Elevator attendant pilot program extended after positive results: “Amazing on so many levels”


Elevator attendant pilot program extended after positive results: “Amazing on so many levels”

Charles Jones greets customers at the elevator

Elevator attendant Charles Jones greets customers at Powell Street Station in July 2018

BART Senior Web Producer

A pilot partnership placing elevator attendants at two San Francisco BART stations is going so well it’s been extended through June 2019.

The program, funded by BART and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, employs workers placed through the community-based organization Hunters Point Family to serve as attendants. It began in April 2018 for an initial pilot of six months. Data collected along with customer feedback since then has been overwhelmingly positive, and BART’s recently approved Fiscal Year 2019 budget will keep it funded through June 2019.

“This program is amazing on so many levels,” said Paula Fraser, Assistant Chief Transportation Officer for BART’s downtown San Francisco lines. “These workers are from the community, they’re helping our patrons, and they’re improving the quality of life in our stations, which benefits everyone.” The pilot is meant to address elevator cleanliness, safety, security, availability and accessibility issues. Elevators have been used as bathrooms or for drug use, reflecting a broader crisis of homelessness and opioid abuse.

Lena Miller, Founder and Executive Director of Hunters Point Family, said the men and women filling the attendant jobs are committed to hard work and improving the community because they know employment is key to success. “It’s a point of pride for them to be working and bettering their lives” she said. “We’ve seen so many from our community lost to gun violence, to drugs, to incarceration.”

Hunters Point Family is a grass-roots, community-based organization that provides holistic programs supporting education, leadership and workforce development, arts enrichment, and recreation to at-risk African American youth and young adults, primarily those living in the Bayview Hunters Point community of San Francisco.

Lena Miller leads a training
Lena Miller of Hunters Point Family leads a training session in July 2018

Miller led a training on Tuesday at the San Francisco Public Library for the most recently hired attendants, helping them to understand the root causes that have led to this point. It was a primer on neuroscience, explaining how the resilience they have gained from surviving in hard-knocks situations gives them unique insights into helping customers.

Elevator attendants make sure elevators are clean and usable while also pointing people who need a restroom in the right direction. Every day from opening to closing, the attendants greet riders and direct people seeking facilities to the well-maintained, fully attended, street-level Pit Stop bathrooms located above the Civic Center and Powell Street stations. 

“I honestly love this job,” said Malik Stewart, who takes BART from Richmond to San Francisco each day to work as an elevator attendant. “It is a tragic sight to see some of the conditions people are exposed to, especially the people with disabilities and the ones with babies in strollers.”   Stewart has a 2-year-old son, and said he can relate to the struggle of needing to use the elevator but wanting to avoid dirty conditions.  “I know I’m making it better,” he said. “I feel like I could bring my son here, to the library, on my day off, and not worry about what we will see in the elevator.”

Another elevator attendant, Shauna Adams, also feels she’s making a difference. “When I first started this job, my heart was hurting” from seeing so many people in crisis conditions, she said. “I stay positive. If you’ve got a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food to eat, you have a lot to be grateful for.”  Adams cheerfully chatted with customers as she sat on a stool next to the elevator buttons on one recent shift at Civic Center.  “We’re here to keep your shoes clean and your nose happy for your 30-second elevator ride,” said Adams, pictured below at right greeting a customer. 

Shauna Adams greets a customer

Another attendant, Charles Jones, greeted a couple of tourists from the United Kingdom who had been on a long-haul flight, were exhausted, and delighted to bring their multiple suitcases onto a clean elevator at Powell Street Station instead of hauling them up the stairs.  “Welcome to San Francisco,” he told them. “Enjoy your visit!”

In its first three months, the program has made a huge difference for customers who use elevators at the stations. Detailed data are collected using old-fashioned clipboard surveys on numbers of riders, adults and children, those with disabilities, with strollers, with bicycles, and other categories.  Data are also collected on whether the elevators with attendants have incidents of vandalism, drug paraphernalia, excrement, and other inappropriate use. In the elevators with attendants, inappropriate use has nose-dived to virtually zero.

Customer comments about the attendants have been uniformly positive. A sampling are included below:

  • Thank you- I’m too old to carry my bike up and down to the platform and it turned a dirty and dangerous situation into a pleasant experience- F. Gold
  • This is a wonderful idea to clean and staff the elevators for us and the tourists; show them a clean and organized city. – Alicia
  • Both elevators had attendants who were super polite and friendly. Great!! – Rosita
  • The elevators are now safe and clean. The attendants are a pleasure to interact with. Please keep it up! – Peter
  • As a mom I have been riding BART with a stroller for the past 18 months, and using the elevators was the most disgusting experience.  I had my first experience with the new elevator attendants at Powell station today, and they are wonderful.  Not only are they able to ensure that the elevators are clean and safe when we get in, but they are also so friendly and personable.  They made our BART trip today such a pleasant experience!  Please continue the program, and we would love to see it expanded to our home stations in the Mission.  Keep up the good work! – Megan

When more detailed information is collected from the new, longer run of the pilot project, BART will look at whether it’s possible to place attendants at even more stations throughout the system. Simultaneously, BART is taking a multipronged approach to addressing quality-of-life issues