Monday, February 05, 2007

Please keep the homeless out of BART trains

The title is blunt but I really did not know how to soften it. I really do not like it when I see/encounter homeless people on BART, whether they are using BART as shelter/bed or asking passengers for money.

Why don't I like it? I think we, as passengers, pay a good amount of money to get to our destinations by BART. We don't expect BART to be spotless, with great service, or luxurious (we really just expect BART to be on-time, safe and not filthy), but most of us really do not want to be bothered or threatened by unauthorized people like the homeless.

I'm not heartless. I recognize that homelessness is a huge problem in SF and I wholeheartedly support some of the initiatives like SF Homeless Connect. But I don't want the homeless seeking help/shelter on a BART trian, or even a BART station!

Why not the homeless? Because 99.99% of the time, they smell like alcohol, urine, defecation, trash or sweat...or all of the above. The majority of them that I've encountered on BART are mentally unstable. Today, one homeless man somehow snuck onboard and was aggressively asking people seated in my area for "some help". He didn't take no for an answer. If you ignored him, he kept on asking you until you look at him. If you said no, he doesn't leave either and starts to question if you have pennies, nickels, dimes..etc. Even as you say no or you don't have change, he continues to shake the cup in front of your face. Worst of all, he smelled terrible!!! The fact that he stood next to you and refuses to leave only meant that we had to endure his smell for a long long time. It was bad....I had to breath with my mouth and even then, I was afraid of what type of taste his scent would leave in my mouth. It was an extremely heavy odor.

I used to give money to homeless in the station, on the train or on the street. But I'll tell you what changed me! I had volunteered in two SF Homeless Connect days in the past. What is so disheartening is that the homeless attendees don't go to the job or self-help stations, instead, they just want to rush to the freebies line where they can get donated packages of items from snacks, socks, shoes...etc. I understand they need those items, but there are so many resources there for them to actually get out of the condition that they are in PERMANENTLY! Most, I observed, did not even stop by the job or self-help lines. While I still believe in the Homeless Connect Days, I learned that most homeless people don't want to help themselves long-term. In fact, one good example is the same homeless man sitting in front of 8th/Market Starbucks....it's been over 2 years and he still asks everyone coming out of Starbucks for change.

What is BART doing to help keep homeless people out of the trains? I can understand that keeping them out of the stations is nearly impossible to do, but what about the trains? How do they sneak through the ticket gates? Why can't train operators see them on video and ask a police officer to kindly remove them? Maybe they do that already but some still slip through.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is, as long as they have a ticket, they get to ride the train. They go through the trash, find low vaule tickets, panhandle to make up the differance,and buy a 1.40 ticket and off they go. Some spend a lot of time in the stations, to scrape up the money, but they do. Yes, some fare evade in, but in many cases, they have the ticket.

In the case you pointed out, you should have called the TO or BART Police, they would have taken care of the problem. I know BART Police get a bad rap, but they do their job, so by all means call them!

bartmusings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bartmusings said...

That's quite true...I didn't think about low value tickets in the trash.

I guess I could have taken the initiative to call the TO, but with the homeless man right in front of me, I was a little intimidated, to tell you the truth, to do it right in front o him.

I just don't understand the homeless sometimes. Why would they want to spend $1.40 riding BART instead of buying food?

Anonymous said...

Because $1.40 ticket to get out of the cold and hang out in a warm dry environment is worth it to them.

Calling the TO will get the person off your train. Then you have the problem of BART Police having the Agent write them a pass to get them back to whereever.

Ok, police actually cite them.. What now? They are released, never show up for court, maybe an arrest warrent for failure to appear. They have nothing, some chose to be arrested to get out of the cold and get food.

Could go on and on, it's a vicious circle we see daily, especally with the mentally disabled. Ends up costing the taxpayers money, which cannot be recovered from someone that has nothing to begin with. Only for the person to continue what they do..

There currently is no good solution.

Anonymous said...

You complain too much. Why don't you just get a job in the East Bay if you hate taking BART so much?

ConcordCommuter said...

I don't encounter the homeless on the trains all that often, but I have on occasion called BART Police when the more troubling ones are around. I am always happy to immediately report when Randy boards my train. Randy is the woman in the motorized wheelchair who goes car-to-car wailing "Can somebody help me?!"

I highly recommend programming the number for BART Police into your cell phone.

Oh, and in reply to that last comment... I don't think barmusings complains that much, she also has a lot of positive posts. You are the one who is reading her blog, and you can stop at any time.

Anonymous said...

