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BART hit with class action suit for broken escalators

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Disabled rights groups say constant breakdowns and poor conditions are discriminatory

Close up of someone walking up BART escalator. Photo by Thomas Hawk

BART’s reliably unreliable escalators constantly frustrate commuters with frequent breakdowns and long repair times. Now two local groups have sued the transit agency, claiming that the condition of escalators and elevators discriminates against the disabled.

The suit, filed on Wednesday, claims a “systemic civil rights violation,” stating in part:

People [...] who use wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility aids, and who rely on elevators or escalators in order to access BART’s stations and services [...] have been denied full and equal access to BART’s stations and services that federal and state disability rights laws seek to guarantee.

Instead, they regularly encounter broken or soiled elevators, non-functioning escalators, broken accessible fare gates, and other barriers that bar them from access to the BART system, and that provide them with a level of service vastly inferior to that which BART’s non-disabled customers enjoy.

The suit alleges that the frequent malfunctions are “planned and predictable” results of neglect rather than accident. It suggests that BART is discriminating against the plaintiffs by not caring enough whether or not they have access.

The plaintiffs include two local groups, Senior and Disability Action and the Independent Resource Living Resource Center of San Francisco.

In a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle, BART said “We share the frustration of the Disability Rights Advocates legal group, but are disappointed our program of capital improvement is being met with litigation.”

BART’s board of directors approved $3 million last year to repair a dozen noted problem child escalators.

Much of the machinery in the system is decades old and outdated. A Glen Park escalator was out of action for so long that BART posted signs explaining that the “special small gears” needed to fix it aren’t manufactured in this country anymore.

The system currently has 14 escalators down (including one at the brand-new Warm Springs station, which is being “evaluated”), including four in need of “major repair.” Only one is down for planned maintenance. Five elevators are out too.

The transit agency added an escalator status page to its site in 2015. Hoodline observed last year that BART’s San Francisco escalators always seem to get the worst of it. Eight of the 14 currently out of action are in the city.