Tuesday, May 14, 2013
After several pilot projects testing bike access on Bay Area Rapid Transit trains, BART officials recommended that bicycles be allowed on trains at all hours and in all stations. This would be a big change from the current rules under which riders can’t bring bikes on trains during peak commute hours or into the cramped 12th and 19th Street stations.
Friday, April 05, 2013
Rising ridership and sales tax revenues on San Francisco's BART system mean the agency is no longer operating at a deficit, which has triggered labor negotiations that could give union workers their first raise in four years.
BART contracts for its union workers – who make up almost 90 percent of BART’s over 3,000 employees– are set to expire on June 30th. And that has sent BART and union leaders to the negotiating table. Both sides are hoping to avoid the bitter and contentious fight that happened during the last contract negotiations in the summer of 2009.
But things were different in 2009. Ridership was declining, and the system was facing a $250 million deficit over the next four years. BART went into negotiations with the goal of cutting $100 million in labor costs through reductions in health care and pensions, and changing what they considered “wasteful” work rules, like unnecessary overtime. A last-minute deal that kept wages static, prevented a strike by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, or ATU – the union that represents the system’s approximately 900 station agents and train operators.
That deal did save BART the $100 million it wanted and laid out plans for four of the five unions and non-union employees to get a one percent raise if strict guidelines were met, including increased ridership and sales tax revenues. This week, BART announced the guidelines have been met, so most of their employees will be receiving their first raise in since 2009.
“With record ridership and an aging system, our employees are working hard to provide on-time, reliable service for our riders,” BART General Manager Grace Crunican said in a press release. “The bar was set high for our employees to receive this increase and the predefined standards were met.”
Since 2009, BART has increased its ridership – from 340,000 to over 390,000 in the latest monthly report. And it’s no longer operating on a deficit, but the system does have a $10 billion unfunded capital need for renovation and expansion projects.
“This year’s labor negotiations will be focused on bargaining a fair contract for our hard working employees as well as ensuring the long term financial health and sustainability of our system,” Crunican said.
BART says they’re looking at the same issues as last negotiation: employee health care, pensions, and work rules.
“We must pave the way for BART to continue to be the backbone of Bay Area transportation for decades to come,” Crunican said. “BART is looking to protect its future fiscal stability with measures to more effectively share the risks and costs associated with its employee benefits program.”
Antonette Bryant is the president of ATU Local 1555. She said calling last negotiation contentious was “a gross understatement.” But this time, she said, she wants to have the contract settled June 30th.
“We want them to pay a fair wage for our employees and increase safety and service for the BART patrons,” Bryant said. Meaning, they want a pay raise.
Bryant also said the one percent raise announced this week should not be considered as the transit workers’ only salary increase.
“I want to make it clear that this is not benevolent,” she said. “This is something they have to do. They owe us the money from the previous contract negotiations.”
As negotiations go on, both parties hope to have a deal by June 30th and to prevent the fighting that happened four years ago.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Usually, bikes aren’t allowed on San Francisco-bound BART trains during peak morning commute hours, or back to the East Bay in the evening. And they’re not allowed in the 19th Street or 12th Street stations during commute hours at all. But this week, BART has opened up all hours and stations to bikers. It’s a trial period, and to make it work, BART officials and cycling groups are urging to riders follow the rules: no bikes on the first three cars during peak hours, and no bikes on crowded trains. The transit agency has also produced an explanatory video about the pilot program.
Robert Raburn is on the BART board of directors, where he represents parts of Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda. I ran into Raburn as he was wheeling his own bike around the station, making sure everything was going smoothly. He said he was excited to see how things go this week– but that people have to be patient.
“The reality is that in many cases we’re not going be able to open the floodgates and allow hundreds more bikes on any one train," he said. "That won’t work. We’re asking all bicyclists to use common sense and courtesy.”
At least this morning, the common-sense approach seemed to be working. In the hours I rode the train –- from 7:00 to 8:30 -– I didn’t see anyone shoving their bikes onto a packed car.
It seemed like what hadn’t been working was the ban. I talked with John Dillon at the 19th Street station– a station that usually doesn’t allow bikes during peak hours.
“Usually I ride my bike to a station that’s about two (stops) further away and then illegally put it on a train I’m not allowed to ride and try to keep it out of people’s way. But I have to get to work,” he explained.
When I talked to him, Dillon had just let a crowded train pass by. He said he always waits for a car with more room -- even if it means missing two or three trains.
Keith McKinnon takes BART from El Cerrito Plaza to Embarcadero every day. He said he regularly sees bikes on trains they’re not supposed to be on, but it doesn’t bother him. When I asked him if bikes ever make the train too crowded, he shook his head.
“No, the bicyclers usually stay out of people’s way,” he said. “They’re usually off on the side. So no."
Of course, not everyone flaunts the ban– I talked to plenty of people who were excited to finally board with their bikes. Ronnie Haning said that’s why he took BART today.
“I like riding my bike on the weekends,” he said. “Why not, you know, commute for a week?”
BART’s already updating cars to make more space for bikes. The fleet will be fully modified by June. After this week, BART officials will meet with community members, and survey commuters to decide whether they want to get rid of the bike ban for good.
Thursday, March 07, 2013
Public transportation costs are set to rise in the Bay Area, a region with some of the most congested freeways and longest commute distances in the country.
Last week, BART directors voted to pass a scheduled increase for ride fares and parking fees. These increases are designed to be small and incremental and to rise with inflation. The first fare hike will happen on January 1st, 2014 and will raise prices by 5.2 percent. That means the average ride will go from $3.59 to $3.78. Further fare increases will be implemented every two years until 2020.
In a BART press release, board president Tom Radulovich said the increases are necessary to keep the system up to date and make improvements going forward.
“These small increases are an important part of BART’s financial health, especially as we face a $10 billion unfunded capital need,” he said. “We want our passengers to know we don’t make decisions like this without great consideration."
That $10 billion is supposed to go to long-term BART projects like extensions to Livermore and Silicon Valley, a BART/Oakland Airport connector train, and to build enough new train cars to replace the system’s aging fleet.
BART fares went up most recently last July, when the minimum ticket price was upped to $1.75 and the average fare increased by five cents. That increase was part of a series of four small inflation-based fare hikes that started in 2006. This new round of increases is a continuation of that same program.
