BART is seeking approval from the state fire marshal to close a hallway at Civic Center BART station.
The long passageway, which is known to attract drug users and people without homes, has attracted attention from numerous local and international news outlets.
BART Board of Directors member Bevan Dufty said those who sit along the hallway in Civic Center scare away BART riders.
“There are a lot of people very mentally ill,” Dufty said. “And that’s a reason many people aren’t riding transit at night. Everybody is asking we help people.”
Dufty confirmed BART is seeking permission from the Office of the State Fire Marshal to close the hallway, though he added that effort may be temporary. The fire marshal’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Recently BART closed a stairwell leading to the same problematic Civic Center station hallway from Market Street near the San Francisco Main Library. BART and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which share the station, also recently began a pilot program to staff the elevators with attendants to prevent drug use and bathroom use in the elevators.
The move to close the hallway was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said she thought when officials first discussed the idea to close the hallway “I didn’t know they were serious.”
Friedenbach suggested BART use the hallway for “something positive” instead of simply closing it, like a daytime homeless shelter or a hub to connect drug users with addiction services. “It’s not like the people will disappear,” she said. “They’ll just end up somewhere else. Maybe other parts of the BART station.”
Dufty said her proposal may be difficult to implement but “I’m open to any idea.”
When asked for more details about the hallway closure, BART spokesperson Jim Allison wrote in an email that “it’s a little early” in the process.
“However we do know this,” he added, closing the hallway “is only being considered at this point.”
Allison added that the potential closure would not affect any entrances or exits and is “only one of many options BART is examining right now.”
Last Friday BART announced joint foot patrols between the BART Police Department and San Francisco Police Department to address “quality of life issues” in downtown San Francisco BART stations. The Salvation Army also partnered with BART to reach out to people at Civic Center station for food, socks and hygiene kits. Dufty said that four people in Civic Center station were connected with city services by the Salvation Army last Thursday afternoon.
Dufty said it is difficult for one agency to make a dent in San Francisco’s homeless problem alone.
“It’s like a mouse taking on a lion,” he said. “The problem is so much bigger.”