bart_generic1.jpgYesterday we told you that the BART board was considering a proposal to bring businesses to BART stations, and today we can tell you that they agreed to begin negotiations with a vendor who would manage those businesses. The growing possibility that soon you could buy a cup of coffee right before you hop on BART has some wondering if policies need to be revised — or if they’re not really being observed in the first place.

Earlier this week, BART board president James Fang told the Examiner’s Will Reisman that, given the possible advent of food and drink vendors, “it might be worth revisiting the agency’s policy against food and drinks on trains.”

However, BART spokesperson Jim Allison emphasized to the Appeal this morning that “this (new vendor policy) does not change the current policy,” which does not allow food or drinks in any of the paid areas of a BART station — that is, the area past the faregates, and the trains.

If the board wanted to reconsider the policy, they’d direct staff to do a study and present it to the board, Allison said. But no such directive’s been made as of yet.

Appeal commenter Boris applauds a possible change in the policy, saying “one of the goals of public transit is (should be!) to get people to use it instead of riding in a car. As such it should view itself as being in competition with automobiles. The important question is ‘What advantages can we offer a rider that is better than riding in a car?’ Eating a bagel and drinking a coffee while I read the paper on my morning commute would be a huge plus. It saves me prep time at home and keeps be busy on my commute so I don’t think “god this takes long.”

Ed Casey, of slice-of-transit life site BART don’t lie, wondered “does it even matter if there’s a policy?”

Casey tells the Appeal that he rides BART daily, but has “never seen A) Anyone showing any kind of fear of reprisal for eating and drinking on BART or B) Anyone in any position of authority, be it station agent or BART Police Officer enforcing any such policy.”

Appeal readers appear to agree — in a poll we ran yesterday on the subject , the response “Do you ever even ride BART? I was sitting next to someone who was eating a three course meal on my way home last night. These rules are meaningless” had taken 41.18% of the vote.

Casey wondered how many citations BART has written for food/drink offenses and while Allison said citation numbers (or the revenue they bring in) wasn’t tracked, he could say that BART police “made contact” with offenders 199 times in 2010.

Casey said that he assumes that “the main issue is garbage and filth so yes, of course it would be awesome if people didn’t act like total animals and leave food bits, spills, and wrappers all over the train cars.”

This raises an interesting point that Allison brought up — after the September 11, 2001 attacks, it was decided that closed-top garbage cans were a security risk and “that’s why we don’t have trash receptacles on the platform.”

That lack of garbage facilities is one of the things BART leadership would have to consider, Allison said, if they decided to relax the policies just a bit and allow food and drinks just in the platform area. Would messy BART riders be less messy if they had cans to throw trash in? I don’t know about that, what do you think?

In Casey’s eyes, ultimately, it’s less about policy and more about politeness.

“I guess I don’t care if the RULES say that people can eat and drink on BART” he says, “I just want BART passengers to act like humans.”

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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