The directors also approved a plan to increase parking fees. While the ride fare increase had little opposition, raising the parking fees was a much more contentious issue. East Bay directors had argued that the increase was unfair because it affects their constituents disproportionately. Most of the BART parking lots are in the East Bay, where commuters often drive long distances just to get to a station.
Currently, most stations parking lots cost $1 a day and some are free (except the crowded West Oakland lot, which costs $5). Under the new parking program, all stations will cost at least $1 a day, and each lot will be evaluated to determine how often it fills to capacity. The stations that are more crowded will be subject to a 50 cent increase every six months. Some stations parking lots could end up costing as much as $3 a day.
Kevin Melanephy is a regular commuter on BART. He parks in the El Cerrito Del Norte station in the East Bay every day to get to work. While he may not like the fee hikes, there’s not much he can do about it.
“I still have to go to work,” he said. “So I’ll have to pay whatever.”
BART officials say they had to raise parking fees because the under the current system, the revenue doesn’t cover the maintenance costs for the parking lots. It costs BART $21.7 million per year to run the parking lots, which includes security, lighting, and cleaning. Parking revenues currently cover $15.6 million of that. The new parking fees will be used to close that gap and to repair stations.
“Many of our aged stations are in desperate need of upgrades and improvements,” Radulovich said. “This new money will go towards projects such as escalator and elevator reliability, improved lighting, more secured bike parking, shuttle programs, better drop-off areas, and other improvements to stations and access.”
Buoyed by a recent survey where 70% of riders said the system was a good value for the money, officials remain confident that people will continue to turn to BART, even with the price increases.
Thursday, December 06, 2012
(Jon Brooks -- San Francisco, CA - KQED) The Alameda County Transportation Commission has called off the partial recount of votes on Measure B1, which lost in the squeakiest of squeakers this election. The measure, which needed a two-thirds majority, fell just 0.14 percent shy -- about 700 votes out of 350,000 cast.
B1 would have doubled the county's transportation sales tax to one cent in order to raise almost $8 billion for transportation projects over 30 years.
Arthur Dao, executive director of the ACTC, told us today that the partial recount focused on precincts that had shown both the highest level of support and also a high number of undervotes for B1, all in Berkeley. Yesterday's recount examined about 28,000 ballots, with just seven additional yes votes found, Dao said. "That's a very small number statistically to get us to the 750-800 yes ballot we'd need to get us to the two-thirds threshold."
Dao said the cost of the recount was under $8,000.
Plans are in the works for another measure, he said. "We will be regrouping, remobilizing, and rethinking with the objective of going back to the voters."
The county's current half-cent transportation sales tax expires in 2022. Last week, Dao cited inadequately paved streets, cuts in AC Transit bus service, and increased demand for transportation in the face of requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as pressing projects that need to be addressed by the county.
Read more over at KQED.
Monday, November 26, 2012
According to the story, "Yarn bombing is an art form involving outdoor installations, covering existing urban objects with yarn, and adding color, coziness, and a handmade touch to urban landscapes."
Friday, October 19, 2012
Last week, my time was bookended by two weekend conferences. The first was in the Chicago suburbs, the second in Baltimore.
I live in Oakland, California, and the prospect of flying back and forth to California in between conferences seemed both ridiculous and exhausting. So instead, I decided to stay east, visiting friends in New York City and Poughkeepsie for a few days before heading on to Baltimore.
This made for a logistically complex week of getting around. All in all, door-to-door, I used 15 discrete transportation systems to shuttle between five different cities. It sounds like a giant hassle -- but as a transportation reporter, it was great. I loved every minute of it.
I started my journey on a 4:30am BART train ($2.25) to the Oakland Coliseum. It was one of the first trains of the day—BART doesn’t run overnight, much to the chagrin of many Bay Area residents. It also doesn’t yet run all the way to the Oakland Airport (that’s coming soon). So from the Coliseum station, I transferred to a BART airport shuttle bus ($3 in exact change). The process is a little murky unless you’re a local, and I ended up explaining how it worked to several bleary eyed travelers. I even gave one guy a dollar bill just so he could board the bus before it left.
Even at the crack of dawn, the security line at the airport snaked through all the pylons and into baggage claim. I made it through with just enough time to make my flight to Chicago. Got a window seat (my favorite), and watched the sun rise over the beautiful bridges of the Bay before we burst above the cloud layer.
Once in Chicago, I met up with some fellow conference attendees and we split a cab to the distant suburb where the conference was being held ($22 each + tip). On the fare sign in the back of the cab we noticed a special charge—a $50 “vomit clean-up fee.” Must be rough driving a cab in Chicago.
Several days later, it was time to head on to NYC. This time, I caught a ride to the airport in a Town Car driven by a guy with a long ponytail named Kenny ($50 cash + tip). He called me a couple hours before he picked me up just to say hi. We had a little time before my flight, and I hadn’t really seen anything at all in Chicago, so he drove me through some of the neighborhoods where he grew up, past his high school and family church, and then cruised along Lakeshore Drive, while he told me about the water pumping stations out in the lake and gave change to every single stoplight panhandler we encountered. “There but for the grace of God,” said he.
The flight from Chicago to LaGuardia was uneventful (dimmed lights and a hushed cabin) -- as was my late-night cab ride to Brooklyn ($35 + tip).
The next day I took the F train into Manhattan ($2.25) and strolled the beautiful High Line for the first time. In the afternoon, I went to Grand Central Terminal, where I took the audio tour of the station ($7— and by the way, radio producers, we could make that tour so much better!) and got a great shoeshine ($7+tip) before boarding the 4:45 Metro-North train to Poughkeepsie ($36 RT). Traveling alongside the Hudson, looking at fiery red maples and crumbling architecture, I noticed that many of the conductors and passengers were on a first name basis.
Listen: Metro-North conductor
After a night and day in Poughkeepsie, I headed back to the city -- this time to Penn Station, where I was due to catch an Amtrak train to Baltimore ($70). I loved Penn Station. I arrived in the morning to a cacophony of newspaper vendors calling and singing to us as we streamed into the station. “Good morning, everybody! Get your AM New York right here. Read all about it. Buenos días, mami. AM New York!” (Editor's note: Penn Station doesn't usually inspire such affection -- but some people can find the hidden pockets of grace there.)
