BART escalator fix along Market St. corridor comes with $96M price tag

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) At their regularly scheduled meeting Thursday morning, BART's board of directors approved a plan to spend $96.5 million to replace 41 escalators at stations along San Francisco's Market Street corridor. 

The contract also allows BART General Manager Grace Crunican the option of replacing four San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency elevators at the Embarcadero station. 

BART staff members said the elevators being replaced are some of the oldest in the entire system and have outlived their useful lives. 

As part of the escalator contract, the contractor is required to keep the equipment functioning properly at least 96 percent of the time. The board hopes to assist them in that effort by installing canopies over all the station entrances in question, which should protect the escalators from the elements. 

"Working escalators are so important," board President Bevan Dufty said today in a statement. "This is a game-changing procurement as we will have a single escalator technology at all our core stations."

The plan calls for installation of roughly six escalators per year, starting in 2020 when the first escalators are slated for delivery. 

There was mixed reaction from BART riders. 

"Oh, I think it's marvelous. It's hard for me to walk up the stairs here because of my age and my joints," said Dorothy Perkins. "It could be great. I'm certainly happy to spend a large amount of money one time for something really to last," said Mike Mathog. 

Others were skeptical. 

"That would be great, if they stick to their plan. But, you know, things change around here," said a cautious Ken Levoy.

"I just wish I could snap my fingers and make the seven-year implementation plan happen like that," said Dufty.

The reason this project is going to take seven years is not for lack of money. The reality is, there's simply not enough licensed, trained and qualified people to do this work in a hurry.  

"That's always good. I mean, one point of contact, one person to blame if anything goes wrong. It holds accountability to one person," said rider Mark Panelo.

"Good, good then, maybe they won't break down so much and they'll all be standardized," said Perkins.

KTVU's Tom Vacar contributed to this story.