OAKLAND -- A record-setting Saturday helped push BART ridership for a busy Bay Area weekend to nearly 1 million, officials said Monday.
With popular events like Fleet Week, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the America's Cup World Series, a home game for the 49ers and two playoff games for the Giants, Bay Area drivers were told last week that the roads could get crowded heading from the East Bay to San Francisco, and that public transit might be their best option.
It seems that most people got the message -- and BART got the business, with three days last week moving into the transit agency's all-time busiest days.
"This is huge for us," said BART spokesman Jim Allison. "More than any transit agency in the Bay Area ... we rely on our ticket-paying passengers to pay for our operating costs."
Ticket sales fund about 70 percent of the system's annual operating budget, which is about $670 million this fiscal year, Allison said.
Saturday's rider numbers smashed the old record, with 319,484 fares far exceeding the old mark of 278,586, set on a weekend when the Bay Bridge was closed for retrofitting in September 2007, Allison said. The average Saturday ridership this year was 204,000, he added.
Friday was the sixth-highest weekday on record, with 424,483 riders. Sunday ridership totaled 219,920, still well short of the record set in June of this year, when 259,681 riders flooded into San Francisco for inter-league baseball between the A's and Giants, and the San Francisco Pride festival.
Oct. 2 and 3 also had strong ridership, cracking the top ten most heavily traveled days in BART history, Allison said.
The incredible weeklong explosion in gas prices may have also helped push riders on the trains. AAA reported that average gas prices for the Oakland metro area have risen nearly 50 cents in the past week.
"When we have these huge days, it's good for everybody," Allison said. "That means more money for us to reinvest in the system.
"What's really important about getting a really big weekend number is many of those people chose to take BART when they could have driven across the bridge, so we hope we're introducing public transit to a new group of people for their recreational trips," Allison said.
"Once they found out that it can be a good alternative ... hopefully they'll be that much more likely to use the train more often."
Contact Daniel M. Jimenez at 510-262-2728. Follow him at Twitter.com/DMJreports.