Human waste shuts down BART escalators

When work crews pulled open a broken BART escalator at San Francisco's Civic Center Station last month, they found so much human excrement in its works they had to call a hazardous-materials team.

While the sheer volume of human waste was surprising, its presence was not. Once the stations close, the bottom of BART station stairwells in downtown San Francisco are often a prime location for homeless people to camp for the night or find a private place to relieve themselves.

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13 Responses:

  1. John Bloom says:

    I was surprised when I saw this on BoingBoing before you got a hold of it. Now balance is restored. Also: reason #342 to be terrified of escalators.

  2. pavel_lishin says:

    And people think New York is disgusting.

    At least our homeless have the decency to shit on the subway platform, where you can see it and step over it.

  3. Tom Lord says:

    It wasn't like this 15 or 20 years ago or even 10 and now its like this all over.

    It's lame that so far the main public policy response is "gee, what powers do the police lack?"

  4. Mark Atwood says:

    I see stuff like this, and I think "maybe, it would be just cheaper to give them free apartments". And then the more realistic part of me says "yeah, and half the people who need a free apartment will just shittrash it within a month, or else their friends will come visit and shittrash it, and now we still have a homeless person, AND a trashed apartment to pay for too".

  5. CJ says:

    What I don't get is why, knowing they have this problem, BART doesn't simply add a new gate at the top of the escalator. I guess this is one of those "there is no benefit to me to suggesting a solution" kind of things.

    • Lun Esex says:

      Every one of those escalators has a stairway next to it that's twice as wide as it is. A gate at the top of just the escalator would do nothing. Most of these underground entrances are about 12 feet wide. The whole structure is about 3 feet high and 30 to 40 feet long. Fully blocking them off at night would take some kind of big cage or surrounding bars or something. A single gate could be bypassed easily by hopping the low 3 foot sides. Fully blocking the entrances off would probably be very ugly, and very expensive for each one; especially considering the city government contractor/bureaucracy/etc. overhead bullshit.

      Blocking them off was my first thought, too, and as I read the article I kept expecting the idea to be brought up, with similar points to the above as to how expensive and ugly it would be.

      I still think it'd be the proper solution, but I don't think city government tends to think properly long-term enough about things like this. As in: The cost would probably be similar to 15-20 years of maintenance, and not only would every city official now in office be gone by then, they're even likely to be gone before the whole up-front expensive project to fully lock up the entrances at night is completed.

      Instead we get things like completely unnecessary new "Wave" bus shelters, in place of existing fully functional ones. (The old ones were actually more functional at actually giving shelter from rain and wind than the new ones. And it's not like that made them all that more attractive to homeless people, who prefer sleeping in better-sheltered building doorways anyway.)

      Oh, and the cost of a few more public toilets for people to use would probably be less than the cost of locking down every underground entrance at night (since if they're going to do any at all, naturally they'd want to go ahead and do all of them, even though there's only maybe three intersections where it's really a problem), but even the suggestion of that is probably considered to be political suicide.

      Final note: Public. Outdoor. Escalators. See, there's your problem right there. Leaving complicated, expensive machinery exposed to the public after hours for people to fuck that shit up (and in this case, shit that fuck up). Everyone else puts that kind of thing behind doors that are locked after hours.

      • Lun Esex says:

        Oh yeah, and while BART operates the escalators, the entrances are also access to underground Muni stations downtown, so it's a combined city/BART thing. BART would probably point fingers at the city for the cost of securing the entrances at night. It may even be that the city has jurisdiction over the aboveground parts of the structures downtown. The city would probably point fingers at BART because they're the ones who own and operate the escalators (and ignore the fact that Muni passengers use them too).

  6. latemodel says:

    Turns out, once upon a time, BART had to settle a lawsuit on the basis that the filthiness of their elevators discriminated against persons with disabilities.

  7. I've been climbing the stairs by that escalator daily since, I think, November. My question is, how much shit does it take to make repairing the escalator take a year? You could have autoclaved each individual part by now.

    My other question is, why not reopen the fucking bathrooms? It has to be cheaper to hose them down every night than pay the repair team for eight months and counting. Security, my ass - that's the illusion we pay the BART cops to shoot people for.

    Ok, done ranting.