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San Francisco’s transit system stopped being polite and got real about complaints on Twitter

Wednesday was a rough day for two of the biggest public transit systems in the US. First, the Washington, DC, Metro shut down its train service for 29 hours Wednesday for safety inspections. Then on Wednesday night, electrical problems caused delays on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) network.

And when BART customers complained on Twitter about yet another delay, the people behind the system's Twitter account started getting real.

Rather than a cheerful, anodyne apology for the delay and a promise to do better, they detailed the systemic problems afflicting mass transit in the Bay Area and elsewhere. They told their customers the truth: These issues aren't easy to fix, and Wednesday's delays are unlikely to be the last.

This isn't just a Bay Area problem — its transit agency is just being unusually honest. Mass transit systems throughout the US are in very, very bad shape. A study in 2010 by the Federal Transit Administration found that 26 percent of rail mass transit systems were in poor or marginal condition.

An association of most of the nation's largest transit systems — including BART and DC's WMATA — reported in 2015 that transit systems need $104 billion in backlogged repairs in order to bring them up to good working order. They're not getting it, and the backlog keeps growing.

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