(Not So) Breaking News – BART is Gross

Travel Tips, What's New — By Mary Polizzotti on March 8, 2011 at 6:41 pm

You know there’s something wrong with your city’s public transit system when the New York Times features an article on how disgusting it is. I’m obviously not the first person to wonder why there are fabric seats and carpets. But hey, BART runs pretty reliably (I said pretty reliably) and I tend to think of it as cleaner than the MUNI bus, and less clean than the MUNI train. As a former frequent BART commuter, let me give you some tips on avoiding the nastiness that is Bay Area Rapid Transit.

  1. Get a job outside of San Francisco – I took BART daily for 5 years when I lived in San Francisco and worked in West Oakland, and I didn’t mind once. My commute time from Montgomery Station to West Oakland station was less than 10 minutes and what a breezy ride it was! Around 8:45 a.m., I would watch the downtown train platform swell with commuters pouring out of the East Bay train whilst I stepped into a completely empty train heading into the Transbay Tube. I always got my choice of the least stained seat in the car.
  2. Don’t sit – Those fabric seats on BART allegedly have fecal matter and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Ew! So don’t sit down. And don’t worry, if you live anywhere closer than 7 stops before San Francisco, you will never get a seat anyway. So let all of those Pleasanton, Pittsburg, and Richmond commuters relish their soft seat, you don’t want it. No really, you don’t.
  3. Do the straddle – As a former ballerina, let me tell you that the straddle, as well as fourth position, really does keep the body balanced and strengthen the core. The straddle is self-explanatory. Fourth position involves keeping one foot in front of the other, both turned out away from the body. Do not lock the knees to have the most flexibility in case of a “fake stop” i.e. when BART stops, and everybody lets go, and then BART lurches forward while the train conductor snickers “ha HA!”
  4. The elbow wrap around – Those poles are foul, what with everyone coughing and grabbing on. But elbows are handy contraptions for securing yourself around a pole without using your hands.
  5. Own a pair of BART gloves – Gloves: only for BART rides. You can grab whatever you want, touch whatever you want, even sit with your hands under your bum. Just keep them away from your face and remove them as soon as you get off the train. This works for MUNI too.
  6. Hang onto strangers – When I commuted from Berkeley to San Francisco, the train was always ridiculously crowded. So I hung onto my then-boyfriend. His pocket worked well, as did the straps on his bag. Most strangers carrying a bag or a bike won’t notice your fingers tethered to their belongings for balance. It’s good conversation starter too.

Stay safe and healthy out there, BART commuters.

Gross Bart SeatsPhoto courtesy of thebayareabrit

Feature image courtesy of Monica’s Dad/Flickr

Tags: BART, commuter, gross, public transit, san francisco, train, transit

    1 Comment

  • Alex Resnik says:

    You know, people have been talking about this a lot since the NY Times article and I, personally, am sick of BART getting a bad rap. Sure, those seats may be riddled with disease but let’s be honest: pretty much every public space is. And those seats are seriously comfy.

    And New Yorkers live in a filthy city. What, they couldn’t find a new rat infestation at Times Square station to complain about and had to come all the way out here with microorganism testing kits to dig up something interesting to write about?

    I’ve never been one to “hermetically seal” the palm of my hand with a paper towel in order to open a public bathroom door; I’ve never used hand disinfectant on a regular basis; I don’t wear a mask when I’m sick or believe myself in danger of getting sick. And I’m not about to start now. I’ve been riding BART for 27 years now, and haven’t yet contracted an antibiotic-resistant staph infection.

    I have fond memories of hopping on BART at Lafayette station in 110+ degree weather just for the air-conditioning (the best you’ll find on any public transportation). I’d find a cozy, padded seat in back and rest my face against the plexiglass window, letting the frigid air pass over my head while I took a tour of the Bay Area. I’d ride out to, say, Rockridge if I didn’t have much time or maybe Balboa Park if the rocking BART car, perfect climate, and double-wide seats had lulled me to sleep (as they often did).


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