BART’s bad day: Cracked track, power failures, major delays

BART on Wednesday experienced system-wide delays, and warnings from the agency spooked riders who feared a snarled, miserable evening commute across the bay.

A 10-inch-wide crack in BART’s trackway between the Civic Center and 16th Street stations in San Francisco caused major delays systemwide Wednesday morning.

Compounding dramatic delays, a PG&E power failure in the afternoon caused further service shortages in East Bay BART lines.

But BART wrapped up many of the issues ahead of schedule. Although riders experienced larger than normal crowds, all the riders The San Francisco Examiner spoke with agreed — it could have been a lot worse.

“I came in for a job interview and was 15 minutes late, even though I left an hour early,” Oakland resident and BART rider Nakia Eddens told The Examiner as she waited for a train at the Montgomery Street station. Still, as she headed home, she said the delay didn’t erode her faith in BART.

The agency ran trains along only one of its two tracks while technicians began repairs. Videos on social media showed seas of passengers packed shoulder to shoulder, blanketing station platforms. Traffic on the Bay Bridge slowed to a near-standstill for some of the day.

“We apologize for the delays and are grateful for our customers’ patience,” spokeswoman Alicia Trost said, in a statement. “Safety is our top priority.”

The bulk of delays began after the crack was discovered at 9:20 a.m, at the tail end of the morning commute — sparing many riders much agony. BART technicians finished repairs an hour before their deadline of 4:30 p.m. and power was restored to East Bay stations in the late afternoon.

By 5:30 p.m., foot traffic in many stations actually appeared to be lighter than normal. A lot of the delays occurred between the morning and evening commutes, and didn’t cause the transbay meltdown many feared.

Elwood Orphe of Antioch said he hadn’t even heard of the delays since he commutes to work at 6 a.m. Just behind Orphe at Montgomery Street station, at least eight yellow-jacketed BART staffers directed the slightly larger than normal crowds into trains.

“Take it easy! Take it easy! No pushing please!” one staffer shouted, as she directed riders.

AC Transit in the East Bay and Muni in San Francisco both pitched in with beefed up service to help BART riders throughout the day.

But the crack in the railway points to a systemic issue affecting the cash-strapped agency. BART track deformities plague the system, prompting the transit agency to slow trains over three dozen “hot spots” due to fears of possible derailment, according to multiple news reports.

“They find the tracks in poor condition, they can’t repair immediately and have to slow down,” said Tom Radulovich, a member of BART’s board of directors. “There are a number of places in the system where we’re operating below the mandated speed.”

BART is facing more than $9.6 billion in major infrastructure repairs and upgrades and station expansions, among other needs. The agency plans to go to the ballot box soon to seek that funding.

A state auditor report issued at the end of April issued a dire warning on BART’s crumbling infrastructure.

“Most of this infrastructure is over 40 years old and is at, or close to, the end of its useful life,” the report states. “In fact, BART staff estimate that $6.5 billion of BART’s infrastructure is now in poor or very poor condition.”

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