Listen: audio from Penn Station
Grabbed my one and only cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee (one cream, two sugars), and hopped on board the train to Charm City. Out the windows, I watched the compressed East Coast fly by—Manhattan, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore. Next stop Washington DC.
Took a cab from Baltimore’s Penn Station to my hotel ($14 + tip), and was immediately swept off my feet by the nicest cab driver ever, who told me about growing up in a freezing cold basement and never wanting to get out from under the covers in the morning to go to school. Note: no vomit fees in Baltimore.
A couple days later, and it was time for more travel. Took the Baltimore Light Rail ($1.60) to the airport for my flight home to Oakland, where my kind next-door neighbor picked me up in his car and drove me home (free). As cliché as it sounds, my week really was all about the journey.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
(With reporting from Pat Bradley, WAMC) Earlier this week, New York MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and NYC Transit President Tom Prendergast made a 300 mile pilgrimage north to a place of significance to city transit riders: the Bombardier manufacturing plant in Plattsburgh, New York.
"My understanding is two-thirds of all the equipment that's been made here has actually shown up at either the New York City Transit Authority, or the Long Island Rail Road, or Metro-North," said Lhota.
And that trend will continue: in June, the MTA signed a $600 million contract with Bombardier to build 300 new subway cars. Those cars are in the design phase and will be delivered to NYC in 2015.
Lhota told reporters that while he toured the facility, he paid attention to the little details. "When I was on the train that's being built for NJ Transit," he said, "I was noticing they put little coat racks behind each one of the chairs, where someone could put a coat or a sweater, or put their purse -- that's a great little feature."
He also took the opportunity to point out that what's good for downstate transit is good for upstate.
"Whenever I go to Albany, and I want to talk about the MTA -- for those folks who are not from the New York metropolitan area, they're going to say 'well, why should we care about the MTA?'" Lhota recounted. "Most of what we spend on our capital program -- the billions of dollars that we spend on new cars, on rails -- most, not all of it, but a huge majority of it, is made in New York State....we need the product, we help people up here get the jobs."
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Around 250,000 people use Market Street every day— and in every way. They take the bus, ride BART, walk to work, shop... even live.
In 2016, the entire road, between Octavia and the Embarcadero, will be torn up and repaved. So city planners figure it’s the perfect time to reshape and re-imagine San Francisco’s main drag.
San Francisco’s transportation director Ed Reiskin says it’s a good opportunity for the city to do more than pour concrete.
“If we're going to go through the expense and disruption to repair the surface and infrastructure of Market Street, let's not just put it back the way it was, let's really fix it,” Reiskin says.
The Department of Public Works is in charge of the project. They’re working with a variety of city and county agencies to draw up a set of plans that balance the practical needs of the street with the vision of a wide variety of stakeholders.
The public is a part of the process, too -- the most recent public meeting was standing room only.
On the table is everything from a total ban on private cars to dedicated bike lanes; from fewer MUNI stops to more sidewalk cafes and parklets. The city anticipates the redesign to cost around $250 million. Funding for repaving is already in place.
I went out to Market to ask some of the people behind these ideas about their vision for the street.
At the corner of 3rd and Market, map-wielding tourists shiver in shorts and tank tops. A man sits on the sidewalk with his dog. The sign in his lap says ‘Anything helps.’ Throngs of office workers walk right by him, eyes fixed intently on the screens of their smartphones. Bikes squeeze in between buses and the curb, dodging taxis and delivery trucks.
Up ahead I see Mohammed Nuru. He’s the director of Public Works in San Francisco. He’s agreed to meet me here to talk about the street. “It's a pretty busy intersection, as you can see,” says Nuru. “It's busy all the time from about 7 o'clock in the morning until almost 10 o'clock at night.”
Standing next to him is Kris Opbroek. She manages the Better Market Street project.
“I think Market Street is the city's Main Street in a sense. I think it always has been, actually,” she says. “I think its identity is our parade ground, and our real civic space is still here. I think where it falls short a bit is in the day to day use.”
Nuru and Opbroek spend their days watching this street. They’re overseeing Market’s redevelopment. And they’re trying to pin down what is, and isn’t, working here.
Traffic is a big issue. Right now private cars, taxis, delivery trucks, paratransit, and bikes all share the road with streetcars and buses.
Leah Shahum is the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Her office is at 5th and Market. She says another thing on people’s minds is how to make Market safer and more inviting for bicyclists. Bike riding is on the rise, and Market is most used bike corridor in the city.
“I talk to a lot of people who are confident riders. They're people who bike elsewhere in the city,” Shahum says. “They’re adults who really are comfortable bicycling, but they say, ‘Wow, I don't want to bike on Market Street because I'm really scared about it.’”
Right now, most of the bike lanes on Market are painted lines on narrow pieces of pavement shared with buses and trucks and cars. Only about six blocks of the street have a physically separated bike lane.
“What we hear from people is: ‘Wow, for those six blocks, I feel calm, I feel safe, I feel comfortable. This works,’” Shahum says.
She wants that kind of comfort to extend the along the entire length of Market Street.
But the road isn’t just for wheels.
Elizabeth Stampe is the executive director for Walk San Francisco. She says that, ultimately, everyone is a pedestrian. Her office is a block from Shahum’s, at 6th and Market.
“This is the place where the most pedestrians have been hit by cars in the whole city,” she says, as we stand at the busy intersection. “And you can see it's a long crossing for folks with wheelchairs and canes, of whom there are many right here. You don't really get enough time.”
Stampe says that expanding the sidewalks at corners like this would help shorten the time it takes for pedestrians to get across the street and slow down the cars fighting to get through the intersections.
Making it safer to cross the street or ride a bike might seem obvious. But there’s always a trade-off. Solving one problem creates another problem somewhere else, or else pushes it a block farther down the road.
“Market Street is a special street,” says Stampe. “It's the spine of the city. And it's a gathering spot. It’s also a little bit magnetic. Both in the sense that it attracts people, but some parts of it still repel people.”
She says the corner where she works is a good example of Market’s confused identity. “It’s about a block from the mall, but it could be a world away.”
