Bay Area Rapid Transit officials hosted a Mission District meeting Monday night to a room full of mostly empty chairs.
The topic: increasing public involvement.
“We have not done the best of job in communicating with low-income communities about our projects,” said Roddrick Lee, a division manager for the San Francisco BART district. “These meetings will help us understand how to involve diverse communities.”
The effort began after the Federal Transit Administration’s January audit that called on BART to do a better job of informing and including low-income communities in its planning. In February, the administration rejected BART’s proposal for a $70 million connector to the Oakland Airport.
After BART finishes all 17 meetings around the Bay Area, the transit agency will produce a draft and send it back to the community for feedback before submitting a finalized public participation plan to the federal officials on May 21, Lee said.
“The meeting tonight is about how we’re going to conduct further meetings,” he said.
The 10 people who showed up to the meeting weren’t impressed with BART’s agenda to have a meeting about a meeting. Some were ready discuss their own problems with the agency.
“I commute to San Leandro everyday for work, and sometimes I miss the BART because it doesn’t run late,” Rachel Phillips, who lives right across from the 24th Street BART station said.
Molly Burke, a community relations manager for the San Francisco BART district, said she receives more complaints from riders who live in Mission district than any other city neighborhood.
Another attendee was skeptical of BART’s intentions.
“I think it’s a great idea; serving low-income communities,” Rick Hauptman, president of the North Mission Neighborhood Alliance said. “It might be well-intentioned, but they’re doing it because they have to.”
As BART prepares to close its budget deficit through operator layoffs and cutting expenses, they will still have to adhere to the FTA’s audit request and follow through on creating better communication between itself and the communities their trains run through.
“Tonight is pretty blah, I agree,” Burke said of the Monday night meeting. “However, we’re trying to get the community involved.”