John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
A new ordinance punishes manspreaders and luggage-hoarders, though police worry it could penalize the homeless.
Are you the type of person who, on road trips with family, went ballistic if a sibling crossed the seat’s middle line? Then you’ll probably be thrilled to know the San Francisco Bay Area just made this microaggression a crime on BART, punishable with a $100 ticket for first-time seat hoggers.
Granted, police are supposed to first issue a verbal warning when the so-called “one ticket, one seat” ordinance goes into effect in six months. The new rule also only applies during “commute hours” (weekdays from 6-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.), and there are probably going to be exceptions for the disabled and those whose bodies are large enough to warrant a couple seats. But fines are looking harsh for all the other manspreaders, folks with mountains of luggage, and boors who insist on using other seats as footrests—$200 for the second offense and $500 thereafter.
The transit agency says it will spend the next few months developing an enforcement strategy, which is crucial since an earlier effort to pass a seat-hog ordinance cratered without one. A major worry is that the rule will be used to disproportionately target the homeless, as The Chronicle reports:
Officer Keith Garcia, president of the BART Police Officers’ Association, said Thursday he’s fine with the ordinance but that it will result in heavy enforcement against homeless riders.
“Most of these complaints are going to be against the homeless,” he said. “That may cause a backlash.”
[BART Director Joel] Keller said the ordinance will not be used to single out the homeless.
“I think it’s bigger than that,” he said in an earlier interview. “There are homeless people on our trains taking more than one seat, but there are also people with backpacks, with luggage, with other things occupying seats. This is not an effort to target or harass anyone, merely an effort to make seats available.”