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BART Transforming Land Around Stations Into Housing, Mixed-Use Hot Spots

Thousands of housing units and development will be in the works around Bay Area Rapid Transit stations in the coming decade. BART plans to build 20,000 housing units by 2040 across BART-owned land systemwide including at stations in Contra Costa County, said Carol Holmes, BART's assistant general manager for planning, development and construction. He was the keynote speaker at Bisnow’s Future of Contra Costa County event Wednesday.

In addition to projects cropping up around BART stations, panelists discussed major projects planned in the county, economic drivers and the local multifamily market.

Bay Area Rapid Transit Assistant General Manager for Planning, Development and Construction Carl Holmes

BART has partnered with many developers around the Bay Area to build not just housing, but also office and mixed-use developments at or near its stations.

“We’re a big proponent of affordable housing. There’s a housing crisis. We all know it,” Holmes said. “So we’re trying to be a part of that effort to try and increase the affordable housing so that people can actually purchase a home.”

He said of the housing units to be built, BART plans to have 35% be affordable.

“What I’m also trying to do is make BART a destination,” Holmes said.

By creating more transit-oriented development at BART stations, the agency is creating places that are activated and safer and where people want to go, he said. Building close to BART has also enhanced property values within a quarter-mile of a station.

“We’ve got a number of developments happening in Contra Costa County and in general throughout the system. We want to increase our ridership, but we also realize that it increases economic development,” he said.

A recent Transwestern report revealed that transit-accessible buildings garner 65% more in rents than average office rents and boast lower vacancy rates.

Some of the developments that have been built up around the Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre BART station

Transformations around BART stations are already underway.

The area around the Pleasant Hill station was transformed into the Contra Costa Centre Transit Village by 14 developers into a live/work environment. Additional projects are under development at the Walnut Creek BART station from Blake Griggs Properties. BART also has entered into exclusive negotiating agreements with developers at its Lake Merritt, Concord and El Cerrito Plaza and Warm Springs stations, Holmes said.

“With the job growth we’re having, we’re trying to match that with the housing needs,” he said.

The passage of AB 2923 may help streamline these developments, since the law limits a city's authority over the land use and expedites the approvals process. It requires one-third of the units in the developments to be designated for low- and moderate-income families.

But BART still plans to work closely with community members, Holmes said. The agency is currently working on developing 3,800 apartments with developers and has completed 2,000 of them already.

“We’re still planning to work with cities and communities to make sure we have a collaborative process when we put out a development package,” he said.

How BART Is Planning To Increase Capacity

In addition to increasing development around its stations, BART is working on systemwide improvements that will help increase and improve ridership. After completing its Antioch extension in May, BART realized it underestimated the ridership, Holmes said.

BART said in a press release that it has already reached 1 million riders from its opening in late May to November and now has over 8,000 riders each weekday at the extension.

This has put incredible pressure on its parking lots at Antioch and the agency is planning to develop an additional parking lot and restripe its existing lots to maximize the space available, Holmes said. BART plans to nearly double them number of spaces by fall 2020. 

It also will implement a train control system so that cars can communicate with each other. This would allow cars to be closer together and increase capacity of having 30 trains per hour versus the current 24 trains per hour, he said. Additionally, the agency will expand its Hayward Maintenance Complex to expand and accommodate more rail cars, Holmes said.

BART is about to put out a request for proposals for a program manager and strategic adviser to work on a second tunnel under the bay that would be planned and executed over the next 20 to 30 years, Holmes said.

The transit agency plans to have a Nov. 16 meeting with local companies to talk further about the second crossing. BART wants to address the bottleneck that is occurring in the Transbay Tube where 27,000 passengers travel per hour, he said.

“We have a bottleneck and what we’re needing to do is increase capacity,” he said.

As it tries to increase ridership, BART also is dealing with issues of quality of life such as homelessness, cleanliness, fare evasion, and safety and security that may impact whether or not people ride BART. About 67% to 70% of BART’s operating costs come from fares, he said.

“If you don’t choose to ride BART, that impacts our budget,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure we can encourage people to take BART.”