Tuesday, August 23, 2016

BART Platform: Disband Police, Reopen Toilets, Night Meetings

Hello. I'm Michael Petrelis and I'm running as a registered Green Party voter for the BART Board District 9 seat. Let me explain why.


First, I am a longtime regular user of this critical Bay Area public transportation system. My deep organizing experience as a social justice activist spans four-decades successfully bringing lasting change for LGBT and HIV positive persons locally and globally, non-profit accountability, government transparency and human rights for all.

My lifetime commitment to public transportation started in grammar school. When not taking BART or Muni, I ride my Breezer Euro-Style bike daily, bringing home produce from the farmers' market for my husband Mike Merrigan and I, or getting to political and cultural happens. I've never learned to drive a car. Part of my life-plan to keep my carbon footprint small.

I pledge to keep to keeping BART system efficiently operated, maximally transparent and accountable and clean.


For Mike and I, our closest BART station is located at 16th and Mission Streets.

I am a practitioner of do-it-yourself democracy. In June of 2014, I felt the need to address unsanitary conditions at this station's plazas. I alerted BART and its partner agencies, the San Francisco Department of Public Works and Department of Public Health. The result of my advocacy led to regular power-washings, removal of fire hazardous debris and the installation of anti-pigeon spiked wires. Yes, less bird poop on public seating made this Mission BART Plaza better.


Last July, I contacted  BART about better support for the disabled. I pointed out the inadequate signage for the elevator at the 16th Street Plaza. Promises were made by BART leaders to improve wayfinding signage. Unfortunately, BART didn't keep its word.

We require improved signage identifying the elevator's location. For the disabled, yes. But also for bicyclists, parents with kids and large strollers - even travelers toting heavy luggage. BART must also provide consistent maintenance of the elevator and escalators to ensure they are fully operational at all times.


BART can do better to accommodate bicyclists. I joined other bicyclists to urge BART to create a policy that allowed us to bring our bikes on trains and at all hours. Plus create more space to lean them while in transit. As your District 9 representative, I would institute a pilot program of an all-bike caboose at the end of rush-hour trains. This would free up standing spaces in other cars, making it easier for more bikers to use BART.

I call for pop-up bike maintenance crews at station corrals once a week, offering free or low-cost repairs. At the corrals, we need more racks, better lighting. Plus a guarantee from BART that surveillance cameras are perpetually functioning properly. 


As your District 9 representative, I propose disbanding the BART police force. Until then, we need saner BART police policies. Is there really any reason for them to have guns and bullets? We have local law enforcement agencies to deal with crime on BART property. There are too many instance of excessive use of force by BART's officers. This can be reduced through better de-escalation training. I call for increased oversight of police personnel and better practices to ensure cops who harm riders are held to account with appropriate penalties.


There is no logic to keeping public toilets closed. My platform fully supports reopening BART bathrooms at every station between 9 am to 8 pm during the workweek. And staffing them. SF DPW's wildly successful Pit Stop toilet kiosks is the model for BART to duplicate. Like SF DPW, let's staff the bathrooms with formerly homeless individuals.

We'd feed two birds with one seed. Give riders a place to pee and poop, and assist people reentering the workforce.


BART meetings are only held on weekday mornings. The result? Too many people are unable to attend. That means less engagement with the riding public. As your District 9 representative, I would propose holdings meetings also in the evenings. Plus offer casual listening sessions at stations. Written monthly reports from directors must be implemented. And be posted online for accessibility and to allow public feedback. I suggest we institute term limits for directors.


Greater transparency over the general manager and other managers is needed. Salary information of top 10 managers must be posted on BART's web site. Same goes for sharing their monthly calendars and activities reports online.


We must create a new procedure for public feedback. That's the best way to improve services. BART must provide users with a single person to handle suggestions and complaints. Create a paid Rider's Representative to direct comments to the appropriate manager, process complaints and compliments. And finally, maintain a blog to guarantee transparency and how problems are resolved.


Let's plan for overnight hourly service on weekends to better meet the needs of our diverse communities. I further want limited round-the-clock trains considered for weeknights. 

A good funding source for BART would be to expand long-term and pop-up retailing opportunities at stations.  

Develop a program that brings a diverse array of musicians and genres to concourses on a regular basis. One-seed, two birds. Performers reach an audience, riders' time using BART is more pleasurable.

Our BART system's current infrastructure is eroding. Its technology is old and outmoded; it needs updating. There is a bond measure on the ballot this fall, known as Prop RR, that would solve these problems. I fully support it.

Finally, we know the mentally ill and homeless people tend to congregate at stations. Let's beef up outreach and assistance for them throughout the system, partnering with government and nonprofit agencies.

I ask for your vote this November. Thank you.

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