The Bay Area’s transportation infrastructure is so overloaded that BART is paying people to stop riding trains during rush hour, according to a Reuters report posted on SouthCoastToday. The program, called BART Perks, will let people accumulate points that they can redeem for tiny amounts of money if they ride early in the morning rather than during rush hour.
In general, people who use BART’s Clipper card to enter the subway earn one point for every ride they take, but riders who enter between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. get bonus points in different amounts, depending on how often you take advantage of these non-rush-hour trips. After 9:30 a.m., you get a single point for every mile you travel. There will be random opportunities to earn points, too, according to BART. The FAQs explain that “Occasionally, you will receive notification that a bonus box is available. These are special, limited-time opportunities to earn more points, personalized to your commuting history.”
At the end of the month, you can choose to get a payout ($1 for every 1000 points) or enter to win random cash rewards or more points, as laid out in the program’s FAQs [PDF]. The six-month pilot will end in February 2017, at which point the transit authority will evaluate whether it’s effective enough to continue.
Between BART’s sudden surge in ridership, thanks to the tech boom and the system’s aging infrastructure (not uncommon to American transportation systems, or U.S. trains in general), it’s facing increased equipment failures like electrical surges that cause delays, and on already crowded trains, customer satisfaction is at an extreme low. Asking people to stop riding the train during popular hours isn’t a real fix—people’s work schedules aren’t going to change over subway crowding—but it might at least relieve the system a tiny bit as riders wait for actual expansions in service and infrastructure upgrades, which will take years to complete. In the meantime, earn a dollar or two a month by getting to work really, really early.
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