A BART elevator attendant helps a passenger with a cane take the elevator behind a new platform-level fare gate at the Montgomery BART station. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Attendant program keeping BART elevators safe, clean expands to two more downtown stations

BART riders can expect clean elevators staffed by friendly attendants at Embarcadero and Montgomery stations beginning Wednesday.

Since it began last April, the elevator attendant program at Powell and Civic Center stations has nearly eliminated drug use and human waste in those stations’ elevators, according to BART officials. As of Wednesday, the successful program has expanded to include Embarcadero and Montgomery stations.

“The unwanted behaviors have been virtually eliminated by the presence of the elevator attendants and it’s easy to see why,” BART spokesperson Jim Allison said. “They’re working every minute the station is open.”

The attendants, from the nonprofit Urban Alchemy, stand in the elevators and greet commuters, effectively deterring people who would otherwise use them as restrooms or to consume drugs. They also keep records of who uses the elevators.

Urban Alchemy, once known as Hunters Point Family, helps youth and formerly incarcerated people of all ages obtain job opportunities, which BART directors consider a win-win for the community.

Allison said the agency hasn’t conducted any recent surveys to determine how the elevator attendant program is being received by riders, but that elevator cleanliness saw the largest year-to-year ratings improvement by the end of fiscal year 2019. According to the most recent rider survey results published in August, riders giving a “good” or “excellent” rating for elevator cleanliness increased from 42.8% in 2018 to 58.1%.

The elevator attendant program is a partnership of BART and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, whose Muni Metro subway shares downtown San Francisco stations with BART.

Expanding the program was made possible in part by a $2.6 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to fund it in 2020 and 2021. Renewal of the program at Powell and Civic Center stations, however, was not covered by the MTC grant, and those costs will be split by BART and SFMTA.

BART also unveiled Wednesday the first of its kind platform-level fare gate outside the elevator at Montgomery station. According to Allison, it is the only such fare gate in the BART system, tailored to the unique needs of Montgomery station. There are no plans to install more at any other stations, he said.

There also aren’t any plans to expand the elevator attendant program at this time, he said, but it’s possible that will change.

“That’s something for the Board of Directors to consider” and could only happen if they identify a source of funding, he said.

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BART debuted an expanded elevator attendant program and a new fare gate at the Montgomery BART station on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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