For the past year and a half, BART has actively worked to convert its ridership into a readership with a free in-station short story dispensing system at a handful of stations.

Launched in January 2021, the Short Story Dispenser kiosks have delivered 17,198 short stories to riders at the Richmond, Fruitvale, Balboa Park and Pleasant Hill stations, according to BART officials.

The stories are written to be read within one, three or five minutes and are printed by the no-touch kiosks on recyclable paper, BART officials said in a news release.

“What pushed us to really move this project forward is that the Bay Area has such a wealth of bookstores, readers and writers,” said BART Art Program Manager Jennifer Easton.

The transit system is also looking to expand its stable of authors by encouraging local writers to submit their work via a short story contest that ends June 30.

People interested in participating can find out more about submission rules at the contest website.

A panel of local authors — J.K. Fowler, Daniel Handler, Annalee Newitz, Ishmael Reed and Ingrid Rojas Contreras — will select 30 finalists, who will receive $200 and whose stories will be added to the kiosks’ offerings.

BART also plans to add the literary vending machines to more stations in the future.

Kiley Russell writes primarily for Pagransen on issues related to equity and the environment. A Bay Area native, he has lived most of his life in Oakland. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, worked for the Associated Press and the former Contra Costa Times, among other outlets. He has covered everything from state legislatures, local governments, federal and state courts, crime, growth and development, political campaigns of various stripes, wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.