Fifteen years of planning. Eight years of construction. More than $1 billion. On September 11, 1972, BART finally opened for service.
The day was electric. Estimates suggest that more than 15,000 people showed up to test out the new, plushy-cushioned seats on the state-of-the-art trains. The attendance figures may sound low; when BART opened, only 18 two- and three-car trains ran the first day along the first 28-mile section of track, from MacArthur Station to Fremont. More than half the stations would open in the coming weeks, months, and years. The Transbay Tube – one of the technological jewels of the project – opened two years later, in 1974.
In his book, “BART: The Dramatic History of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System” (Heyday, 2016), former BART employee and historian Michael Healy describes the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Lake Merritt headquarters plaza: “The celebration was kicked off by a local high school band, and thousands of people gathered to hear speeches by numerous local dignitaries, including San Francisco mayor Joe Alioto and Oakland vice mayor Frank Ogawa, among others.”
At each station between Fremont and MacArthur stations, BART hosted a ribbon-cutting, with dignitaries from each city in attendance. Following each ceremony, the trains began moving northbound from Fremont and southbound from MacArthur amid shouts and cheers
Newspapers from the time reported packed, standing-room-only cars with upwards of 100 passengers. Within five days, more than 100,000 passengers ditched their cars and tried the trains.
“This is the end of the automobile for me,” Shirley Fisk is quoted as saying in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on opening day.
Read the full story on bart.gov.