BART permanently removes another entrance to Civic Center station

BART permanently removes another entrance to Civic Center station
Photos: Teresa Hammerl/Hoodline
By Teresa Hammerl - Published on November 05, 2018.

On Thursday, BART permanently closed a second entrance to its Civic Center station, in front of the Hotel Whitcomb at Market and 8th streets. According to spokesperson Alicia Trost, the entrance is closing to accommodate construction of a new power substation.

Its closure follows that of the station entrance across Market Street, which abutted Burger King. That entrance closed in December 2016

As with the previous closure, the overground entrance will be removed, and a piece of steel will cover the hole where it once stood, BART spokesperson Alicia Trost told Hoodline via email. 

In three weeks, pedestrians will be able to walk over what used to be the stairs leading into the station. Underground, the hallway leading into the two now-closed exits will no longer be accessible to the public, with a gate in place just before the Muni exits under 8th Street. 

Image: BART

The new traction power substation at Civic Center is part of BART's efforts to increase train capacity through the Transbay Tube, with construction starting early next year. 

The installation of the power substation will take at least two years, Trost said. After the construction is complete, BART's peak capacity through the Transbay Tube is expected to increase by 40 percent. 

"We studied possible locations of the new substations extensively, and reached the conclusion that the west end of the concourse level of the Civic Center station is the only place where the new substation can go," BART noted in a statement last month.

The entrance's closure will send many westbound pedestrians aboveground sooner, to a corner of Market and 8th streets that is notorious for drug dealing and use.

Public data on SFPD calls for service show frequent alerts for drugs, suspicious persons, trespassers and homeless encampments at the intersection, along with high numbers of 311 requests for needle and human waste cleanups.

While the closure of the second entrance and the adjacent hallway will remove a large chunk of the station's ticketing level, Trost said that BART has no plans to dial back any level of cleaning or security for the Civic Center station after closing the entrance.

Representatives for the nearby Starbucks and Hotel Whitcomb did not respond to a request for comment on how the entrance closure might impact their businesses.

For the past three years, Downtown Streets Team crews have been picking up debris and needles in the area around Civic Center BART. Team members are volunteers who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless, the nonprofit also supports its team members in finding housing or a job.

While many still see the area as hazardous to BART and Muni riders exiting and entering Civic Center station, San Francisco director Brandon Davis said that Civic Center has actually come a long way in the past three years.

He believes the city's lack of affordable housing is the key issue, as well as a lack of meaningful daily activity and a peer network, which can play an important role in reducing substance abuse.

Downtown Streets Team members often talk to those living on the streets on a peer-to-peer basis, using patience and consistency to build trust.

"All that is left is public space if you don't rent or own a place," he said.