After repairs to a BART station escalator in San Francisco revealed an excessive amount of human excrement, dialogue has heightened for preventative measures, a BART spokesman said.
Six weeks ago repair crews were taking apart a non-functioning escalator at the Civic Center station and discovered human excrement caused the malfunction, BART spokesman James Allison said.
An environmental cleanup crew had to come out and clean the area before repairs could be made. It was the first time the crew had been called in for these purposes.
“It wasn’t a safe environment to work in,” Allison said. “This isn’t a widespread thing, it was a one-time incident.”
While excrement hasn’t been causing malfunctions in escalators regularly, urinating and defecating has been a regular occurrence by homeless individuals who may use the bottom of the stairwells to sleep while BART is closed.
“This is a problem that occurs throughout the city because there are not many public bathrooms to use,” Allison said.
He said that BART is working with the city on strategies to prevent human waste in BART stations and elsewhere.
BART itself has been without accessible public restrooms in its underground stations since shortly after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Because BART cannot have cameras in the restrooms, those in the 11 underground stations, including all downtown San Francisco stops, have been closed for over a decade with no plans to reopen them, Allison said.
“It’s a risk of someone carrying an explosive in there,” he said.
However, Allison said that even if the restrooms were open, they would be closed during the hours when most of the homeless activity in the station is happening anyway.
“I think mostly what we’re talking about is when BART is closed and people are down in the stairwells. It’s not during the daytime that they’re relieving themselves for the most part,” he said.
BART police are not able to cite anyone urinating or defecating publicly unless they see it happen. They intend on taking a different approach.
“We are trying to approach it from a human standpoint,” BART police spokeswoman Era Jenkins said.
BART police recently hired a crime intervention personnel liaison, Armando Sandoval, to help prevent the homeless or people with mental health issues from doing this in the future.
“We want to help them with whatever they are going through personally to have them do these things,” Jenkins said. “If we can help with that, we will have less of these infractions.”
Still, the hope for BART would be to create a solution that will make it impossible to urinate and defecate on BART stairwells.
One solution would be to have a grate close off the top of the stairwells during off hours, Allison said. But there is always an issue of budget when considering renovations.
“It is always about money and how we are going to pay for it,” he said. “And there are things of higher priority.”