Kayak on BART
BART announced today that kayaks are allowed on trains at all hours, but are limited to the last car of trains. Photo: Paul Kamen

By Paul Kamen

The BART Board of Directors announced today that kayaks will now be allowed on BART trains at all hours, including the peak morning and afternoon commutes. Formerly, kayaks had only been allowed on the trains at off-peak times.

The new policy continues to restrict kayaks to the last car, however. Other restrictions apply: boats are limited to singles and doubles (no triples or quads) and paddles must be held vertically. Outriggers are permitted only if the ama has been removed and secured against the main hull.

“Kayak commuting is an important part of our regional transportation management plan,” said Roxanne Scholes, spokeswoman for the BART Inter-Modal Coordination Office, at a press conference this at 9 a.m. this morning.  “The reduction in carbon footprint will be significant.”

Public comments on the plan drew mostly supporters, but not everyone was pleased with the new policy. “They take up way too many seats,” complained a BART commuter who was present at the announcement.

“If you’re riding BART both ways,” shouted an unidentified kayaker, one of several dozen people waving double-ended paddles in the air during the hearing, “you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

“I’m tired of sitting down on a BART seat only to find that it’s soggy with salt water,” complained another commuter. “Kayaks belong on the roof.”

Transportation consultant Sandy Beech said that the roof rack option was initially recommended, but eventually rejected due to finite dimensional constraints after an extensive study.

May Day, President of Bay Area Sea Kayak Commuters, explained that many BASKC members commute by kayak, but from the East Bay it’s generally a one-way trip due to the strong prevailing westerly winds. “We can get back to Berkeley in the afternoon, launching from the Water Trail float at Pier One-and-a-half. But for the morning commute, especially in summer, the sea breeze is already up and the only practical way to bring our boats into the City is on BART. The carbon footprint is dramatically reduced compared to schlepping the ‘yak across the bay on an SUV in heavy traffic, and then returning later that evening via BART to recover the vehicle.”

Day added that the Bay is the original commuter infrastructure, used daily by the Muwekma Ohlone and the Bay Miwok people prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Armanda Legg, representing Transit Workers Local 1555, the union of train operators and station agents, criticized the decision because train operators were not consulted. The problem she cited was the potential to restrict movement when train operators and passengers have to walk through trains in emergencies. The union rep also noted that kayakers routinely bring their boats on escalators, in violation of BART rules.

“Consider a Hurricane Sandy type of emergency,” Scholes responded. “If the tunnels are partially flooded, a kayak could play a vital role in initiating a rescue.”

“We have been fighting hard for full access on BART since transbay service began in 1973,” said BASKC member Lilly Pond, “and we applaud BART for finally doing the right thing. The tide has turned, and it launches a new era of sustainable commuting.”

Here are all the rules and info you need to know from BART.gov:

  • Kayaks and other small personal hand-launched human-powered boats are welcome on all trains but never in the first car or any crowded car.
  • During commute hours (7:00 to 9:00 am and 4:30 to 6:30 pm.) kayaks are only allowed in the last car of any train.
  • Regardless of any other rule, kayaks are never allowed on crowded cars. Use your good judgment and only board cars that can comfortably accommodate you and your boat.
  • Watercraft designed for more than two people are never allowed on BART
  • Hold your paddle vertically while on the trains.
  • Outrigger amas must be removed and lashed against the outrigger’s main hull.
  • Cleaning fish is never permitted on the trains or anywhere in the BART system.
  • Kayakers must use elevator or stairs, not escalators.
  • Kayakers must yield priority seating to seniors and people with disabilities, yield to other passengers, and not block aisles or doors or soil seats. Be particularly careful not to spill seawater or marine life on seats.
  • In case of an evacuation due to tunnel flooding, inform the train operator that you have a kayak on board. You may be asked to paddle for help.
  • Kayakers under 14 years old must be accompanied by an adult and a PFD.
  • Engine powered watercraft are never permitted. No jetskis!
  • Kayaks may be berthed in racks or lockers at stations. Kayaks locked against poles, fences or railings will be removed.

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