bureaucracybusters

BAY AREA ROTTEN TRANSIT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on February 4, 2020 at 12:11 am

When the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system was launched on September 11, 1972, it was hailed as the future for mass transit.

Forty-seven years later, that future looks to be a nightmare.

Here are the basic facts that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency—which operates BART—is happy to release:

  • The BART system services Alameda County (Oakland), Contra Costa County, San Francisco County and stations in San Mateo County.
  • There are 48 BART stations.
  • There are 669 cars.
  • BART track runs about 121 miles.
  • Trains usually travel at 35 mph, but can reach a speed of 70 mph.
  • BART operates its own police force, with 206 sworn law enforcement officers.
  • Its security system includes alarms, video surveillance and other intrusion prevention equipment.

Now for the facts that BART does not feel proud to publicize.

  • BART does not provide phone service for its riders on weekends.

In 2019, BART had an average of 411,000 weekday passengers and 118 million annual passengers.

Nevertheless, those passengers using BART on weekends are left to their own devices when it comes to getting directions on which trains to take to which destinations.

“Can’t they get that information from ticket agents at BART booths?” seems a logical question.

And the answer is: “No, not always”—because many BART ticket booths are empty on weekends.

It’s as if BART officials don’t think people travel on BART on weekends—or don’t care if they do. 

Antioch-bound train approaching MacArthur station, June 2018.JPG

A BART train

Pi.1415926535 [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D 

  • BART stations—especially in San Francisco—are usually filthy and potentially dangerous places. 

Many of these are peopled by drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill and parasitical bums. And many of these derelicts are passed out or shooting up heroin in plain sight. Naturally, they don’t worry about picking up their used hypodermic needles. They leave those out for others to step on or pick up at their own risk. 

Image result for Images of drug addicts in BART stations"

A typical San Francisco BART station

Those who aren’t shooting up are usually hitting up legitimate BART riders for money. Sometimes these encounters can become ugly, especially if the beggar is psychotic or drugged up.

As for the much-vaunted BART police: They are almost never in sight. If you can find one and point out a violation, the odds are he will say, “That falls outside my jurisdiction.”

This despite the fact that BART officials admit that “fare evasion” costs BART $15 million to $25 million each year.

So when someone pushes open the electronic “gates” that can be opened with BART cards, there are no police to nab him.

Interviewed privately, BART ticket agents admit they feel as helpless as BART riders in these stations. The police are nowhere in sight, and ticket agents aren’t trained or empowered to take action against fare-evaders, drug-abusers or those who assault BART passengers.

BART stations in downtown San Francisco are usually littered with sleeping bags or blankets— evidence of a serious bum infestation.

These stations have locked their bathrooms, claiming it’s a “security measure against terrorism.” Yet a far greater potential danger lies under all those blankets and sleeping bags: It would be easy for a terrorist to scatter such disguised bombs in a BART station and then clear out—long before his handiwork went off.

That, however, is a danger BART officials seem content to ignore.

  • BART trains are often unpleasant at best, and unsafe at worst.

Cars are often taken over by gangs of teens—usually black—who crank up “boom boxes” and “perform” high-kicking stunts, then “ask” for “donations.” Many of their kicks come close to the heads of the riders who are forced to sit through these “entertainments.”

And there is always the risk that the “entertainers” might turn violent if they feel they aren’t getting enough “compensation” for their unasked-for “performance.” 

But there are usually no guards on any BART train. And, even if there were, there are no “panic buttons” whereby threatened riders could secretly summon such aid.

According to the latest (2018) BART Uniform Crime Reporting data, violent crime increased 57% between 2013 and 2017. Robberies make up most of the reported crimes—up nearly 40% since 2013. Cell phone thefts are defined as robberies.

“He was standing in front of me just looking, and I could see his gun in his jacket,” crime victim Daniel Mendez recalled. “I was surrounded. They took everything. There was nothing you could do…They’re doing that because there’s no police presence.”

He swore he would never again ride BART.

Image result for Images of broken handcuffs

Adding to the lack of police on BART trains: Most of the vaunted “security cameras” on BART trains don’t work.

Of course, high-ranking transit officials—who almost never ride public transit—disagree. 

“Transit is very safe,” claims Polly Hansen, speaking for the American Public Transportation Association. “When you have low numbers, a slight increase will look like a large percentage. Transit doesn’t operate in isolation. It’s going through, above and around communities and you really have to analyze crime in those communities to look at the crime you’re having.” 

The BART Board of Directors is comprised of nine elected officials from the nine BART districts. Each of them earns an average of $96,110. They can well afford to use private autos—even limousines—instead of public transit. 

Only when BART officials are held directly—and financially—responsible for the disgraceful conditions in BART stations and aboard BART trains will there be any hope for long-overdue reforms.

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