A Guide to Riding BART for People Who Hate Crowds

Hang in there Emma!
This is all I’m asking for

Tip 1: During the week, avoid 7–10 AM and 4–7 PM

Perhaps not surprisingly, the vast majority of BART rides happen between Monday and Friday. A regular weekday sees about 424.3K rides, which is about 2.5x what a regular weekend day would see. If you want to experience BART at its most glorious state, Saturday and Sunday are definitely the best.

Weekday BART = more sardine; weekend BART = less sardine
8–9 AM and 5–6 PM are the absolute worst

Tip 2: Live in SF and work in the East Bay… or at least live and work on the same side of the bay

What if your schedule isn’t flexible enough to let you avoid rush hour? Turns out, the direction of human flow during peak commute time is heavily skewed and you may be able to use that to your advantage.

Go west, my friends
Go back east, my friends

Tip 3: If you must live in the East Bay and work in SF, avoid the Pittsburg-Bay Point line

If you have no choice but to commute from the East Bay to the West Bay during morning peak hours, you’re likely going to keep feeling like a massive sardine, but there are still things you can do to optimize. Living closer to the start of a BART line of course helps with your chances of getting a seat. Another thing you can potentially use to your advantage is knowing that not all BART lines are created equal. The Pittsburg-Bay Point line sees the heaviest traffic from the East Bay to SF during morning rush hour and in the reverse direction during evening rush hour. In fact, it is more than twice as busy as the Richmond route!

Richmond line = sardine; Pittsburg-Bay Point line = extremely sardine

Tip 4: Work from home in the middle of the week

Let’s say you work at one of those tech companies that lets you work from home sometimes. How do you pick your work-from-home day such that you maximize your BART pain reduction?

WTF is up with people’s WFH schedules

Tip 5: Win the weekend by avoiding downtown SF and the early evening

So far I’ve mainly been talking about weekdays, because I assume people reading this are similar to the average BART rider in that we use BART more frequently during the week. But sometimes we find ourselves BARTing on weekends too — and as I mentioned earlier, I would certainly encourage you to, because the person in this photo could be you!

So many empty seats! So glorious! But be a nice person and don’t put your feet on them!
Weekends are almost as fun as bar graphs
People are all over the place on weekends

Tip 6: Go out of town in March, June, or August

Finally, usage of BART is actually pretty flat throughout the year, but March, June, and August are slightly higher in ridership than other months. So if you’re planning some kind of BART sabbatical — vacations, Lyft-binging, ferry-adventuring, etc etc.—prioritize those months so that you also skip the most crowded times of the year. And maybe instead of going on out-of-town family trips in December (when BART is at its emptiest), bring your whole family into town and spend the whole holiday season riding around on BART together. Sounds fun to me.

BART needs friends in the winter

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Annie L. Lin

Annie L. Lin

People & ops leader | data storyteller & nerd