Friday, February 27, 2009

Yet another very frustrated passenger looking for some sign of improvement

I received this email from a passenger who has every reason to be fed-up. Not only did he have a bike stolen twice at the North Berkeley station, he brings up some other complaints that would make all of us question why we pay up to $12 or whatever the max is now, for a 3rd-class ride. I'd like to know how many bikes are stolen each year at BART stations. If the figure is high, what has BART done to prevent bike thefts?

Anyhow, take a look at the email below. Thanks for writing-- know that you are not alone! We feel for you! We want to see change too.


For the second time in a year, my bike was stolen at North Berkeley BART Station. Actually, the first time they only took my rear tire, but regardless, I was stranded at the damn BART station trying to get home. It is obvious from a quick scan, and confirmed by the BART police officer to whom I made a report, that a bike or two probably gets stolen every week, if not every day. This is completely inexcusable. I had stopped riding to N Berkeley because I decided I needed the safety of the bike cage at the downtown station, which has in fact proven to be a nice (if terribly inconvenient) solution. This was the first day in a good long while that I parked at N Berkeley, but apparently one day is all it takes. And it was a used, beater-bike, totally locked up.... I don't get it. They must have had a nice set of tools. What about a couple of cameras installed so we can at least get a glimpse of the thief in action? What about a little more security that encourages the bench-sleepers and others who seem to camp outside the station to move along? Only a small fraction of commuters lives within walking distance of a BART station, and they should be doing everything they can to encourage people to NOT drive... I find their total lack of interest in encouraging and protecting bicyclists (and everyone else, for that matter) really frustrating. And of course I can't bring the bike on the train with me (nor do I really want to) because you are not allowed to during commute hours. It's like they are trying to drive away business. The police officer I spoke to was refreshingly candid when he said that BART is one of the most expensive commuter systems in the country and provides the lowest level of safety and service he has ever seen. As someone who sinks well over $1000/year in fares into the stupid system, I'm pretty pissed off.

Since I'm in a venting mood, I have to also say that I am really annoyed at the laissez-faire attitude that the station agents take with fare jumpers. While waiting for the officer to arrive to the N Berkeley Station, about ten minutes, I saw at least 5 people just waltz into or out of the station through the emergency gate. These were not BART employees. There was no obvious reason why they should be allowed to just avoid the fare. Three of them were clearly of the homeless set. Is it any wonder that so many BART cars appear to be the personal bathrooms for various people? I am all for allowing the occasional pass for someone who needs to get somewhere and cannot afford it, but that seems to me to require some sort of permission slip, and presumably that would be the exception, not the rule. I find myself feeling much the chump for paying my round-trip fare every day when many dozens of people don't feel the need to bother. The same thing happens in the Downtown Berkeley station where they have the bike cage. I have seen scores of people coming in and out of the supposedly closed north entrance to the station, which is supposed to only be an emergency exit. There are signs saying alarms will ring, cameras are watching, etc, etc, but people come in and out of there with impunity. I think it is an offense to all of the paying riders for BART to essentially ignore these things. They can't protect our stuff, they can't enforce the basic rules... hell, they can't even protect us!

The broken-window theory of neighborhood blight is a well established phenomenon... That's where junky yards, broken windows, vacant houses, etc, tend to attract crime, which leads to more blight. It's like trash on the side of the highway leading to more trash being thrown there. You have to take care of these things or you get snowballed by worse and worse problems. When you consider how often BART is delayed or otherwise has other service problems, these other annoyances and dangers become even more frustrating. I think these are all pointing to the same fundamental problem... BART needs a major attitude adjustment. If I park my bike of BART property, I expect some security in exchange. If their system is insecure, fix it! I did my part (locked, crappy bike, left it and returned in daylight hours... what more can I do?); it seems like they should be liable. And if I pay to get on and off the train, then everyone else should too, unless they have a really good reason. And if people are pissing in the cars or otherwise making the commute really unpleasant, they should be taken to task for it. What are the cameras in the cars good for anyway? And open the stupid bathrooms in the stations please! Good grief. We're all much more likely to die from diseases contracted from people crapping on the train than we are from some terrorist threat.


Anonymous said...

Not surprised. I got my bike stolen and reported it. Of course nothing happened after that and I expected nothing from BART. I've just learned that if I intend on keepin my bike, I need to buy the crappiest bike around because then no one takes it. Don't bother waiting for BART to help you or improve safety. Won't happen.

Anonymous said...

Have you taken advantage of BART's rental bike lockers? I rented one for several years at North Berkeley and never had any problems.

At the same time, it might be helpful for you to indicate how much extra you are willing to pay for the additional bike security. It seems BART does provide some options you may be able to take advantage of:

Per BART's web site, there are 48 first-come, first-served keypad bike lockers at North Berkeley that rent for 3 cents per hour. There are also keyed lockers at $15/3 months or $30/year, plus $25 key deposit.

More information available at:

In general, police recovery of stolen bikes is not that great. It would be nice if BART was the exception, but that seems an unrealistic expectation.

Unknown said...

If you get your bike stolen from the North Berkeley BART, it would be worth checking out the Ashby BART's parking lot flea-market on the following Saturday. My girlfriend had her nice Bianchi stolen, and we picked it out driving down Ashby (mostly since the thieves hadn't bothered to remove the hamburger bell).