To Concord Commuter,

I just don't understand, if she has a problem, why doesn't she just fix it? Why doesn't she EVER report anything or call BART police when she witnesses all that she witnesses? She could be doing a lot of good, but instead, she hides behind her computer and posts all these complaints and how they never get taken care of.

I say to her, stop crying and step up to the plate if you really want to see change.

bartmusings said...

I do report, I send emails on BART website, I have talked to agents and BART police. Just for the record...please know that.

I need to be careful what I proactively do...for my own safety. Imagine if I call the TO right in front of the homeless man (who never left). What would he say or do to me?

I do ask passengers who take up two seats or who cut in line for example (things I complain about) to not do that. I act when it makes sense to. I can't act on everything. I do what I can.

If I were 6 feet and 220 pounds, I might feel more at ease being a crusader for ALL ISSUES...but I'm not.

I simply write what I see, good and bad, to create a forum for all issues.

I don't hate BART at all. I like BART. I've always said that!

Anonymous said...

the fact of the matter is that this blog verbalizes what many of us BART riders think. we realize BART isn't perfect - it's a great resource for bay area residents, BUT there are always areas for improvement. to all the BART employees that read this, take this as constructive crticism - this isn't a personal assault on you. I have seen very positive posts on this blog as well. Because of this blog's advocacy on the SFO ride, I took BART to the airport last month.

bartmusings said...

"Why doesn't she EVER report anything or call BART police when she witnesses all that she witnesses? She could be doing a lot of good, but instead, she hides behind her computer and posts all these complaints and how they never get taken care of."

One more comment in response to that accusation. I probably act on 70% of the things I complain about. I could increase that I suppose BUT I hold back at times due to personal safety reasons.

Some complaints I write about aren't even about BART itself...mainly funny or scary observations or personal experiences (like me missing the shuttle!)

Linton Johnson said...

Indeed, the homeless problem presents a difficult challenge for BART Police and BART riders. Technically, if the homeless person has a valid ticket, the person is free to ride. That said, the person CANNOT solicit riders because that is against BART policy. Additionally, the person cannot harrass other people, and the person cannot take up more than one seat. These are all violations that our police department typically use to evict a homeless person from a station or train.

If you feel intimidated to call the Train Operator while the homeless person is in the same car as you, I would advise you to do one or both of the following two things:

1. Call BART PD from your mobile phone if you can - that's 877-679-7000 and press #0 (you should program this into your phone - perhaps on speed dial) or;

2. Move to another car and use the intercom to call the Train Operator.

Additionaly, BEFORE you make the call, please make sure you do the following:

1. Get a very good description of the person, including, height, weight, age, clothing, any noticable features, and skin tone and color (not race - a tanned skin white person can look hispanic or even black).

2. Note the behavior of the person.

3. Know what car number the person is in (Train car numbers are located above the doors you use to go between each car)

Knowing this information will help BART Police get the person much more quickly.

Thanks!

Linton Johnson
BART Chief Spokesperson

bartmusings said...

I try to report things when I can. , whether to the BART police, to TOs, station agents, or through BART website. I've had very very bad experiences with the homeless before....in one of my earlier entries, I wrote about a homeless man who held a plastic gun (that looked real) to my head, and another situation when a homeless woman chewed me out in the worst way possible after I told her that I did not have a cigarette for her.

Anonymous said...

You were very wise to not aggrivate the solicitor. Read bartrage.com... there's a story from a couple of days ago telling of a woman who was punched in the face by a vagrant. You never know what kind of person you're dealing with. Some feel they have nothing to lose. The end of this woman's story was slightly better than most. A group of fellow commuters stepped in and made sure he did not get away. If we all come together and make some noise, a positive difference can be made over time.

Anonymous said...

hey! i'm a BART train operator and i was never told about video monitors in the cab!!

Homeless said...

That train becomes their home and safe shelter for a day. Very sad. Wish our city had Homeless Connect days.

Anonymous said...

im 6 feet 220+ and as long as i'm left alone and don't see anything too ridiculous happening near me i could care less about the miscreants riding with me.

people in general are assholes and nothing you or i say to any one person in particular is really going to make a difference.

a lot of times people need a good old fashion ass kicking but then you run into all those legality issues or you might get your own ass kicked trying to be some sort of knight in shining armor, so in the overall scheme of things i'd rather just keep myself, my friends and family and anyone who might truly be helpless as safe as possible and go about my business.

but what the hell do i know?

Niall said...

I have found that being as impolite as they are works wonders. A simple F--- off works.