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BART Gets Elevator Attendants at Civic Center and Powell

Tawanna Haines greeting BART patrons and attending the elevator at Civic Center. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unelss indicated

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BART and Muni elevators, especially at the downtown and Mission Stations, are not places people go voluntarily, given the putrid smells and unsanitary conditions.

That's why BART is stationing attendants in the lifts at Civic Center and Powell Street as part of a six-month pilot to put an end to the "puddles and surprises in the elevators," said District #9 BART Director Bevan Dufty at this morning's press event announcing the new program. District #9 stations include 16th Street Mission, 24th Street Mission, and Civic Center and Powell Street. This comes a year after disabilities advocates sued BART for the filthy condition of its elevators.

Starting today, the elevators at Civic Center and Powell will have an attendant whenever the system is open, from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. There will be 35 attendants to cover all the shifts at the two stations, plus a runner to cover the elevators when someone is on break, explained Tim Chan, Manager of Planning in the BART Planning and Development Department. He added that when it comes to preventing people from micturating in the elevators, "Having an attendant is a game changer."

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Streetsblog spoke with several cyclists, people with luggage, and senior citizens, who all seemed relieved and pleased to see an attendant monitoring the elevator
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The program is managed by Hunters Point Family, a community-based organization that provides workforce development services to at-risk African American youth and young adults living in the Bayview Hunters Point community. The charity aims "To prepare youth to become independent, strong, and productive adults through comprehensive support services that empower them to develop their full potential."

Dufty said he hopes the Hunters Point Family youths will eventually move on to work for BART and "become stations agents or train operators."

Roland Wong to the left of Lena Miller, founder of Hunters Point Family, at the mic. SFMTA's Ed Reiskin, Bevan Dufty, and BART District #7 Director Lateefah Simon behind her at this morning's presser

"Hunters Point Family was called in to bring safety and cleanliness to some of our most vulnerable members of society," said Lena Miller, founder of Hunters Point Family. Elevator attendants won't actually clean the elevators but are there--with radios that can summon janitors or the BART police--to keep watch and greet patrons. They were given conflict de-escalation training, but are instructed to get on the radio and call the police rather than attempt to intervene if there are any problems.

"So far so good," said Tawanna Haines, the attendant seen in the lead photo. "I'm getting lots of positive feedback."

BART's Chan said the agency will keep records of how things go with the attendants in place. If the numbers look good, they will look at getting attendants in the elevators at other notoriously dirty stations, such as 16th and Mission. He also said the program is an outgrowth of the "Pit Stop" program with the SF Department of Public Works, which hires Hunters Point Family members to maintain portable toilets for the homeless.

How much does it cost to station attendants in the elevators at Powell and Civic Center? Jim Allison, a BART spokesman, said that each agency is paying $300,000 and "...has budgeted $600,000 each of its next fiscal year budgets."

Roland Wong, a volunteer on the Mayor's Disability Council who uses BART elevators regularly, sees the attendant program as a great start to a much larger problem. He hopes there will eventually be funding to work on what he says is the real source of the urine in the elevators: homelessness, untreated mental illness, and substance abuse. "Long term, we need to provide more social services."

The Civic Center BART/Muni elevator at street level.

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