San Francisco is so packed it's paying people to not commute at rush hour
San Franciscans know riding the city's subway system, known as BART, before 9 a.m. is roughly the equivalent of being trapped inside a Russian nesting doll made up of sardine cans.
You emerge from the station hot, sweaty, and usually late to work.
In an effort to make the trains less crowded, BART is rolling out a new program that pays riders cash for commuting outside of rush hour. The payout is marginal, but city-dwellers will likely welcome any solution that shortens the ridiculous lines at the station platforms.
The BART Perks program awards points per mile traveled on BART during "bonus hours," which happen Monday through Friday from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.
Sounds simple enough, but the program requires a four-page Frequently Asked Questions document to fully explain how it works. Participants are assigned a status - bronze, silver, gold, or platinum - based on how they often travel during bonus hours.
A thousand points can be exchanged for $1. (A thousand!)
I commute from Oakland to San Francisco's SoMa District via BART five days a week. I have no way of knowing how many track miles I travel. For argument's sake, let's say the trip stretches nine miles - a conservative estimate based on the driving distance between stations.
As a bronze-status, or entry-level, member, I would earn three points per mile for a total of 27 points. By the end of the month, my payout comes to $1 and change in points.
Commuters can also spend their rewards points by playing an online, Monopoly-like game where you travel across the board to win random cash prizes, ranging from $1 to $100.
San Francisco isn't the first to engineer an incentives program in an effort to ameliorate traffic (foot traffic or otherwise). Major metro areas like Los Angeles and the Bay Area offer congestion pricing on some freeways, so drivers willing to shell out can ride in the carpool lane. London, Stockholm, Singpore, and Milan have enacted similar pricing schemes.
The program in San Francisco is set to run out in February, when BART officials will evaluate its impact and determine next steps. Watch the promotional video below: