BART escalators caked in human poo

So much human excrement was drawn into one San Francisco subway escalator that a HAZMAT team was required after it ground to a poo-glued halt. Will Kane in SFGate:

While the sheer volume of human waste was surprising, its presence was not. Once the stations close, the bottom of BART station stairwells in downtown San Francisco are often a prime location for homeless people to camp for the night or find a private place to relieve themselves. All those biological excretions can gum up the wheels and gears of BART's escalators, shutting them down for long periods of extended repairs, increasing station cleaning costs and creating an unpleasant aroma for morning commuters.



  1. WOW… well… that explains the smell.  And I was always accused of being elitist when I said it smelled like a toilet.

    1. Too good for homeless shitsmell eh? You’re clearly against the homeless, elitest snob. 

      I relish the homeless shitsmell, it reminds me of how privileged I am. I would oppose any venture that proposed to eliminate that sensitive odour!

      But seriously, why do people oppose costly public toilets so vehemently when the obvious result is that there will still be costly public toilets?

      1. Perhaps for the same reason they don’t mind U.S. emergency rooms acting as the world’s most extravagantly expensive socialized healthcare system!

        1. Yes, yes, and again, yes! I see cities all over the country forbidding charitable organization to give away food – because it attracts the homeless. “If we cut off their food supply, then they will go away.” Go away and die, is what they mean. Sure, let’s put a padlock on every trash can so that can’t even eat the scraps we throw out. Better yet, let’s poison them like pigeons in the park.

      2. In reply to that last sentence: 

        You assume most people are rational enough to come to the proper conclusions on their own.

      3. I don’t think that’d make a difference. Some homeless are to drunk/drugged to care where they go. I’ve seen homeless wallowing in their own ecrement not 20m from a public convenience at the local train station. These people need rehab, not a toilet.

        1. You’ve seen the most desperate of the desperate.  The people you saw and realized were homeless, are probably a small fraction of the total number of homeless people you’ve seen – the tip of the iceberg.  The majority would use them.

          Besides which – “These people need rehab, not a toilet.”  Seriously?  Even people in need of rehab, also need a toilet.  If they got very thirsty, it wouldn’t mean they needed clean drinking water, not rehab or toilets – there would just be one more thing they need.

          1. Well yeah but that hidden majority isn’t shitting on the escaltors now I don’t think. You can lead a horse to water what you can’t make it drink.

        2.  I’ve seen homeless that transformed into unicorns before my very eyes. They need a stable and hay, not a toilet.

      4.  I always thought that Starbucks and McDonalds were public toilets that also served food or coffee on the side

        1.  The Starbucks in SF won’t give you the code or key to the bathroom without a purchase.

  2. HAZMAT? Really? I mean sure it’s disgusting as hell, but that sounds like overkill.

      1. It really depends on what type of flip flop he is it a J-K or and R-S flip flop?

        Though what flip flops have to do with clothing is unclear.

        Jandals maybe?

      2. To be fair, in India there are hereditary classes of people who are not allowed to do any profession but scooping out sewage by hand, and they do it without any protection (pictures available on the interwebs, but don’t bother unless you have a strong stomach). Not that it’s a good thing, but it does say something about the danger. It is nearly impossible to escape the class you are born into (at least for the extreme lower classes), so if there were a significant mortality rate associated with this job these poor families would have died out.

        1. No, you can die a lot without dying out. In order to die out EVERYONE has to die, that doesn’t make it any less incredibly dangerous. 

          To show you how flawed this argument is look at any high fatality job and trivialize the deaths of the individuals involved.

        2. There’s a One Percenter reply if I ever saw one.

          Because there’s a never-ending supply of impoverished people willing to clean up after you, you assume they must all be living to a ripe old age.  You don’t consider the possibility that they’re dying like flies, and are replaced by their orphaned children, or the impoverished children of others.  Roll down the window of your car and get a sniff of the real world.

    1. Awesome, it looks like we are playing a game of “how stupid can I sound”.

      My turn…e-coli is safe for human consumption, and even smearing it onto your body will do no harm whatsoever!Only pussies and snobs wear protective clothing.

      1. But if our colons have feces in them that means feces are safe to roll around in, right?

        1. You can certainly roll around in your own. As long as you don’t have any open wounds and you use eye protection.

    2. Your job is to clean a machine of large amounts of caked on human waste with god knows what bacteria in it.  Now, would you still like a hazmat suit?

    3. No it’s really not when you think about it. When your job, every day is to clean this stuff, you accumulate a critical mass of exposure to this nastiness and it makes protection even more important.

      1.  I don’t care if you only make me do it once, I’m still gonna suit up like Carl Spackler cleaning the pool at Bushwood.

  3. I question the necessity of shutting the escalators down for “long periods.” Some have been down for *months*, when, I dunno, to my untrained eye it looks like maybe a pressure washer could help speed this up quite a bit. If someone ever decides to invent this “pressure washer” thing, that is. Walking past the cleaning operations, let’s just say it doesn’t inspire confidence in the efficiency of the workers. Shit or no shit, there’s ways of dealing with this problem better.

      1. Yeah, how dare I have an opinion! I mean, it’s not like I have anything else to do, or that I pay my taxes and fares for the purpose of maintenance. Go ahead, though, shed a tear for BART management.

        1.  Management isn’t cleaning the crud, the guys at the bottom are.  Why don’t you go give them your opinion?

    1. I doubt it’s that easy… you’d end up with pools of fetid water everywhere.  Keep in mind that it’s an escalator with lots of moving parts inside and is not an easily moppable floor.  Just thinking about the addition of the water and the resulting stink makes me ick.  Pass me the hazmat please!

      1. Thank golly the discipline and profession of engineering has not yet been outlawed. Have you heard of the concept of suction?

    2. If the escalators are old like they are in Toronto, (30+ years) there’s probably a whole host of mechanical problems and problems finding spare parts that contribute to extended shutdowns, not JUST human excrement (god, I hope not).

    3. Pressure washers are a mixed blessing when it comes to machinery.

      Many are the times I’ve been staring at a grimy, greasy, crusted piece of machine and wanted so badly to use a pressure washer and just blast it clean, or a bead blaster or the like. 

      But you often cannot. A pressure washer can blast through perfectly good but ugly grease seals, and force water through the tiniest crack or indention, into places water was never meant to be, then you have a worthless hunk of metal. A bead blaster can remove a finish unintentionally or dimple the exterior of a part, ruining it, but it’s still a better bet than the pressure washer. Yet for an escalator or something the part must be removed and taken to where you can use a bead blaster box, but the what-if’s go on and on depending on what you are working on. Bottom line, you can’t just go scorched earth on a lot of stuff that seems tough enough to take it.

      1. Crimony, I’m not suggesting a nuclear sandblaster. However, I am making an assumption that variable pressure would be available, though from these responses I’m not sure it’s been invented yet.

        1. Well, OBVIOUSLY for YOU it’d be incredibly easy to use a pressure washer with the intricacy required for operations you’re describing, because you know everything–but what good is that to the rest of us know-nothings?

          I suspect the result of your suggestion would be as useful as flushing a transmission out with water. Good luck with that.

  4. If only they had something simple to put across the front of the escalators at night, like a lockable gate.  But why do that when instead they can spend millions on escalator rehab??

  5. WTF is wrong with people.   Heck even my dog goes to the furthest corner of the yard to take a dump and he likes the smell…

  6. San Francisco has at least 25 self-cleaning public toilets that cost the City nothing. Ad revenue plastered on the side pays for them. All are disabled-friendly. And mostly, they’re on Market, Civic Center, Union Sq and some touro spots. Clearly, there aren’t enough.

    1. Agreed. The cost for cleanup could as easily pay for porta potties, redesign of existing bathrooms to remove the security issues (they’ve been closed since 9/11 apparently) or redesign of the escalator to redirect the offending material.

      1. What is needed is an escalator that uses poo as it’s sole source of energy.

        Gentlemen, I present to you The Excrema-lator!

    2. Why do you leave out the fact that you are describing pay-for-use toilets? Did you know that the ads don’t make them free?

        1. Lovie, why won’t those nasty homeless people use the pay toilets?

          I don’t know, Thurston, perhaps they can’t get change for their ATM twenties when they need it.

    3. Clearly, certain individuals care so little about the city that they would rather crap in a BART escalator.  And SFPD doesn’t do, well, shit about it.

    4. I think that people who shit on the escalator may not be in control of the defecatory function.

    5. There is one outside the 24th St Bart Station, which is the station in question here. Those bathrooms are terrifying and mostly used for drugs, prositution, etc etc. Cleaning THOSE areas absolutely requires a hazmat suit.

