BART Directors: Maybe We Don't Need a Cell Shutdown Policy

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(San Francisco – KALW) After asking its newly-appointed Citizen Review Board to consider guidelines for a cell-phone shutdown policy, the BART board of directors yesterday raised the possibility that such a policy might not be needed after all.

"I think we can slow down a bit at this point," said director Joel Keller. "Let's make sure this is properly vetted."

BART has been under scrutiny since it shut off in-station cell phone service to thwart a planned protest last month (and has, somewhat ironically, dealt with near-weekly protests since). Responding to public outcry, the board asked its civilian reviewers to develop potential guidelines for taking such actions in the future.

At yesterday's meeting, review board chair George Perezvelez reported some of their ideas, including one requirement that service could only be shut off in the case of an extreme threat to public safety, and another that three of four agency authorities – the BART police chief, the agency general manager, the board president, and legal counsel – agree that such a step is warranted.

Still, said Perezvelez, the review board's suggestions are right now just that. "It is ultimately your responsibility to make this decision," he told the board.

After the meeting, board president Bob Franklin said he was surprised at his colleagues' suggestion that clear guidelines might not be necessary. "I definitely think we need something," he said.

Board member Lynette Sweet said her priority was seeking public input. But alerting the public to the review board's work is slow going: they do not yet have a real web presence, and meetings only recently began to receive their own billing on the BART website – they were initially simply called "special committee".