She compares the blocks along Market to islands in a stream. In this case, one island is the upscale shopping and tourist district around Powell Street. The next is lined with abandoned storefronts. Many people are either homeless and living on the street, or live in tiny rooms in nearby SRO hotels.
San Francisco’s transportation director, Ed Reiskin, works a few blocks away at Market and Van Ness. We walked through the Civic Center and talked about the street.
“For a lot of people, this is their living room and it should continue to serve that function,” he says. “If you or I had that space, we would also want to spend more time outside than inside.”
The city estimates that about 6,000 people are without shelter on any given night in San Francisco––many on Market Street.
“There may be some undesirable activity, some criminal activity, or unsafe situations that the city wants to address regardless of what happens design-wise on Market Street,” says Reiskin. “But I don't think we want to lose the character of Market Street or push anyone off of it. We want to make it a nice place for more people to be in.”
During the day the street has different feelings. Some new businesses have moved in, joining art spaces like the Luggage Store. But compared to the bustle just a few blocks away, the street here feels empty.
At Market and Van Ness, traffic hits the city from both major bridges. It’s a gateway to San Francisco – but instead of a grand monument marking the spot, there’s a car wash and a donut shop.
“It's not just infrastructure,” says Reiskin. “It's not just design. It's economic development. It's economic vitality. So I think there's more to it than just how we lay out the streets and how we paint the lines.”
That economic vitality is an important ingredient in a complex process. Money for repaving the street is in place. But coming up with the $250 million this project is expected to cost still has to be worked out. Back at 3rd and Market, Mohammed Nuru says some of that money could come from businesses that stand to benefit from the street’s upgrade.
“We’re bringing the right partners onto Market Street, bringing the Twitters in, bringing the new businesses in, bringing the restaurants in, all that adds to the vitality of a street,” Nuru says. “And they contribute and they partner with us, so together we’ll try to figure out what the bill will look like.”
Ultimately, though, the project isn’t just about the street’s physical condition––it’s about its character. And that’s a big part of what city officials are considering as they re-imagine Market. What does the street mean, and what should it be?
Nuru says it’s a great opportunity to think big. “I think what this process has done is woken everybody up and made them say, ‘Wow if I had an idea, this is the time to get it in because it could happen.’”
Another public meeting is planned for the fall. Get there early—it’s likely to be standing room only.
For more information on the Better Market Street project, click here.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
You can listen to the audio version of this story below:
(Nicole Jones -- San Francisco, KALW) In a conference room at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police headquarters in downtown Oakland, a DVD plays a scenario. The screen shows a woman, and she’s really angry. She’s just been locked out of her house after finding out her husband is cheating on her.
“Goddamn it, this is my house, let me in," she shouts, cursing. "Are you cheating on me?” the woman yells furiously. “I hate you! Why are you doing this to me?”
Her aggression grows, quickly turning violent. She kicks one officer, and he falls to the ground. An officer in the DVD tells the woman to drop the shovel, but the woman continues to yell.
Using a generic police training video -- BART doesn't have one oriented to transit police -- a handful of members of BART’s Citizen Review Board are trying to walk in the shoes of the police officers they monitor. BART Sergeant Marlon Dixon starts the discussion.
“You’re the officer on the scene, you went through that scenario, what do you think?” she asks. No one says anything. “Speechless?”
The Board debates and agrees, for the most part, that they wouldn’t really know what to do with someone so out of control.
“What about shooting her if she continued to approach?” Dixon asks. “This is happening like this. He’s got his officer. The officer could be seriously injured. What do you think?”
Some of the board members say they would shoot. But Citizen Review Board Member Bob White isn’t so sure. After all, the board emerged from public pressure to create greater oversight on the BART police after an officer fatally shot Oscar Grant in 2009.
“Although I know she has martial arts experience and I know the right answer would be shooting her, because she can use deadly force, she was unarmed, I couldn’t justify,” White says. “If he had a taser, I would use that first instead of using deadly force.”
BART police policies say that in this kind of situation, use of lethal force is legal. But Sergeant Dixon explains that there is more to it than just reading from the rule book.
“There’s a term that we use, ‘lawful, but awful.’” Dixon says. “It might be lawful per policy, per the law, but the public is going to tear into you because perception is everything.”
BART knows this first hand after two fatal officer-involved shootings in the last few years. A civilian oversight board is now responsible for hearing a wide range of alleged police misconduct cases at their meetings every month. With the help of a new, independent police auditor, they can recommend disciplinary action to the BART board of directors. The Citizen Review Board was created last March, but didn’t have its first meeting until after last July’s fatal officer-involved shooting of Charles Hill. The Hill case has been brought up at Citizen Review Board meetings, but they’re still far from having the investigation completed.
BART Officer Trainer Caroline Perea says having these training sessions for the Citizen Review Board should help them understand this and future incidents.
“We all thought that it was very important that they understand how we train and why we train and where we get our authority,” she says.
This training is just one on a long list of recommendations from an audit report by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement, or NOBLE. Along with civilian oversight, the 2010 report made recommendations about BART Police Department policies, tactics, hiring and investigations by comparing it to international law enforcement standards.
Community Service Officer Lauren LaPlante works in the department’s community-oriented policing unit.
“Any way that we are making the community more accessible to the police department,” she says, “whether it be the civilian review board, whether it be us going out to community meetings, I think we need to be engaging in all those practices.”
Community policing encourages law enforcement to partner with residents, businesses and local groups. She says community policing in the BART Police Department started in the mid-90s. But now they’re implementing a new model called zone policing. Zone policing breaks the current BART zones into five smaller areas. LaPlante says this makes it easier for lieutenants to manage crime trends and for police officers to get to know stations.
“This is a semi-new concept,” LaPlante says. “In terms of the community policing philosophy, it’s going to bring more accountability.”
On a recent Thursday morning, Officer Rick Martinez took up his zone assignment. That would be Zone 1, which includes the Rockridge and MacArthur BART stations.
Martinez has been with the agency for six years. “In my time, we’ve gone from an agency that essentially had no community relations,” he says. “There wasn’t that transparency.”
Before, Martinez says, people didn’t understand BART police’s mission. “We come into our station and take a look at who’s around and people stick out that are hanging out here because our stations are designed for a specific reason, we’re here to move people,” he says.
