BART Issues: Millbrae riders, city leaders outraged over filthy and dangerous conditions

MILLBRAE, Calif. (KGO) -- In recent months, transit riders and city officials have amplified their concerns to BART management over what they say is dirty and dangerous conditions at the Millbrae station, where many passengers are often greeted by the sight of trash.

"I've seen people pee in there I've seen people poo," said San Mateo resident Anthony Mace, who travels to San Francisco on a weekly basis via BART. "Most you can do is maintain your (own) cleanliness and if you're in that environment, don't let it get to you."

In addition to the trash, drug needles can easily be found throughout the property. Former Millbrae Mayor and current City Council Member Wayne Lee says he's had enough of what he says is a lack of urgency on BART's part.

"There's no maintenance person around or visible around here at all," said Millbrae City Council Member Wayne Lee. "My view before they start expanding more stations is they need to take care of the stations that they have now."

City Council Member Gina Papan, who also serves as the Metropolitan Transportation Commissioner representing San Mateo County, believes the BART system is broken.

"Who's going to take their children on a train when you have to worry about getting pricked by a drug needle? BART's not doing enough," said Papan. "There's not a commitment to the cleanliness and safety of each and every station."

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In fact, ABC7 News encountered human feces in the parking garage during a recent visit. Millbrae City Manager Tom Williams says he told BART officials about it nearly two weeks ago and has followed up multiple times since the initial report. Despite the push, Williams says he's had no response from the agency.

"People who commute from Redwood City, Foster City, Burlingame, other areas of San Mateo County that use this station, because it is a multi-modal station for their daily commute and it's embarrassing," said Williams.

The elevator was also out of service on the day ABC7 News visited the station. Some of the passengers impacted by the outage were visibly frustrated.

"I'm just so upset because I just can't go downstairs because the elevator is not working, the elevator to the street," said San Mateo resident Alsa Bibanco, who uses a walker to help get herself around.
Built in 2003, the Millbrae station is largest transit center in the Western U.S., bringing together BART, Caltrain, SamTrans, corporate shuttles, and the world via San Francisco International Airport. It's also a future high speed rail stop.

City leaders say they don't understand why the station isn't getting the care it deserves, especially since it's the first place visitors see when they take public transit out of the airport.

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"It's a detriment to economic development in the city of Millbrae," Williams added. "It's a detriment to the quality of life, not only with Millbrae citizens but throughout the region."

We shared some of these concerns with BART. More specifically, we asked why it was taking so long for the staff to come and remove the human feces.

Alicia Trost, BART's Chief Communications Officer, said they take reports of feces very seriously and would never ignore reports of it. Trost also mentioned that the parking garage is maintained and power cleaned once per week. The agency's general manager previously met with city leaders in January to hear their concerns in person.

"Both cleaning staff and police staff do checks in the garage at Millbrae and alert appropriate personnel to clean up messes," said Trost. "When a report is made, a rapid response team is pinged in the field and deployed to clean it up."

City officials say responses like these illustrate how their concerns aren't taken seriously.

"We write letters, we talk to staff, things don't happen. I've had it," said Papan.

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Left to suffer are the thousands of passengers who rely on public transit and pass through the Millbrae station on a daily basis.

"When you come off the train there's nobody even working in the booth so they might need to put a little more money into taking care of this place," said Joe Thomas, a former San Francisco resident who now lives in Denver.

Others say they've simply come to expect the nasty conditions.

"It's kind of getting you prepared for what you're going into," said Mace. "You're going to see it inevitably, especially when you're going into the city of San Francisco."

City officials say the state legislature needs to step up and provide greater oversight over all transit agencies including BART.

"This is a public resource and we need to make those agencies accountable now," said Papan.

RELATED: Can BART really stop drug use on its trains?

BART urges people to report biohazards by tweeting @SFBART or going to their 'Report a Biohazard' web page here.

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