This is the first of two transportation centric posts and was written by Peppercommer Ann Barlow.
Until now, one of the few complaints that I've had about BART, San Francisco's commuter and city train service, is the lack of adequate seating to accommodate all the passengers. But after reading a report shared by Peppercom friend Greg Schmalz, I'm starting to feel grateful for the many times when overcrowding has forced me to stand.
It seems that some testing conducted by a supervisor with San Francisco State University's biology lab revealed that the cushioned, upholstered seats contain a lot more than the behinds of passengers. Drug-resistant bacteria and fecal matter (among my favorite euphemisms) were discovered, and attempts to clean them with wipes doused in alcohol failed to adequately remove the disgusting and potentially dangerous organisms.
When I moved to the Bay Area from the New York area five-plus years ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the commuter train service. Like RepMan, I suffered for years from NJT's utter indifference to passenger comfort and customer service. Contrast that with the BART experience, which begins with joining an orderly queue to wait for the train at designated points in the stations. If the train you are riding is delayed, you can expect frequent updates and apologies from the conductor. The trains seldom break down and are normally on time. Sure, there are occasional problems, and the system managers don't seem to have cottoned onto the idea that if a line goes down, they should provide an alternative means of getting you to your destination. You're on your own. But all in all, as commutes go, it's a pretty pleasant experience. Or it was.
I admit to often having eyed at the teal-colored seats with suspicion. They're comfortable, but can anything with that much fabric be hygienic? Apparently not. BART says plans are in the works to change out the seats, which were installed decades ago when comfortable seats were thought to encourage ridership. In the meantime, it does clean the seats nightly and spend hundreds of thousands on yearly dry cleaning. It plans to survey riders on preferences. Really? I think you can bet that riders want safe, hygienic conditions. If that means cold, plastic, hard seats, so be it.
If a lot of other riders read the study today, I suspect we may go from 'standing room only' to 'sitting room only.'