BART officers spend a lot of time walking around and being part of the community, Martinez says. They’re also there to help. As he walks, a man approaches Martinez and asks for directions to the DMV. Martinez points him in the right direction.
“So that’s another hat, directions,” he says. “I don’t like that hat. It’s really hard to know where everything is,” he laughs. “And just because you’re a cop doesn’t mean you know where everything is.”
There are also the tougher situations, like a fight between a station agent and an unhappy patron. The man had wanted to exit to smoke a cigarette and then re-enter the paid area. The station agent, he says, said “no” in a disrespectful way and now he’s angry. “Okay look, we’re in a public place and you can’t be cussing,” Martinez tells him. Martinez talks to him quietly in between listening to his problem.
“It’s just an argument, essentially,” Martinez says afterwards. “People are allowed to argue and vent their frustration. There’s not a crime for being mad, essentially.”
If the encounter was to turn violent and Martinez handled it differently, it may have ended up on the Citizen Review Board’s desk. Martinez says he’s okay with this kind of oversight.
“I don’t mind it,” he says. “It’s part of the job. It’s another check and balance that goes with police enforcement. Our agency hasn’t had it and to fall in line with every other agency in the modern time, it’s expected.”
The BART Citizen Review Board, along with the new community policing strategies, is still in development. But with recent incidents of questionable tactics still fresh in riders’ minds, their work is going to be under heavy scrutiny.
TN MOVING STORIES: Ray LaHood Says GOP Wants to "Emasculate" Transit, Tappan Zee Bridge Public Hearings This Week
Monday, February 27, 2012
Top stories on TN:
New Fears Over Revamped Transportation Bill (link)
Mitt and Ann Romney Drive Four Cars (Link)
NY Ports Chief Calls Docks Bastions of Discrimination, Vows Action (Link)
Federal Government Gets Child-Sized Crash Dummies (Link)
Florida Transportation Officials Plug Safety as Train Traffic Increases (Link)
NYC Officials Arrest More for Using Fake Parking Permits (Link)
The next round of public hearings for the Tappan Zee Bridge rebuild will happen this week in New York's Rockland and Westchester counties. (Poughkeepsie Journal)
Egypt delayed trial proceedings against a group of nonprofit workers --including Sam LaHood, son of transportation secretary Ray LaHood -- until April. (New York Times)
More New Yorkers are charging their cab rides. (Wall Street Journal)
Will gas prices continue to rise if the Keystone XL pipeline isn't built? (NPR)
Meanwhile: expect sales of fuel-efficient cars to increase if gas prices don't start dropping soon. (Marketplace)
One reason New York's MTA has an 82% fine collection rate: New York State will take the money out the tax refunds of scofflaws. (New York Daily News)
Los Angeles wants to kill a bus line in favor of light rail service, but advocates say the changes will negatively affect poor and minority communities. (Los Angeles Times)
Sex crimes are underreported on most transit systems, including San Francisco's BART -- where just 95 were documented last year. (Bay Citizen)
New York Times: U.S. should get on board with Europe's cap-and-trade plan for airline's carbon emissions. (Link)
Mitt Romney: "I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners." (The Hill)
London is putting its new Routemaster II buses into service -- to the delight of the Guardian's design columnist. (Link)
Paradise Parking: a series of photographs by Peter Lippmann of antique cars decaying in nature. Check out more gorgeous pictures at Laughing Squid.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
This year is BART’s 40th birthday. While some people swear that 40 is the new 30, when it comes to subway systems, 40 is just plain over-the-hill. About two-thirds of Bay Area Rapid Transit cars have been running the rails since the system opened, in 1972.
Paul Oversier is in charge of operations at BART. He says that because BART trains run long distances and at higher speeds than other subway systems, it gives the system a dubious distinction. “We have the oldest cars, and we run them the hardest,” he says.
It’s time for new trains. But building them won’t be cheap: BART estimates it will cost more than $3 billion to replace all 775 cars.
Right now, three companies are in the running to build the new fleet. One is in France, one is in South Korea, and third is in Canada.
Scott Haggerty is an Alameda County Supervisor who sits on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He’s not surprised that bids for the massive job are coming in from all over the world, but he doesn’t think the world should build BART’s cars.
“At a minimum, those cars should be built in the U.S.,” says Haggerty. “But that’s not even going to make me happy. Those cars should be built within the BART district.”
On paper, it makes sense. Building BART cars here would mean keeping those billions of dollars, and thousands of jobs, where BART riders actually live. According to BART’s Paul Oversier, there’s just one problem. “There haven’t been any domestic subway car builders in the United States for decades,” he says.
Oversier says even if BART wanted to give the contract to a U.S. company, they couldn’t do it – the last domestic company that built subway cars closed up shop in 1987. But, he says, that doesn’t mean no Americans will benefit from the project. “It's really a misnomer to say the cars are being built overseas,” he says. “They're being built in the United States, using American parts, using American workers. It just so happens that the corporation that’s operating that plant is an international corporation.”
To understand how this works, you need to know about a law known as “Buy America.” It’s been around since 1983.
Scott Paul is the executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, an industry group based in Washington DC. He says it doesn’t matter if a company is foreign or domestic, as long as the manufacture happens in the U.S.
“The idea is that through that taxpayer investment, we’ll be supporting jobs in this country as opposed to a place like China, for instance,” says Paul.
The idea of buying American has guided some of the country’s signature transportation projects. As far back as 1933, Congress required that federally financed construction projects use American materials.
“We’ve had this policy through the building of the interstate highway system,” says Paul. “Ronald Reagan actually expanded it to transit programs.”
Almost three-quarters of the money BART is using to pay for the new cars comes from the federal government. Under Buy America, that means whichever company gets the contract has to do at least 60% of that work in the U.S. But BART doesn’t get to decide where in the U.S. that work gets done––they have to go where the companies are. So while the cars could be built in California, BART can’t require that.
“There’s not an enormous demand for subway cars in the United States,” says Paul. “So it doesn’t make a lot of sense for several manufacturers to have a permanent presence when the market is so sporadic and limited to just a few big city agencies.”
Right now, none of the car builders BART is considering have plants in California. That’s what bothers Supervisor Scott Haggerty. He thinks agencies like BART should be able to use federal dollars to do their projects in-state––and to encourage companies to set up new plants here. Right now, that’s illegal.
