and violators will be issued a warning before they’re fined.

But if they’re caught again after their warning, they’ll face penalties of $100 for the first violation, $200 for second violation and $500 for each one after that.

The ordinance will go into effect in about 6 months, allowing BART time to educate the public about the new rule.

Director Joel Keller, who represents portions of Contra Costa County, introduced the measure, saying he wants police to be able to enforce the rule if someone refuses to move and allow another customer to sit down.

Despite concerns from BART’s Police Officer Association, the board passed it 5-4.

“For someone to stand up while someone else is taking up more than one seat, it’s really hard for people,” Keller said.

Directors Rebecca Saltzman, Nick Josefowitz, Robert Raburn, and Tom Radulovich opposed the measure.

Saltzman favored having a campaign for better etiquette on trains and to revisit the ordinance in six months to decide whether it was necessary. She made an alternate motion that failed 5-4:

“I’m going to vote against this. … The biggest reason is we haven’t done any public education and we’re jumping to make what is really an etiquette violation a crime.”

She reiterated concerns from the Police Officers Association that enforcement of the ordinance would require stopping crowded trains during busy commute hours, clogging the system, as well as target homeless people and require officers to use force if someone refused to comply.

Director John McPartland, however, said that it appeared the police officers would rather do nothing than enforce the law:

“Last time I checked they get a paycheck to do a job.”

It would be up to police to determine how to effectively enforce the law.

Board president Radulovich said an outreach campaign has never been attempted, so he favored that approach as well:

“We’re jumping right to criminalization of rudeness and it’s difficult to enforce.”

But other directors thought the campaign wouldn’t be effective if people didn’t realize that some kind of criminal enforcement was on the way.

Director Zakhary Mallett opposed an outreach campaign, saying it would be a waste of money and such campaigns have proven ineffective in the past:

“They haven’t worked for bikes on crowded cars or putting backpacks between your legs.”