BART is rooting for the home team, and if they don’t win it’ll be a shame. But at least riders will know the score.
With the start of the World Series on Wednesday, Bay Area Rapid Transit District formalized a hometown booster campaign that was proving very popular with the public. Although similar efforts have happened unofficially before in other transit systems, and even at BART, “Giants Fever” could be one of the first organized on-board-transit sports promotion campaigns.
"I am not aware of it being done in an organized way before by any public transit agency," said Susan Berlin, senior editor for Passenger Transport for the American Public Transportation Association.
So far, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Perhaps that was because the Giants beat the Texas Rangers 11-7 in Game 1 of the Series at AT&T Park, a destination easily reached by public transportation.
"The station manager just announced the Giants' lead," BART rider Genie Gratto of Oakland wrote on her Twitter account midway through the game. "That sentence has several dimensions of awesomeness." Gratto later elaborated in an email: "I've never lived anywhere near a World Series -- getting to see all the ambient celebration is incredibly fun! I love that the BART system is playing a part in all of that."
BART employees, including train operators and station agents, were authorized to give out game updates over public address systems, and even -- in an exception to the usual uniform regulations -- to sport Giants caps and other gear. Station booths in downtown San Francisco were decked out in black and orange in tribute to the home team, which hasn't been to a World Series since 2002. (With perhaps just a little repurposing of Halloween decorations -- good timing!)
"It was an idea we had to generate some community spirit and show our support for one of our home town teams," said BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger. "So far, it's had an enormously positive reception from our riders. We are a part of this community and we carry riders to games all season long, so we are really pleased to be able to share in this post-season excitement."
One of the announcements was posed as a riddle: “What’s black, orange and green?” A Giants fan on BART!” Some groaned at the joke, but the point was to drive home the “green” aspects of helping the environment by taking public transportation to the ballpark -- which, incidentally, also helps riders avoid horrific traffic jams in this bridge-bound region, and sky-high prices for parking.
Of course there have been some concerns -- but in this constantly connected age of tweets, Facebook status updates and on-board wi-fi, the general public seems to be, for the most part, giving up on the concept of a spoiler alert. Even without operator announcements, the developments of high-profile games – or any major news event -- are clear on trains as cheers or boos erupt from fellow passengers. At least one rider did register dissatisfaction about the announcements, saying he had the game taped at home on Tivo.
But most riders were gleeful, and shared their feedback on Twitter and other social networks. "Getting live Giants announcement as I hurry home," one Twitter user wrote. "Nice touch."
"Loving that the station agents are keeping passengers apprised of the game," another Twitter user wrote, typical of the hundreds of comments seen.
The institutionalized team spirit policy seemed to be having a positive effect on employee morale, as well. One rider shared in amazement that an employee on the train had taught all the riders a "personalized cheer" -- quite a turnaround for the rider, who said she had never even seen an employee "crack a smile" before on the job.
But you can't please everyone. It's especially dicey in a metropolitan area with two professional baseball teams -- where many riders are loyal to the rival Oakland A's, who didn't make it to the playoffs this year. For the most part, people seemed to turn into Bay Area-wide baseball fans for the series and support the local team. Complaints were few and far between, but occasionally colorful. "I don't give a (bleep) about the Giants," one rider wrote. "Just tell me when the next (bleeping) train is coming, you (bleeps)." Some riders urged BART to make sure the pro-Giants announcements didn’t get in the way of practical information they needed to know, such as the times of the next trains, so BART was modulating the frequency of the messaging.
Will rider support for on-board game updates continue, no matter how the Giants do in the rest of the series? Stay tuned.