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S.F. Supervisor, BART Director Clean up BART Station Themselves, Demand BART Do Better

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

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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 just plain gross.

SF Supervisor Hillary Ronen and BART Director Bevan Dufty agree. That's why they have been cleaning the station themselves, every Wednesday, for a month. "The conditions we have seen are truly disturbing and at times disgusting, and I am outraged about the health and safety risks to BART riders and my constituents who pass through the plaza every day," wrote Ronen in an official statement, issued this morning, calling on BART to "...commit to staff a full-time cleaning position seven days a week at the plaza. We also need increased social services."

On the Supervisor's blog, she posted that "BART needs to follow through on its pledge to quadruple the amount of time they power wash the plaza each evening and they must commit to providing full-time cleaning during the day."

Or, as Dufty said in a previous post, “People shouldn’t have to step over needles at 16th and Mission."

Ronen and Dufty's willingness to step up and clean up highlights an important issue when it comes to managing big city transit systems and other city services--things only get better when lawmakers ride and experience things first hand, rather than depending on reports and constituent complaints alone. That's why advocacy efforts such as the SF Transit Rider's 22-day Muni Challenge, which exposed which SF Supervisors don't actually ride the transit they supervise, are so important. Lawmakers who don't experience what their constituents experience first hand, just can't lead as effectively.

"Now that I am cleaning it myself, I realize how unbelievably filthy it is. It is disgraceful that we have allowed this plaza to become this dirty, this uncared for, this dangerous," wrote Ronen in her statement. "The smell, the garbage, and the potential for disease are completely unacceptable. The elected BART Directors need to see this for themselves, and I am asking that they clean with us."

"It is encouraging to see elected officials like Supervisor Ronen and BART Director Dufty standing up for the transit rider. Filthy BART stations are an everyday reality for us, and there’s no doubt that people choose other methods of travel because of these quality of life issues. Cleaning up 16th Street Station is absolutely a step in the right direction," wrote Rachel Hyden, Executive Director of the San Francisco Transit Riders, in an email to Streetsblog. "The Transit Riders applaud Ronen and Dufty for taking action, and encourage other elected officials to speak up for transit riders in their districts."

And so far, at least one other BART director has already agreed to do so. "I really admire what Director Dufty and Supervisor Ronen have done to clean our station themselves," said BART Director Nick Josefowitz. "In fact, I will be joining them on an upcoming Wednesday morning to pitch in and I hope my fellow Directors will as well.

Of course, 16th and Mission isn't the only station where one can find needles, litter of all sorts, and excrement. Heather Knight, in a column for the Chronicle about the station, writes that "BART’s budget includes funding for 150 janitors, 13 more than two years ago," adding that "Four new positions will focus mainly on two of the agency’s nastiest stations: Powell Street and Civic Center." And Susie Neilson, in an excellent feature in Mission Local about the clean-up at 16th, gets into more of the gory details--as well as the history of past cleanup efforts.

"Director Dufty is absolutely right that we need more janitors. Over the past three years, we've increased the number of janitors budgeted for our downtown San Francisco stations by almost one-third," said Josefowitz. "But it's still not nearly enough."

For a detailed look at BART's cleaning schedule, see this PDF.

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