BART approves quality-of-life initiatives, 19th Street Oakland modernization project

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On Thursday, the BART board of directors approved a quality-of-life campaign and a modernization project at the 19th Street Oakland station.

The quality-of-life campaign includes initiatives to expand the elevator attendant program, maintain funding for the Pit Stop program and broaden the geographic reach of the Homeless Outreach Team program. Together, these efforts will work to lessen the adverse effects of homelessness and illegal activity at BART stations, according to a BART document titled “Agreements on Quality of Life Initiatives.”

Because of the popularity of the elevator attendant program, which was first implemented in April 2018 at the Civic Center/UN Plaza and Powell Street stations, the board voted to extend the program to the Montgomery Street and Embarcadero stations beginning this fall, according to the press release. Urban Alchemy — an organization noted by BART for its “unique insights” regarding the homeless population that is committed to bringing “peace and respect” to chaotic urban areas, according to its website — has been contracted to oversee the elevator attendant program.

The board also voted to continue funding San Francisco Public Works’ Pit Stop program, which provides “clean and safe public toilets” in the most impacted areas. According to the press release, BART will fund Pit Stop locations adjacent to the Powell Street, 16th Street Mission and 24th Street Mission stations.

The final initiative will expand the Homeless Outreach Team program to Alameda and San Mateo counties and to San Francisco International Airport. The outreach teams strive to engage with homeless individuals on BART property, connecting them to available services and shelters throughout the area, according to the agreements document.

“Increasing rates of homelessness and related quality-of-life issues on BART present us with unique challenges as a transit system,” the BART website’s social resources page reads. “(These issues) highlight a pressing need for action and understanding from us, our riders, and our partner agencies in the communities we serve.”

In a separate vote, the board approved a $32.7 million modernization project at the 19th Street Oakland station. According to the press release, the project entails consolidating paid areas, installing a new elevator, adding LED lighting and renovating the public restrooms.

According to the design plan for the 19th Street Oakland station, it will be the first of multiple stations to receive funding for modernization. Station modernization will improve the “usability” of BART stations for its riders while also enhancing safety and comfort for BART employees, the plan states.

“There will be some changes for commuters once construction begins but it’s too early to say exactly what those changes may entail,” said BART spokesperson Jim Allison in an email.

These two board actions — implementing quality-of-life initiatives and approving station modernization — align with BART’s efforts to optimize the customer experience while also reconfiguring the original infrastructure of BART stations to increase reliability and safety, Allison said in an email.

Allison added that these actions also stem from the fact that BART is aware of its current low customer satisfaction ratings. According to a 2018 BART customer satisfaction survey of 5,292 customers, only 56 percent of customers expressed satisfaction with the services provided by BART.

“We understand that our current customer satisfaction levels are unacceptable and we are taking concrete steps to improve the customer experience,” Allison said in an email.

Contact Annie Cheng at [email protected].