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How dirty is BART, actually?

Selene Ross
What's lurking on those handrails on BART?

After disagreeing whether or not the seats on BART were clean enough to sit on, KALW listeners Chloe Hinkson and Nadine Sebai had to ask: “How dirty is BART, like, actually?”When BART opened in the seventies, it had wool seats and carpet and not many riders. Decades later, with daily ridership twelve times higher, those carpets and seats were pretty gross. A couple of years ago, BART reconsidered its choice of upholstery and got rid of the all fabric interior.The new vinyl seats and hard floors are easier to clean, but a study found that BART is still the nation’s second dirtiest major public transit system, losing out only to the New York City subway.

To those of you who cringe during your commute, rest assured that somebody from BART has been listening.

Jeff Baker, superintendent of system services for BART is in charge of cleaning He says each car takes about two hours to thoroughly clean. That includes picking up trash as well as complete disinfecting of all high touch surfaces like seats, window-sills, and handrails. Trains are cleaned 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.

But still, it gets dirty. So this June, BART launched a biohazard alert form on its website: If you see something, say something. With improved resources and a bigger budget this year, Baker says things are cleaning up. He says they've gotten fewer complaints in the last several months and statistics about the cleanliness of BART are trending in the right direction.

So, Nadine and Chloe, BART’s not pristine. Or even close. But it’s been worse.