Oooooo, BART’s in trouble. The San Francisco Bay Area subway system has long been my archenemy. It’s not that I have anything against mass transit—I’m dependent on it and sincerely wish we had more of it. It’s just that BART is both ridiculously low functioning and outright hostile to its riders. Their draconian move last week to quash protests by turning off cell phones is no surprise to me, nor is their indignant defense of their actions. This is just business as usual for BART, and it’s time they are held accountable. Now that they are—finally—under fire, while we’re at it, can I air out a couple complaints?
- They shoot their passengers. Repeatedly. And get away with it. Repeatedly. Most of this list is quibbles, so I’m just going to get this one out of the way at the start. In 2009, BART police shot an unarmed young man execution-style while he was face down on the platform. They more recently shot a drunk old man and refuse to release any details about the incident. I think it’s generous to say that BART cops are ill equipped to deal with the public, yet they continue to carry around guns.
- They shut down at midnight. Even on weekends. It’s a wide bay to cross, and there are no carless ways to traverse it late at night besides a $50 cab or an hourly, limited bus. So if you go across the Bay for the evening, you’d better make sure you’re on that train by 12. Again, even on weekends. This leaves people no option but to drunkenly drive long distances when the bars close down. It would be interesting to see if there was any decrease in accidents involving drunk drivers if the trains started running a couple hours later. BART’s overly defensive excuse for their limited hours is that they need to close down to clean the train cars.
- Those cars they spend four hours cleaning every night? Yeah, they’re carpeted. At least I think that’s carpet under that thick layer of black crust. Their seats are upholstered (somebody needs to let the bedbugs know about this) and when impacted, they release huge clouds of ancient dust. This supposed plushness is one of BART’s attempts to be something snootier than a mass-transit system. BART, if you need a consultant, you know where to find me. Let me start with this shocker: In high-traffic situations, non-wipeable surfaces are really hard to maintain.
- Another BART luxury is the LED signs they have in their stations. These scrolling signs will tell you to keep an eye on your backpack and to alert BART police if you see suspicious activity (suspicious activity such as, say, BART police?). They also let you know when the next Giants game is and what’s currently playing at the opera. Only rarely, though, will you catch a glimpse of when your train is due. Just one more clue that the system’s engineers either didn’t give a fuck or didn’t have the practical knowledge of one who frequents public transit.
- Their bathrooms are closed. At probably 80% of their stations, BART has decided to stop maintaining their bathrooms. Their reason, according to their LED signs: you guessed it, security. This means that after riding a 45-minute train, you might have to end up pissing on their luxurious carpet.
Now that BART has joined the likes of Visa and the Church of Scientology as targets of Anonymous, I’m hoping for some validation. I mean, I’ve spent years complaining to my loved ones about BART’s general shittiness. My dream is that the spotlight they’re now in will grow more and more unflattering, and their management will one day soon be forced into disarming BART police, running later, ensuring the public they won’t again infringe on first-amendment rights, and re-opening their damn bathrooms!