BART cleaning schedule gets a makeover in the Bay Area

BART worker steam cleaning the stairs leading to a station

At Cleanify, we’re fascinated by the nuts and bolts of cleaning operations that keep things running smoothly for communities. This week, we take a peek into the cleaning situation at our local mass transit, BART.

It’s understandable that BART’s subway stations get a little grimy. The Bay Area’s Rapid Transit Agency (BART) handles 430,000 trips on an average weekday, up 30% over the last five years as the region has experienced phenomenal growth due to investment in technology and biotech industries. That’s a whole lot of people shuffling in and out of trains, waiting on platforms and rushing out of the downtown stations during commute hours.

The busiest stations on the system are in downtown San Francisco, with the Embarcadero station getting slightly more traffic than the Montgomery station. The marble floor on the concourse level of the Embarcadero station is ignored by the commuters who rush atop it every day, but it’s begun to get some special attention from new cleaning crews BART has deployed to address customer concerns about filth.

“An environmentally-friendly stripping solution is used to get underneath the pores of the marble,” said Sharina Pearson, a BART System Service Supervisor. “We’re pulling up old dirt. We want to give it a clean, pristine look.” This effort is in large part due to a 2014 customer satisfaction survey where riders voiced complaints about the cleanliness of stations.

BART hired an additional fifteen cleaning crew workers in December, which brings the total number of cleaners in the system to 137. Each crew is assigned a particular downtown station, and it takes them about six weeks to clean the entire space from top to bottom. “It’s basically a six-week rotation of cleaning the floors, steam cleaning the walls, the stairs, polishing the metal,” said Pearson. “Once we spend six weeks getting everything clean, we start over and do it all again.”

BART2
BART worker maneuvers a scrubbing vacuum. Don’t you wish you had something like this for your floors?!

The crews are teams of cleaners who work overnight to clean the stations between 10pm and 6am on weekdays. This allows them to focus on big jobs that require coordination from multiple workers. The workers use basic tools like mops and more complicated tools like a machine that’s a combination floor scrubber and vacuum. There’s a lot of gum to scrape off, too, since people can’t seem to locate a trash can at the moment when they decide they’re finished chewing.

These special overnight cleaners are supplemented by the regular cleaning staff who work all hours, and entrance crews who focus only on stairs and entrances to stations.

Tim Chan, a planning manager at BART, said, “It’s just part of a new strategic approach to cleaning. In addition to the special project crews, we have entrance crews and high cleaning crews [that have special equipment to clean areas taller than seven feet].”

Frequent riders told a local news station that they noticed a difference in cleanliness of the stations. Now if we could just get people to properly dispose of trash and gum, we’d be helping the crews maintain a clean public space. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

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