Mike Koozmin/2012 S.f. Examiner File photoRevamping three escalators in The City is slated to begin in 2016 and last until 2017.

BART to shield filthy escalators with $12 million investment

“This escalator is OUT OF SERVICE.”

The sign is familiar to regular BART riders at the Powell Street and Civic Center stations, which host the worst performing escalators out of BART's 169 moving stairways systemwide.

Now, with new money and new construction, BART hopes to help those escalators move on up.

This month, BART announced a new allocation of $12 million toward rebuilding two Powell Street station escalators and one Civic Center escalator, and Friday it completed a public-opinion survey on how best to spend the dollars. Art, lighting, stair treads, signage, news displays, safety and more all were options as steps toward rebuilding the escalators. Construction is expected to start in 2016, with completion of the rebuild projected for 2017.

“Revitalizing our escalators is critical to enhancing the overall customer experience and protecting the public's investment in BART,” BART spokesman Jim Allison said.

For years, BART escalators have been consistently unreliable, with street-level escalators hitting a historic low of 76.5 percent availability in May 2012. But since then, escalator performance has been on an upswing, with street-level escalators at 93 percent availability systemwide over the past year. This does not meet BART's goal of 95 percent, but it's a trending improvement.

The worst escalator among them, BART said, are the Powell Street station escalators near the Ross and Diesel stores along Market Street, and the Civic Center station escalator near a CVS.

“The leading cause of breakdowns are weather, and wear and tear,” Allison said, and, “people not using escalators for the purpose for which they are intended.”

BART escalators are notorious for breaking down due to an excess of human excrement.

Though BART beefed up its escalator mechanics from 16 to 28 over the past few years, the excrement problem sometimes requires the aid of a hazardous waste team, further slowing repair time.

Building new canopies may close off the escalators in off-service hours, potentially reducing the excrement problem. The canopies would also protect escalators from the elements.

But before embarking on reconstruction, “We want to hear from our customers,” Allison said.

Some advocates in the disability community have criticized BART for focusing on escalators without mentioning revitalizing elevators, vital to riders in wheelchairs, which they say are also in dire need of attention

“Civic Center has more [elevator] outages than any other station,” said Dominika Bednarska, a wheelchair user and daily BART commuter. “I have ridden up with vomit, feces and urine multiple times.”

BART's elevators have a 2.55 percent cleanliness rating, according to its own internal metrics. A rating of two signifies a rating of “only fair,” and three is a “good” rating.

Last week, as commuters quickly walked by a broken escalator piled with garbage at the Civic Center station, Justine Pojanowski, a daily commuter from Oakland to San Francisco, said BART needs to focus on the basics.

“The stations and trains are extremely filthy,” Pojanowski said, “fixing the escalators and making them work should be a top priority.”

BART escalators

BART will spend $12 million to shield three San Francisco station escalators from weather and excrement to improve performance and availability.

Meeting goals

– Platform escalator, station elevator and availability goals met

– Street escalator and garage elevator availability not met

STREET ESCALATORS AVAILABILITY

– 93.17 percent availability, 95 percent goal not met from July 2013 to September 2014

PLATFORM ESCALATOR AVAILABILITY

– 96.70 percent availability, 96 percent goal met

ELEVATOR GARAGE AVAILABILITY

– 96.57 percent availability, 98 percent goal not met

– Improved over last quarter and same quarter last year

– One long-term outage at Pleasant Hill impacts results

ELEVATOR STATION AVAILABILITY

– 98.80 percent availability, goal exceeded

Composite rating for cleanliness

– Station platform (60 percent): 2.88

– Other station areas (20 percent): 2.69

– Restrooms (10 percent): 2.29

– Elevator cleanliness (10 percent): 2.55

Ratings guide:

4 = Excellent

3 = Good

2.90 = Goal

2 = Only fair

1 = Poor

Source: BART's “Quarterly Service Performance Review,” Nov. 20

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