New BART canopies shield from rain, create barriers from homeless people

BART riders in San Francisco are getting a little extra protection from the elements as Bay Area Rapid Transit officially unveiled new canopies over station entrances, even if it is seven months late. 

The $66 million BART Canopy Project protects riders and the escalator from the elements, meaning the escalators should work more often. That also means a huge savings since we previously reported annual escalator repair costs are in the millions.  

As far back as 2015, we reported on BART riders who complained that the agency was allowing homeless people to, "lay all over the ground." The after-hours access to the stations was making the escalators a common place for the homeless population to use as restrooms. Human excrement negatively impacted the escalators' performance.  

Now, the new canopies can open and close with a push of a button, making the stations safer for BART workers, the agency said. 

The transit agency showed off its newest canopy over one of the Powell Street Station entrances on Market street. They did not explicitly address the homeless situation at their ribbon-cutting ceremony, only alluding to what the canopies would serve as barriers from. 

BART's leadership said the canopies have two major benefits: "Today these canopies will serve to keep out the weather and the trash. But, they also have a lockdown gate that at night will help us with security," said BART General Manager Grace Crunican.

BART said the canopy will keep rain off the escalator, meaning fewer repairs and improved reliability.

The transit agency said similar canopies in place in Oakland are already proving their value.

"We were able to get a 30 percent increase in availability of that escalator there. So, we hope this is the future of San Francisco," said Crunican.

Powell Street Station agent Dee Malabuyo said considering the early hours she shows up to work, the roll up door makes her feel safe.

"You know, [homeless] people sleeping sometimes, and just kind of hazardous things that we have to walk over to get down into the station to open it. So, this makes all the difference," said Malabuyo.

BART Director Bevan Dufty who has been a vocal member of the BART board, calling out needed improvements, said the new canopy is just one step for BART to win back riders' trust.

"This is the future," said Dufty. "This is what BART's going to be like. You're going to have a safe entrance. We're going to have new trains. One of our new trains is coming through the system right now. You're going to have elevator attendants."

Riders said the new canopy is already making a difference here. "Actually it's nice. I live just down in the Tenderloin and walking by, it's already cleaned it up quite a bit," said BART rider Dave Desjardin.

BART is planning on building a total of 24 new canopies on San Francisco BART stations along the Market Street corridor. 

The city plans on replacing the escalators inside those stations and improving rider service. Work on all the canopies and escalators should be wrapped up in 2027.