If you’re like me and feel the need to plug your nose and watch your step when entering a BART station, then your prayers have finally been answered thanks to a recent increase in BART funding. This bump in cash has been allocated for a three-person “scrub crew” to take care of the worst entrances and stairwells, as reported by SFGate. The new crack team of cleaners, equipped with power washers, hoses, rags, and vanilla-smelling disinfectant (thanks, I’m not reminded of my ex-girlfriend enough), are tackling the dirt, grime, and literal shit and piss peppering BART’s dirtiest stations – namely at Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell, Civic Center, Downtown Berkeley ,and Oakland Coliseum.
SFGate reports that stations within San Francisco are of greatest importance, as they see the most traffic out of all 44 stops, with 16 of BART’s 120 custodial workers focused just on those main four. The Mission St. stations are absent from the list for some reason – stops I would argue are pretty goddamn dirty.
But why are these “Biosafety Level Two” entrances (or as BART calls them, “below good”) so incredibly filthy? Well, for one, the not-so-recent economic downturn cut the cleaning crew devoted to the main four stations in half, and the remaining cleaners are simply stretched too thin to cover all of the entrances all of the time. Currently, the crews are working one by one in graveyard shifts, SF Gate explains, spending over a month per station before moving on to the next one. Another reason is that we commuters are total slobs, and since BART has taken away in-station trashcans in the name of homeland security, we’re left holding our empty coffee cups and candy wrappers until we get above ground, and as “green” and “conscientious” as we pretend to be in this city, a quick look at the trash covered subway tracks should show you what we’re really capable of.
But the primary reason for all this grossness, as outlined by BART, is the overabundance of homeless people using the walkways as sleeping areas and bathrooms, as shelters in this city are full to the brim, and have been for a long time. So in the ongoing theme of forcing this city’s destitute population into smaller and smaller allowable areas, BART cops have been kicking all loiterers out, and new plans to install canopies to close off the entrances when they’re not in use are being tested out in Downtown Oakland. Homeless advocacy groups call the new practices “heartless.” BART says it’s an issue with blocking emergency exits, although as Mitch Hedberg once said, “If you're flammable and have legs, you are never blocking an emergency exit.”
So far, commuters are responding positively to the decrease in offensive smells and human waste landmines, with one maintenance worker at Powel telling SFGate, “It's a lot easier now that the homeless aren't here.” At this point, even Boston and Washington DC have cleaner stations than we do, and that’s kind of embarrassing.