“But who set that rule?” asks Haggerty. “When you say it’s illegal, that’s because Congress said it’s illegal. Congress can fix that.”
Last year, BART officials sponsored legislation in California allowing them to give extra weight to bids from foreign companies that exceed Buy America requirements.
So now the agency can legally reward companies that create more American jobs. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s no infrastructure to do the work in California.
Right now, the car builders BART is considering have plants in New York and Philadelphia. “But that’s not to say that they might not open a plant somewhere else,” says BART’s Paul Oversier. “It’s a big enough order that the economics might be such for the car builders that it might make sense, from a business standpoint, to open a plant somewhere else. But that bridge will be crossed later on.”
BART expects final bids on the new cars by the end of February. The agency hopes to make a final recommendation to the board in about six weeks.
TN MOVING STORIES: BART Extension To Silicon Valley Clears Hurdle, Edmonton Transit Riders to be Scanned for Explosives
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Top stories on TN:
A Whole New York City Borough Gets Real-time Bus Information (Link)
Lhota: Don’t Hate on the MTA (Link)
NY Gov Cuomo to NY Pols: I Don’t Have To Ask Your Permission To Build the Convention Center, But Let’s Work Together (Link)
Senator Dianne Feinstein Wants To Save CA High Speed Rail — As Republican Assemblywoman Tries to Kill It (Link)
The deal to extend BART to Silicon Valley is finally clearing its last major hurdle after a six-decade struggle -- and is likely to win $900 million in federal support. (San Francisco Examiner, Mercury News)
Status update: I'm driving right now! Mercedes-Benz USA is bringing Facebook to its cars. (Reuters)
Because it's become so popular, organizers have made some changes to New York's 5 Boro Bike Tour. (New York Times)
Transit riders in Edmonton will have their train tickets scanned for explosives. (Vancouver Sun)
Metro's proposed fare increase is infuriating riders. (Washington Post)
What happens when the NYC subway closes for repairs: workers work, and riders swear. (New York Times)
The new head of NY's MTA hates peeling paint. (NY Daily News)
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
New York is far from the only place where transportation can be turned into gift-giving gold. Looking for a locally harvested MUNI transfer button? A belt made out of bicycle tires? A Decolonized Area Rapid Transit t-shirt? Look no further than the Bay Area.
It's where you can also purchase t-shirts inspired by the BART map....
...and note cards of the Bay Bridge:
Go ahead and cross that bridge into San Francisco, where a Sunset District crafter sells pro-transit pins:
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
For more than a year now, BART's board of directors has been discussing whether – and how – the system could stay open later. Right now the trains start their final runs at midnight, leaving many patrons scrambling to catch the last BART home, especially on the weekends. The board had been considering running later trains just one night a week. But last month they officially tabled that plan, voting to look at late night bus service instead.
In discussions about extending BART’s hours, one word comes up over and over again: maintenance. BART officials say closing the system for a few hours a night is crucial to keeping it working, especially as the cars age. KALW's Casey Miner went to find out what they actually do down there in the wee hours.
You can listen to the story here:
Friday, December 02, 2011
Top stories on TN:
Houston receives first-ever federal funds for light rail (link)
Democrats want stricter "made in America" rules for infrastructure projects. (Link)
John Mica could lose his seat under a redistricting proposal. (Link)
House leadership has put the brakes on a long-term transportation spending plan. (Washington Post)
The oil boom in North Dakota is straining small towns. (NPR)
DC Metro prepares to hike fares to close a budget gap. (Washington Post)
GM said it would buy back Volts from owners worried about battery fires. (New York Times)
The BART board voted to turn off cell phone service only in "the most extraordinary circumstances." (San Francisco Chronicle)
A New Jersey state assemblyman wants an investigation into the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's toll-hike discrepancy. (The Star-Ledger)
Thousands turned out for a New York City hearing on hydrofracking. (WNYC/Empire)
Friday video pick: watch as a video projection installation on the side of the Manhattan Bridge turns the structure into something resembling a portal to another dimension -- or a scene from the Matrix. (h/t Laughing Squid)
TN MOVING STORIES: Beverly Hills Wants To Stop Subway Under School, DOT Issues First Ever Tarmac Delay Fine, GM To Produce Pink Car
Monday, November 14, 2011
Top stories on TN:
Houston will require businesses to offer bike parking. (Link)
Bay Area bikers are getting free lights. (Link)
Reports of the death of the internal combustion engine have been greatly exaggerated. (Link)
Beverly Hills wants to stop Los Angeles from boring a subway tunnel under its high school. (AP)
It's Joseph Lhota's first day on the job as head of New York's MTA. (NY Daily News)
And: the MTA may shut down whole subway lines overnight next year as part of a massive work blitz. (NY Daily News)
Select Bus Service comes to New York's 34th Street. (WABC7)
The DOT slapped American Airlines with a $900,000 fine for tarmac delays -- the first ever. (Politico)
A new comic book teaches riders how to navigate San Francisco's transit system. (Greater Greater Washington)
Chicago's transit authority is threatening to reduce some suburban bus service if several Cook County commissioners follow through with a plan to cut funding. (WBEZ)
General Motors is producing its first pink car for the U.S. market. (Detroit Free Press)
TN MOVING STORIES: Staten Island Pols Oppose #7 to Secaucus, Late School Buses Spur Boston Mayor To Action, and Robert Moses Biopic Coming to HBO
Friday, October 28, 2011
Top stories on TN:
Rockland County residents: we want a new Tappan Zee, but we want transit, too. (Link)
LIRR scam could total $1 billion. (Link)
Bay Area seniors go back to school to learn public transit. (Link)
Red light cameras may prioritize money, not safety. (Link)
BART's board of directors tables talks on a cell phone ban. (San Francisco Chronicle)
As 25% of buses continue to arrive late two months into the school year, Boston's mayor orders oversight. (Boston Globe)
Pennsylvania's governor probably won't push for more transportation funding, despite a committee recommendation. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Could bike share come to Beirut? (Daily Star)
A Robert Moses biopic is coming to HBO. Now, who should play him? (Atlantic Cities)
Look! On the streets of Seattle! It's the sperm bike! (Seattle Post Intelligencer)
Thursday, October 27, 2011
KALW's newsmagazine, Crosscurrents, took a deep dive into Bay Area transportation issues yesterday. We dedicated an entire show to transit: Our reporters visited a senior citizens' transit school, sat down with BART's new general manager, and got inspired by fellow commuters with artist Brett Amory. Our host even narrated the show from buses and subways all over San Francisco!
