Thursday, March 08, 2018

Civic Center BART Station and SF Performing Arts Groups

Back in December, 2015, I wrote a post here following a survey I'd received from San Francisco Opera. My contention is that the survey was basically about how patrons felt about safety in and around Civic Center BART. 

I was not exactly mocked, but readers certainly responded skeptically to the post. It was not long after this that SFS and SFO started sponsoring a little shuttle bus running between BART and the corner of Grove and Van Ness.

Now there's an article in the Chronicle that pretty much confirms my contention: local performing arts groups have safety concerns, and they're being exacerbated by BART's plans to close the Market St. entrance in front of the hotel and permanently close the already-blocked-off entrance in front of the Burger King across the street. There's this, from the Chronicle article:
Closing the western entrances to Civic Center BART will force cultural arts attendees to take unfamiliar and less direct routes through those problem areas. 
“We’re sending the message to people ‘Please come, and please use public transportation, but it’s a little scary,’” said Jennifer Norris, who runs the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center.
And this:
Melanie Smith, president of San Francisco Performances, said the arts institutions have talked with BART for years about the need to improve Civic Center Station. She knows the problem extends well beyond the station’s walls but said the conditions inside are far from welcoming.
“They’re disgusting,” she said. “It’s tragic, it’s part of a bigger problem in the city, I understand that. But that said, the stations are filthy, it feels dangerous.”
“We hear from them that they don’t want to drive because parking and traffic are a nightmare,” she said. “So the fact that BART is so unpleasant means they just don’t come.” 

I will stand by what I said about the original survey:
Well, okay. So this survey isn't really about transportation. It's really about the failure of San Francisco's city government to provide adequate housing and mental health care to homeless people living in the Civic Center area, and about the failure of BART to keep its station in decent condition, free of stink and with the escalators all working.
Nominally, that survey was about transportation; in reality, it was about the terrible conditions around the BART stop and patron fears, plus, the city's failure, etc.

P. S. Somebody might alert the Chron to the fact that their headline writer made an error in subject/verb agreement in that headline.


Patrick J. Vaz said...

I saw the earlier post, but not the comments -- if I had seen them, I would have left you a supportive comment, because clearly the Civic Center area and in particular the BART station are major concerns for the groups down there, and rightly so. I've been waiting for trains late at night at Civic Center for many years, and there has been a steady deterioration not so much in the area as in the station itself. The problem is one that shuttle services can't solve -- it's the sheer awfulness and consistent mismanagement of BART, because once you get to the station on your shuttle you may have to wait up to 20 minutes for a train (often a short train) among people who are often screaming, blasting "music", smoking, urinating/defecating on the floor, and generally harassing other people. Yes, Civic Center is a problem, and BART has not been doing anything about it.

Henry Holland said...

I fly in to Oakland and take the BART to San Francisco when I'm up there for operas and concerts. BART is....kinda scary. That Civic Center station is a mess, I've had to sit there for almost 30 minutes to catch a last train and I've learned to not look at anybody, keep looking at the ground and be right by a stairwell in case I need to leave quickly because of a fight breaking out or something. The transportation situation is ghastly here in Los Angeles, of course, but when I went up to SF for "Andrea Chenier", it took almost 35 minutes by Lfyt to get from my hotel on Sacramento & Kearney. Nothing like sitting through 3 lights before moving.......

Anonymous said...

Even more peculiarly, the post-concert shuttle bus leaves you off right at said now-closed entrance by the Burger King. There are fewer people hanging out in front of the Burger King than there used to be, partly because the lack of a BART entrance means fewer people to panhandle from, and partly because loudspeakers outside the Burger King are now blasting classical music in an attempt to keep the area higher-toned.

But the location of the bus drop-off means you have to cross the street, away from the Burger King and its music, to enter BART. However, whenever I'm there, everybody crosses to the entrance on the other side of Hyde, not to the one on the other side of Market, so closing that one in addition wouldn't make much more difference.

Joanne Lafler said...

Civic Center BART station is ghastly, to be sure, and it has affected me greatly as an opera- and ballet-goer AND as woman in my 80s with frequent mobility problems. The UN Plaza exit has an elevator and escalators that usually work, and it's not filthy or scary, but exiting there involves a longer walk to the Opera House or the shuttle -- worrisome in the dark and rainy winter months.

By choice, I take BART to downtown San Francisco and have done so ever since trans-bay BART travel was possible. I can assure you that Civic Center is not the only dysfunctional and ugly station. I've often seen rats in Hallidie Plaza at night, and on my last trip downtown the guts of an interior escalator were spread out on one of the platforms at the Powell Street station. The problem, then, lies both in the city's failure to deal with problems of the homeless population and in (as an earlier comment notes) BART's mismanagement in recent years. Will I live to see these problems solved? Let's hope!

Eric Pease said...

You were right! I was wrong: I was guilty of disbelief in first post.

Eric Pease said...

We attended "Vietgone" at the Strand Theater on Friday night. Going in, A.CT. had visible security in front of the theater and on the way out, A.C.T has security outside the theater and two very large security guards stationed at the top of the BART stairs.

But the scene at Civic Center was a nightmare. I don't think my wife wants to go back. We go to several events a year at the Warfield and the Strand and this was by far the worst we've seen that area in several years (I used to play pool at Hollywood Billiards above Market St in the 90s so I can only compare to the last 26 years or so...)

Closing the BART entry at the Burger Kings seems to have concentrated the street action to the remaining BART entrances.