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
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.”

Caption here
Streetsblog spoke with several cyclists, people with luggage, and senior citizens, who all seemed relieved and pleased to see an attendant monitoring the elevator

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.
  • Ziggy Tomcich

    If they reopened the bathrooms, people wouldn’t feel the need to resort to using the elevator as one. I have two friends of mine who shamefully admitted to peeing in a bart elevator in downtown San Francisco out of sheer despiration because no other options were available. Why aren’t there any other options for people to pee in downtown San Francisco?

    Why are we spending money on people to prevent others from peeing? It can’t possibly work. You can’t stop basic biology. When someone really needs to pee, it’s going to come out somewhere!!! WTF are these people thinking, trying to outlaw peeing, banning it just about everywhere?!?!? Have we reached rock bottom yet?

    Other contributing factors….
    If the elevators took a reasonable15 seconds instead to go between two floors rather than the glacial 90, people wouldn’t pee in the elevators.

    If the elevators were glass, people probably be less likely to pee in the elevators.

    But most importantly nobody actually wants to pee in an elevator. It’s an act of despiration made routine by the sheer number of people compared with the dismal number of available toilets. Finding a public bathroom in downtown shouldn’t require the use of an app!

  • Eric Rodenbeck

    Hear, hear. There should be a Pit Stop on every block in downtown San Francisco, all staffed by the amazing people at Hunters Point Family. They cost less than $200k a year each and the need for them couldn’t be clearer.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Hunters point family? What does that mean exactly?

    Every business that sells any food or drink should be required to have available public bathrooms. Any transit station or public mall should have public bathrooms. This shouldn’t even be up for debate. There is a serious and digusting shortage of toilets in this city. It’s so hard to find a bathroom in downtown SF that there are websites and apps devoted helping people find them, which is ridiculous! This should not be our reality. Most other cities throughout the world, even in the poorest of counties, understand the need for basic human sanitation.

    You can’t close down most bathrooms in a major city without predictable and gross consequences. Staffing pee-police inside bart elevators can’t possible stop people from peeing! It’s a stupid waste of money that should be spent on solving our sanitation problem instead of just moving it.

  • p_chazz

    The ostensible reason for closing the restrooms was “because terrorism!” but you and I know it was to avoid having to deal with homeless people. What BART really should have is a bathroom attendant.

  • p_chazz

    The problem is that cleaning bathrooms is gross and it’s also a cost to the business. That’s why many businesses make you buy things before they will let you use their restroom which is “for customers only”. And rightly so. No business should have to open their restroom to non-patrons. There should be an adequate number of public restrooms in BART stations, but those are defaced by graffiti, vandalized and used for things other than the bodily functions they were intended for..

  • This doesn’t solve the problem at all. The homeless run this town. If they don’t use the elevators they will use the stations, trains, sidewalks, etc. like they do now. It’s a band-aid approach that doesn’t even cover the wound much less heal it.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Yes cleaning bathrooms is gross. So most sanitation work but it’s necessary for good health and a good quality of life.

    No business should ever be permitted to sell food and drink without having public bathrooms. This is standard in most of the world because when even children understand that eating and drinking will inevitably lead to people needing to use a bathroom. Trying to eliminate the problem of gross bathrooms by eliminating bathrooms all together is why people resort to peeing in elevators and on our streets.

    Homeless people are still people, and they have basic biological needs regardless of their income or social status. Peeing in an elevator is an act of desperation, not a trait of social class. Yes people will use bathrooms other then what their designed for. Yes bathrooms get defaced. It’s no different in any other city throughout our world. That’s why every bathroom in the world has to be regularly cleaned and maintained. Paying money to have pee police in the bart elevators is so hideously wasteful. That money should paying for people to clean and maintain bathrooms, not trying to prevent people from peeing!

    Our lack of public bathrooms in our city affects all of us, not just the homeless. All of us experience a deceased quality of living because of the lack of toilets in this city.

  • p_chazz

    Wasn’t that what the Decaux toilets were supposed to address? I must admit that even though they have been on our streets for about 20 years, I have yet to use one for fear of what I might find lurking within.

  • p_chazz

    Apparently BART is working on this. From the BART Facebook page:

    Bathrooms are important. We are working on a new design to open bathrooms for underground stations at Powell and 19th Street. While we work on that we have partnered with SF to add street level, attended, and clean bathrooms near Civic, Powell, and 16th Street. Our next budget proposes adding one at Montgomery. Please know this is something we are working on.


Supervisor Hillary Ronen and BART Director Bevan Dufty are calling on BART to clean up the 16th and Mission Station. Photo: From Supervisor Ronen's web page

Dufty and Ronen Call on BART to Clean up 16th and Mission

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content. Litter, excrement, and filth–anyone who uses the 16th and Mission BART station knows the platforms, stairs, elevators, mezzanine, and the plazas above it are […]