BART directors reluctant to pass fines for seat hogs for now

OAKLAND (KRON) — BART directors are reluctant to pass the proposed fines for those hogging BART seats.

The board members expressed their concerns about imposing consequences on people taking up multiple seats on trains, saying they fear the regulations would be too broad and would target the homeless.

The ordinance was proposed by director Joel Keller and would make taking up more than one seat on a train punishable by a fine of $100, $200 or $500, depending on the number of violations.

Keller said at the board meeting Thursday that the issue mainly regulates itself and he didn’t intend the ordinance to be enforced on nearly empty trains. Instead, he said he hopes police will use discretion in when to enforce the rule.

The fines would be a tool in case a dispute between passengers escalated on board a crowded train. Officers would be able to take action in the event a passenger refused to move, Keller said.

But several directors expressed reluctance to pass an ordinance that didn’t explicitly state that it only applied to crowded trains and worried that some passengers would report people sleeping on nearly empty
train cars, particularly homeless passengers.

“If we can’t get specific on this being on crowded trains, there’s no way I’ll support this,” BART director Rebecca Saltzman said. “I’m concerned about how it will be implemented, not necessarily by our law enforcement but by the public.”

Saltzman also raised concerns that by pulling BART police onto crowded trains to enforce the rule, trains would be held up, delaying passengers during some of the busiest transit times.

BART police Chf. Kenton Rainey said he would be hesitant to pass the measures at first and would prefer starting with public outreach and warnings.

Rainey also asked the directors to be as specific as possible in the limitations to enforcement, avoiding words like “crowded” and instead defining commute hours for enforcement.

Director Robert Raburn read a statement from the BART Police Officers Association that warned the ordinance could lead to further train delays, that the majority of the people affected by the law would be homeless, and that officers might need to use force to remove a non-compliant person from the train.

The directors decided to try and improve the ordinance to take such concerns into account and planned to re-consider it at their next meeting in April.

BART accessibility task force chair Alan Smith spoke in favor of the ordinance in principle, saying that in part he hopes it can deter bicyclists who block three or four seats and refuse to move.

“It’s unfortunate that common sense doesn’t always prevail on the train,” Smith said.

Bay City News contributed to this report

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