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BART Creates a New Way to Become a Criminal. The Vicious Crime of Seat Hogging.
by JP Massar
Monday Jun 27th, 2016 1:42 PM
In April, the BART Board passed a law making it illegal to occupy two seats during rush hour on a BART train. The law was not to take effect until the BART police presented their implementation strategy. At the most recent BART Board meeting the BART police presented how they intend to enforce the new law.
photo bart-riot-police_zps5uveykhp.jpg
You put your purse on the seat next to you. Now. You. Pay.

In April, the BART Board passed a law making it illegal to occupy two seats during rush hour on a BART train. The law was not to take effect until the BART police presented their implementation strategy. At the most recent BART Board meeting the BART police presented how they intend to enforce the new law. You can read about it here:

Some BART directors might have buyers remorse for an ordinance narrowly passed in April criminalizing "seat hogs," which some directors feared would target the homeless, delay trains and waste police resources... After the initial warning, violators would get a citation, then a notice to appear in court and the fourth time they would be arrested, [BART Chief] Rainey said.

and here, in the SF Chronicle.

some BART directors, including one supporter of the ordinance, bristled at the idea that transit police might force first-time offenders - perhaps tourists on their way from the airport - to identify themselves and subject them to criminal records checks.

No matter how much BART police and Board members sugarcoat it or claim otherwise, this will (further) criminalize the homeless, who are one of the unspoken but obvious targets of the law and whom will be among those most likely to run afoul of it. If a homeless person - or anyone else - without ID is stopped, the BART police will drag him or her off the train and detain them until they can somehow prove their identity, because the law demands that a name be entered into a new database for every interaction. The law will thus create a database of "miscreants," whose only "crime" is putting a backpack on a seat or falling over asleep.

Beyond that, it will create additional opportunities for BART police - who carry guns - to "interact" with minorities with potentially fatal consequences. Do I have to say "Oscar Grant" ?

photo bart-oscar-grant-mural_zpses32jkol.jpg

Beyond even that, it will potentially subject penniless people to having warrants issued for them for tickets issued to them for the crime of seat-hogging - fines they cannot pay. The system of oppression by debt incurred by issuing tickets that are unaffordable is now well documented across the US, and tickets of up to $500 for the horrific crime of "seat hogging" only further this cruel trend.

The well-heeled are not, at least in theory, immune. Ticketing people who inadvertently rest their handbag or book on the unoccupied seat adjacent to them will be done, even when there are plenty of seats available, according to the BART police. Since the laws are only applicable during rush hour times, anyone who places a possession on a seat at 3:00 PM in the East Bay and fails to remove it as the train approaches the San Francisco airport as the clock strikes 3:30 PM, even if the car is almost empty, would be subject to ticketing.

What can you do? Believe it or not, you may have an elected representative on the BART Board, the entity that created this law. (Each board member represents a portion of the Bay Area, but not all of the Bay Area has representation, even including the area around the SF airport BART station!).

Rebecca Saltzman, one of the directors, has indicated in email correspondence that she would like to repeal the law. Robert Raburn, another director, wrote that he voted against the ordinance and implied he would like to repeal it. So there is some chance the BART Board will reconsider the issue and repeal or modify the law.

Whether you have a representative or not, you can write to the entire Board of Directors at

BoardofDirectors@bart.gov

You can figure out here who your BART rep is here and contact that person specifically. (You can magnify the map if you're near a boundary. If you click on the District you are located within on the map, information about the BART Board member should come up on the left.) The BART Board doesn't get a lot of correspondence, public participation or outcry. A simple letter or a call from each person who reads this, to their BART Board member or the entire board demanding the repeal or at least the suspension and rethinking of this law, may have a significant effect.

Here's a simple suggested letter or phone message:

Dear BART Director XXX,

or

Members of the BART Board of Directors,

I am appalled by the new law allowing BART police to harass and ticket people who occupy more than one seat during rush hour. While the spirit of the law - making sure people can sit down if seats are available - is a good one, its proposed implementation by BART police and the potential economic and social consequences to people, especially the indigent and the homeless, are unacceptable.

I strongly urge you to repeal this law ASAP, or at the very least suspend it until its implementation can be rethought or it can be amended to make common sense.

Again, email this to

BoardofDirectors@bart.gov

or send it to or call your BART rep, as per the directions above.

BART should not subjecting its users to overbearing "seat police." It should not be creating a "BART to prison" pipeline for society's already down and out. It should not be demanding that armed and dangerous people deal with a problem that 9 out of a 10 times can be resolved with common courtesy, and for which the "crime" does not deserve the soon to be lawful punishment.

Help make the world a (slightly) saner place. Demand that the BART Board nix this seat law too far.

LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Sleeping is not a crime...on Bart or wevaUlyssesSaturday Sep 17th, 2016 2:11 PM
Ride bart and you'll get the issues with taking two seatsanonymousThursday Jul 14th, 2016 6:02 PM
Get a job helping the homeless if you careburkeFriday Jul 8th, 2016 10:57 PM
BART riders should not be subject to standing when seats are availableBladeruner69Thursday Jun 30th, 2016 8:53 PM
Longtime BART director Joel Keller admitted he wants police to target homeless folksDave IdWednesday Jun 29th, 2016 12:23 PM