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BART promises to replace chronically broken escalators

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41 new escalators inside SF stations will take seven years to install

An escalator at Glen Park BART Station.
Escalator at Glen Park BART Station.
Photo by Travis Wise

BART riders have a lot of complaints these days—the system’s approval rating is down 13 percent in only two years.

But the constantly broken escalators in stations are a particular black eye on BART’s image thanks to their highly visible nature.

On Thursday, the BART Board of Directors voted for a $96.5 million contract to upgrade the station escalators, which the transit agency calls “the single largest contract to replace escalators in BART’s history.”

According to BART:

The Market Street Escalators Renovation Project will install and replace 41 escalators at Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell, and Civic Center Stations. Twenty-two of the escalators that will be replaced extend from the street to the concourse levels of the stations while 18 connect concourses with station platforms.

Additionally, a street level escalator at Civic Center Station will be relocated to the entrance closest to the Orpheum Theatre where only stairs currently exist. [...] Many of the units being replaced are among the oldest in the entire BART system.

Replacements are expected to begin in 2020. Since the current timetable consists of six finished escalators per year, work will stretch through 2027.

BART reports that, as of Friday, 10 escalators systemwide are down, seven of them in San Francisco—and three of them at Montgomery Station.

“My Twitter is constantly filled with broken escalators,” noted Director Janice Li before the vote.

Director Robert Raburn added that BART has a “recruitment and retention problem” with mechanics who install and maintain escalators, which exacerbates long delays when they break down, yet another problem that may require more investment down the line.

The escalator vote passed 8-0, with one director absent.

In other BART news, the board received news Thursday that the ubiquitous add fare machines inside paid areas of BART stations will finally start accepting credit cards and stop leaving underpaid customers, who don’t have any cash on hand, potentially stranded behind the gates.

The San Francisco Examiner reports that two such machines have already been added to Embarcadero Station, but they only work on Clipper cards.