BART board rethinks ‘seat hog’ rules

BART is trying to figure out how to rework its seat hog ordinance that the transit agency’s Board of Directors approved last year.

The idea was discourage riders from hogging up more than one seat during the rush hour commute by issuing a fine of $100 for a first offense and higher fines for repeat offenders. The ordinance though, which the BART Police Department would enforce, was never enforced because an enforcement strategy never materialized.

At Thursday’s director’s meeting, BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman said she wanted to get rid of ordinance altogether citing little resources within the BART Police Department:

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to divert police resources for this.”

Saltzman suggested instead taking a more educational approach by using posters inside BART vehicles to tell riders that they cannot take up more than one seat. BART had done similar etiquette posters telling riders to remove backpacks on crowded trains.

Director Debora Allen said she reached out to riders in her district who questioned why the transit agency was spending time on this. Allen said riders told her that they would rather have the board focus on running trains on time instead.

Though Allen agreed that the police should not be called for riders hogging up more than one seat, Allen said it was important for BART to have a rule and to do outreach with riders about etiquette, possibly adding some wording to the current BART posters that welcomes everyone onto BART.

Director John McPartland said he was not in favor of kicking the ordinance “to the curb,” and that the board should give the authority to the police to do something about seat hogs:

“Unless we end up giving our law enforcement the authority to do it, then basically we’re inviting people to go ahead and be seat hogs.”

BART adopted a passenger code of conduct in 2013, but it does mention anything on riders taking up more than one seat. The code of conduct does allow BART employees to order passengers off BART vehicles, facilities or properties if riders violate any of the regulations.

Director Joel Keller introduced a new idea to instead issue a short-term ban to riders who hog up more than seat. He made a motion for staff to explore the idea, which is also used on other transit system, Kellar said.

Directors voted 5-3 on Keller’s motion with Saltzman, Robert Raburn and Bevan Dufty dissented. Director Lateefah Simon was absent.

Directors are expected to decide in two weeks at the next board meeting whether to get rid of the ordinance or move ahead with Kellar’s idea to issue short-term bans for seat hogs.