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Rebounding Bay Area Transit Ridership Gets Back on Track

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Bay Area transit agencies report increases in ridership in recent weeks, as more people commute to offices and, perhaps, sidestep the rising cost of gasoline.

"I think what we're seeing is people really learning to live with COVID," said Gwen Litvak, senior vice president of public policy for the Bay Area Council. "I think we need public transit more than ever."

Ridership has increased in recent weeks for BART, reaching about 30 percent of its pre-pandemic total, according to the agency.

Data for Muni from the SFMTA shows that ridership for the month of February is back to where it was in the fall of 2021. The average daily number of passengers remained between 47 percent to 53 percent of the 720,000 people using the service regularly before the pandemic.

The Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District registered a 15 percent increase in traffic this week. The San Francisco Bay Ferry ridership last month was up 43 percent from January.

"We're hoping that there are no more waves that will knock us back down and we'll just stay on an upward trajectory from here," said Thomas Hall, a spokesman for San Francisco Bay Ferry.

Hall said that, over the past six weeks, more people are taking the ferry. The agency lowered its fares last July and the service has expanded beyond peak hours with more riders traveling in the middle of the day.

"We spread it out throughout the day knowing that essential workers need to travel at all times of the day and people may not be coming back on a traditional schedule," Hall told KPIX.

A survey from the Bay Area Council found 71 percent of employers will be bringing non-essential workers back to the office by mid-March. The council also found that employers anticipate a "new normal" at work by June.

Researchers have tracked return-to-work trends since April and have noticed many changes in transportation habits. While vehicle traffic is up on the bridges, public transportation is coming back as well. The pandemic has likely altered how many people will use these services, preventing a complete return to pre-pandemic levels, according to the council.

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