Check out the whole show here, or listen to the stories individually below.
Senior Survival School
by Molly Samuel
Take a quick look around while on the bus or the subway, and you’ll notice that a lot of the people who depend on public transit are seniors. But not all seniors are that comfortable navigating the system. So at ages 70, 80, and 90, some seniors are going back to school.
San Francisco resident Fran Chan is 89. She gave up driving about three years ago because she was worried about getting into an accident. And though there are some places she doesn’t get to anymore, she says she doesn’t have many complaints about riding the bus. For one thing, she always gets a seat up front.
“It never fails, but I used to feel hurt,” she said, as she settled into a seat reserved for seniors on the bus she takes almost every day. “Old age is funny. It creeps up on you. All of the sudden, you look in a mirror, and my God, you’re old.”
Chan is independent, and public transit helps her stay that way. She can step outside her apartment and take the bus wherever she needs to go.
“Old people have to decide whether you’re going to stay alone or move into group housing,” said Chan. “And you vacillate. But I finally decided that I can’t go live with other older people.”
Chan’s not alone in her choice to live alone. According to the AARP, the vast majority of seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes rather than move into a retirement community. And in cities, that usually means taking public transit.
San Francisco’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees the regional Clipper transit card, counted nearly one and a half million rides by seniors just in August. And not everyone uses a Clipper card.
Fran Chan feels pretty comfortable using San Francisco’s buses, but not all seniors are so savvy. For them, there’s Senior Survival School.
Senior Survival School is a free program run by a San Francisco advocacy organization called Planning for Elders. They hold workshops on the challenges of navigating city living in senior centers around San Francisco. Today, they’ve brought in Matt West, who’s in charge of making sure Muni works for older people. He’s talking to about a dozen seniors who’ve gathered at a senior center to learn more about public transit.
“All our buses are accessible,” explains West. “They have the kneeler and the lift. Kneeler. Our state cars do have the little platforms that you can access from various locations.”
West answers questions from the crowd. Some are curious if the paratransit will take them to a 49ers game (the answer is yes). Others complain that other passengers won’t give up their seats to seniors, which is required.
“That’s the bind we’re in, because we’re trying to legislate people being polite” says West, explaining that MUNI plans to address the lack of seats and space for seniors with walkers and canes when they purchase new buses.
Since the number of seniors riding MUNI is only going up, city planners are looking at some long-term ideas as well as short-term fixes like creating smaller community routes that serve particular neighborhoods. But tight budgets mean there are trade-offs.
“A lot of the issues we see coming up are recently the cuts in services,” said Sarah Jarmon, the director of Senior Survival School. “Last year there was a 10% cut in the lines.”
Jarmon said that the elimination of stops is one of the biggest problems seniors face. But it’s also not the only one. For one thing, it can be scary to get on a bus. Jarmon said many seniors are afraid of falling.
“People get pushed around a lot on the bus. They’re not seated before they take off.”
James Chionsini, from the Senior Survival School, says another problem is that buses don’t always stop.
“It happens all the time,” he said. “I’ve seen them pass people up. And a crowded bus is going to be a missed bus for someone in a wheelchair.”
Seniors in the East Bay face many of the same challenges as their San Francisco peers. Cuts in service, for instance, are an ongoing issue. But there are also some more fundamental challenges. For one thing, the East Bay’s bigger. San Francisco’s Muni has about 5,000 stops and AC Transit in the East Bay has about 6,000. But Muni only has to serve about 47 square miles while AC Transit covers over 360 square miles. In short: almost the same number of stops, but AC Transit is much more spread out.
East Bay resident Jackie Rocket grew up riding public transportation in Oakland. She could get almost anywhere she wanted to go on buses and streetcars. Now, things are different. She lives in the more suburban city of Fremont, and drives just about everywhere.
“Practically speaking,” she said. “If the time comes that I can no longer safely use my car, then I’ll have to give up driving.
To prepare for that day, she’s attending Transit Training, a course similar to Senior Survival School sponsored by the city of Fremont. Unlike the seniors in the San Francisco class, who are for the most part familiar with Muni, most students in this class don’t ride the bus that often. In this more suburban, car-friendly city, they still drive. So a big part of what they’re learning is just the basics of how to navigate subways and the bus system.
Rocket, along with the other seniors participating in the class, has very specific reasons for being here.
“Seniors need to know these things,” she said. “When you sit down, when it says you’re retired. You sit down at home, your muscles atrophy, your heart goes and then you die. So by going and doing as much as you possibly can, it helps you keep getting younger.”
But her route isn’t as easy as Fran Chan’s in San Francisco. While she’s game to ride AC Transit, the closest stop to her house isn’t close enough.
“Where I would have to go would be one, two, three, three blocks before I got to a bus stop. Long blocks, not short ones. And that would be impossible for me.”
Transportation for America, a national advocacy group based in Washington D.C., projects that by 2015, 65,000 seniors won’t have adequate access to public transit in Oakland. In San Francisco, it’s 34,000. And that’s just two cities.
As James Chionsini from Planning for Elders points out, economics and politics aside, one thing’s for sure, “The old folks are coming right now,” he said. “So get ready, know what I mean? Because they’ll run you down if you’re not prepared.”
BART's New General Manager Goes Back to the Basics
by Casey Miner
In many ways, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, the region’s subway system) is the backbone of the Bay Area’s transit system. But in recent months the transit agency has dealt with a number of challenges, especially following the highly-publicized departure of former general manager Dorothy Duggar. BART’s new general manager, Grace Crunican has been on the job for just under two months. And she’s already taking on a number of major issues facing the agency, from heavy criticism of its police force to questions about how it will fund much-needed improvements to its aging cars.
KALW’s Casey Miner sat down with Crunican and asked her how she’s been getting up to speed.
