BART considers closing Civic Center station walkway known for rampant drug use

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BART’s top managers plan to seek approval from the fire marshal in Sacramento to possibly close a walkway in San Francisco that’s notorious for drug use.

BART director Bevan Dufty said Monday that General Manager Grace Crunican and Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier have intentions to seek the blessing of State Fire Marshal Dennis Mathiesen to consider shuttering the walkway on the south side of the Civic Center station near Mission Street.

BART spokesman Jim Allison, however, clarified that closing the hallway is "only being considered at this point" and no meeting with the fire marshal has yet been scheduled. He added that the possible closure would not affect any entrances or exits and is one of many options BART is examining, including joint San Francisco and BART police patrols of the area.

Allison said the proposal is one of many options BART is considering to keep the area clear. Another idea they’re looking into is installing needle disposal boxes on the street level. The hallway closure would not affect those with disabilities. 

“This particular hallway serves no purpose other than to connect one end of the station to the other,” Allison said. “It doesn’t impact exits or access to the platforms.”

That hallway has been highlighted over the last month by videographer Shannon Gafford, a San Francisco and regular BART rider who is tired of seeing the rampant drug use on that stretch of walkway as he makes his way to work. Gafford’s videos have gone viral and made it to several newscasts, including on KTVU. The heroin and the syringes have gotten his attention, along with the mayor’s and other city leaders.

When told of the latest idea, Gafford  responded that he doesn't think closing the walkway and rerouting traffic is a good idea. "That just creates another problem," he said. "If something happens, like an earthquake or fire down there, and that exit is no longer available that's just putting people in danger."

Dufty said that while this walkway could be closed for the foreseeable future, the walkways along 8th and 7th streets will remain open. He added that the move isn’t to displace the homeless or the drug users, but is to make this particular walkway safe for commuters. This walkway is particularly troublesome, Dufty said, because it's more out of the way than other areas, making it a haven for drug sales and use. 

If approved by the fire marshal, there would be a wall installed from floor to ceiling across the walkway. A door would also be installed to give access only to BART employees.

The Civic Center station has about 16,000 riders pass through it a day.