Build It And They Will Come?

Berryessa BART station to open June 13

Almost assuredly people will eventually start packing the new BART stations, Milpitas and Berryessa/North San Jose, that are—finally—going to open on June 13, less than two weeks away. But for now with the pandemic still raging in the Bay Area those trains will probably frighten rather than lure potential patrons. That’s too bad because those two new stations are the most significant development in mass transit in our area since the SMART train in Marin/Sonoma opened in 2017.

But eventually the shelter in place orders will give way to a resumption of more-or-less prepandemic life and those stations will make it easier for Spokers to do rides in the southern part of the East Bay. The most notable example will be –“Tradition!”–Mount Hamilton In The Fall, which starts at Penitencia Creek Park just two miles from the Berryessa station. Until now the nearest BART station was Warm Springs and before that, Fremont, both of which entailed significant additional cycling—at least ten miles one way—to the start. In addition BART’s Sunday service, which has not opened until an absurdly late 8 am, meant that one had to hustle to get to the Hamilton start on time. With Berryessa/North San Jose station open this will be considerably easier if you’re coming from, say, San Francisco.

The big question is, will they come? BART trains are unlikely to be packed on an early Sunday morning. But nonetheless the possibility of infection on mass transit is going to make a lot of people think twice about using it rather than safely piling into one’s car and driving to Penitencia Creek Park.

Over the past two years we’ve put up with delay after delay in the opening, to the point that BART’s repeated postponement dates were to be disbelieved. In December, the last time BART delayed their opening, it wisely kept its mouth shut on when it would predict the stations would really open. Privately I thought that June was a reasonable deadline but very likely to be blown anyway just like the past five or six previous announcements. This time BART surprised us all by actually announcing an opening gate with just weeks to go. If they don’t open on June 13 there will be some serious mud on BART’s collective face.

I hope to see you all at the Mt. Hamilton ride this fall whether you come by BART or by car!