GRACE CRUNICAN: I've tried to meet with as many people as I can. I've been out on the platforms once a week, at least, meeting the riders. I think those are the most important we serve, the costumers. Riders want good service, they want reliability. I've actually heard some very good things from the riders about the service, the predictability of it. Everyone’s interested in the new cars and getting good cushions and getting rid off the carpet on the floors that's been a pretty uniform message people have sent.
CASEY MINER: Were you expecting people to be so invested in the cushions and the seats and the carpets?
CRUNICAN: Absolutely, I think when you talk to riders or users of your system it's good you get that kind of input. They talk about what they care about and that's what they care about.
MINER: So in terms of your priorities for BART going forward, what would you say would be your top three things on your lists?
CRUNICAN: Well I want to deal with some of the issues from the past that got us into the soup and we're dealing with the cell phone policy. We'll be dealing with the journalist issue, some of those things, just taking things head on. I am a really straight-forward gal so we want to deal with the past. And then responding to costumers and getting them a good return on their value…
And then the community at large – I think BART needs to be a little bit more supportive of the communities it serves, so each station really is a focal point for folks, and those stations can respond a little bit better to the communities that's there. Some of the stations that I've looked at could be anywhere; they don't have color and vibrancy and reach out to the community. So we have a vide variety of communities we serve in the Bay Area, and a little less uniformity in structure, and maybe a little bit more outreach, even in color and cleanliness and the neighborliness that the stations provide.
I'll give you one example: I went to the 16th Street Mission District station in San Francisco, and there was lovely color around the station but we had those cyclone fences around the palm trees that are there. Maybe that was to protect the palm trees, but it really took away from the art that the community had put forward. So if we could be a little bit better neighbor and understand we are not all about infrastructure, but we're about the community, I think that would be a step ahead.
Having said that, when I talked to the commuters they were really all about the service to start with, and so I want to make sure we aren’t giving up that reliable service, and we're focused on the cars and car replacement and the elevators and the escalators. So we are about infrastructure but we could also be about community.
MINER: I just wanted to ask you in a little bit more in detail: In terms of some of the protest going on in the Charles Hill shooting showing that some of the review of the police department and oversight procedures – auxiliary ways that BART deals with journalists… How are you approaching these problems and what do you see your role as in kind of jumping into this?
CRUNICAN: Well let's take the police for example. There's a noble report, I've read parts of it and I am in the process of reading all of it. That report lays out some activities that the police need to follow, training protocols that needs to happen, reporting protocols that need to happen. So I am going through that report with the chief and finding out what we're doing and what we're on target with.
We had a hearing in Sacramento we explained that to the assembly that were gathered there: The representatives and what we're trying to do now is that we walk through and try to make sure that we're on top of that and even ahead of it if you will.
Let's take the case of the journalists: Some of the ones that were detained were students, and this is to the credit of the communications department. They are reaching out to the students and the professor and actually going there and I think inviting them here as well and going to their class and talking about what happened and talking about what could have been done differently, both from BART’s point of view and from student journalist point of view.
It'll take care of some people’s concerns. It won’t take care of everyone’s concern, but if we do that and we put on our webpage what happened or we respond in letters to them who have written to us I think people will see that we're trying to do a good job of responding well.
MINER: You were mentioning the BART as a very geographically diverse system. It's very diverse in other ways. Is there other ways that you see that BART can become more a part of the community or more integrated than some other regionally transportation systems?
CRUNICAN: If it's easy to get to the station on foot and it's a pleasant trip you'll walk as best you can. If you can bike and it's convenient you'll bike. And those are healthier choices than driving. I drove this morning to the BART station and jumped on the BART for example. The more we enhance those options, the more we enhance those kind of activities the more choices people have. The better the community I think will be, there'll be healthier community and they'll get a better return on their dollar because our systems won’t be in conflict. We'll try to erase some of those conflicts and keep the costs low and the service up.
MINER: How do you envision BART in the next five or 10 years… If you could have anything you wanted based on what you've learned so far, what would you say?
CRUNICAN: A little bit of growth, a lot of taking care of the inside the existing stations, a lot of taking care of the elevators the maintains that sort of thing. It's kind of back to basics for us.
Waiting Around with Brett Amory
by Julie Caine
In Bay Area artist Brett Amory’s “Waiting” series of paintings, isolated figures inhabit washed out, spare landscapes—solitary people waiting at bus stops and crosswalks, on subway platforms or at the airport. It’s an ongoing series, focused on themes of anticipation, distraction, and the culture of public transit.
“I was taking BART every day to work. I was living in San Francisco and I was working in Emeryville,” said Amory, 35, from his studio at the back of an old Korean youth center in Oakland. “I noticed how BART would be packed with people, and there’d be this disconnect. People rarely look at each other, let alone speak to each other.”
For most of us, getting to work is one of the least inspiring parts of the day—a time out of time, when we’re simply waiting to be somewhere else. We crowd onto BART trains or buses with headphones snaking from our ears, heads bowed down towards smartphones and iPads, or turning the pages of books and newspapers.
“While we're waiting for something, we're off in our own thoughts,” said Amory. “We’re thinking about our past, we're thinking about our future, but most of us aren't in the present moment. And we're not really paying any attention to our surroundings or who's around us.”
But Amory sees things differently. For him, public transportation is also a gathering place—kind of like a town square on wheels. And it’s given him the perfect venue to find the subjects of his paintings.
“It’s normal, but it’s strange,” he said. “You share so much of your lives with these people you don’t know, that you never talk to, but you see them every day, so you feel like you know them.”
He makes sketches and takes snapshots of people he wants to paint, careful to catch them in candid moments. The end products are much more dramatic than the mundane activities they depict: Some of his paintings are as big as ten by seven feet. And he’s brought them to places far from the Bay Area: his work has shown in galleries in Los Angeles, New York, and London.
“I like to bring attention to people who are overlooked in society,” he said. “That’s why I started the series. Usually the people in my paintings don’t really fit in—they seem awkward. You know, you see them on the sidewalk, or you see them walking down the street, and you might think, ‘I wonder what they do when they go home?’ But then you forget about them. When I show them at a gallery, or put them up on the street, you’re forced to look at them because the scale is so monumental.”
Amory's work has been getting lots of attention lately, in gallery shows in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and London. To check out his work, visit http://brettamory.com/.
Friday, September 23, 2011
(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".