A rider waits to board an elevator at Powell Street BART station after an employee mops it clean. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Program to keep BART elevators poop-free set to expand in downtown SF

Embarcadero, Montgomery stations soon to get attendants

A program that has helped clean up the elevators at two downtown BART stations will soon expand to Embarcadero and Montgomery stations following a vote by the BART board Thursday.

The attendant program has already had great success deterring those who might otherwise urinate or defecate in the elevators at Powell and Civic Center BART stations since it started last April.

The attendants, from nonprofit Urban Alchemy, which was formerly Hunters Point Family, simply stand in the elevators and greet riders.

Urban Alchemy helps youth and formerly incarcerated people of all ages obtain job opportunities, which the BART directors viewed as a win-win for the community.

“This is amazing. Do this everywhere. This is the best thing you’ve ever done,” said BART Board of Directors Vice President Rebecca Saltzman, who represents Alameda and Contra Costa counties, told BART staff.

She added that “I’ve never seen a program with so much” appreciation from BART riders.

On social media, BART riders lauded the program. BART rider Ian Brown tweeted “I love BART. No, really. Elevator attendants (for the win)!” with a photo of him pushing a baby in a stroller into a visibly clean Civic Center station elevator.

Attendants also keep a record of who uses the elevators. In just six months at Powell Station, attendants recorded a monthly average of 3,645 people with disabilities who used the elevators, 4,714 people with strollers, and 14,239 people carrying luggage. The numbers at Civic Center are higher for people with disabilities, with a 4,738 monthly average, and far higher for luggage users, with 20,527 using that station’s elevator.

The program is expected to expand to Embarcadero and Montgomery stations this fall.

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. The BART Board of Directors also renewed the elevator attendant program at Powell and Civic Center BART stations on Thursday for up to $1.5 million in 2020, up to $1.9 million in 2021 and up to $3.2 million in 2022.

Since BART shares downtown San Francisco stations with the Muni Metro subway, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency committed to reimburse BART for half of the expenditures on stations not covered by the MTC grant, meaning Civic Center and Powell stations.

BART Board of Directors President Bevan Dufty lamented that more commitments from San Francisco government weren’t provided to address homelessness in San Francisco BART stations.

“We’ve seen devastating human suffering throughout the region,” he said at the board meeting Thursday. “It’s time for us to go out and make our needs known.”

Dufty mentioned a potential sales tax in Alameda County to fund homeless services as one future avenue to address that need.

“Bottom line is, we have to have exits” for homeless people to finally enter housing, he said, “this is really a watershed moment at this agency that has been buffeted by such anger from our riders, (who say) that we seem indifferent to the conditions of these people.”

Meanwhile, BART took other measures to curb urination and defecation in its stations Thursday, and bolstered homeless services throughout the Bay Area.

The BART Board of Directors voted to fund bathrooms called “pit stops” at Powell, 16th Street and 24th Street BART stations for up to roughly $250,000 in 2020, up to $265,000 in 2021, and up to $273,000 in 2022.

BART also expanded homeless outreach team services at its stations in Alameda, San Mateo and Contra Costa counties.


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