      1. Part of the issue is that the bathrooms are large enough for the disabled to use, which makes them large enough for sex. Paris solved that problem. Most of the bathrooms are too small for that kind of thing, and the handicap accessible ones are ONLY accessible by the handicapped (they get issued keys).

  7. When a nation refuses to care for it’s poor, and it’s mentally ill, they are forced to take care of themselves.

    1. Wait, are you saying that taking care of others makes things better for the rest of us?  Absurdity!

  8. Why do they crap on escalators? Why not the stairs, why not on the tracks, why not somewhere else besides the escalators. What is the attraction to defecate on escalators. Is it a calling card to say “Fuck you working mobile people”? It makes little sense but creates a ordours scent. Smells like the work for a social anthropologist.

    Human excrement is a large problem in any society. This is reminiscent of Victorian age and prior when waste was simply dumped into the street.

    Certainly is offal.

    1.  Just guessing here, but it may be that some of these escalator poopers no longer respect the society that poops on them. If I were of this bent, I would also take aim at whatever machinery was conveniently located and difficult to clean.

    2. I got the impression they were crapping elsewhere in the underground, and it was getting tracked onto the escalators where it gets scraped off the shoes of travelers.  Actually crapping on the escalator would require better timing than most of us can muster!  Do the homeless eat a lot of fiber?

    3. As far as the Montgomery station goes, the walls at the top of the escalator lend pretty much the only privacy in the area.

  9. How does one poop on an escalator?  I mean, I guess you could squat at either end, perched just above the moving stairs; or if you are adventurous,  ride the tide.  

    Of course, if you choose the latter option, you need to finish in time to dismount; or you will be in a world of scat.

  10. Hmmmmm how about you take all that money you spend annually to clean up after things like this and just hire a BART security company to work the bart stations and lines and remove the homeless people therefore removing the whole shitting on the escalator debacle 

    1.  While I am loathe to call it such, the ‘problem’ wouldn’t go away, it would just move somewhere else.

      If you want to spend that money, wouldn’t it be better spent being put to use  combating the issues contributing to homelessness?

  11. What exactly are the logistics of pooing on an escalator?  Like, where does one sit?  (Stand?)  And why is this preferable to pooing in a corner?  Wouldn’t anything solid just pile at the bottom of the escalator?  

    1.  The escalators are shut down overnight. The bottom of the escalator leading from the street to the mezzanine is one of the most private spots on Market or Mission from 1-4am.

  12. Man, it sure is a good thing we don’t waste public funds on the mentally ill in California any more.

  13.  The 6 Walmart heirs hold more wealth than 42% of Americans combined.  But the problem with America is those inconsiderate people who don’t have a roof over their heads or a place to crap.

  14. San Francisco smells of wee, occasionally poop.
    BART escalators fail regularly. I started taking pictures of failed escalators, but gave up because it seemed a daily occurrence. .
    Only a fraction of it can be blamed on poop, generally it’s very poor management and maintenance of assets … which is what happens when you hate your customers.

    1. It’s what happens when your operating budget doesn’t track usage or inflation, and when no one accounts for a surge in maintenance costs once a system reaches end of life.  BART is sorely due replacing, but I can’t imagine a project of that scope being accomplished ever again in the US.

      1. Yes investment is needed, and I’m a BART fan … but can you stand there with your hand on your heart and state that BART is ran as efficeintly as it possibly could be?
        For example, some agencies contract out vertical/horzontal transportation maintenance to companies who do that as a core business, and it usually leads to greater value and better customer service.  

  15. Maybe I’m reaching here. The simplest solution may be to replace said escalator with umm… I don’t know… stairs? Could this be a solution for the obesity problem in the country as well? Put every fast food joint ten stories up.

    1. There are stairs. Unfortunately, those fucking slacker disabled people refuse to use them. Not to mention people with small children, people carrying packages and any other group of lazy-ass fatties. Go figure.

      1.  ‘Those people’ sound poor. And the poor don’t need to travel about, do they? Can’t they just be poor at home?

  16. Just FYI, I have a sneaking suspicion there’s more to this story. First of all, local blogs like Mission Mission had been reporting on ridiculously lengthy escalator out of service times at Mission stations (one escalator at 16th was out for months and when finally fixed broke again in hours). The story was starting to pick up some media traction, when suddenly the notoriously conservative and homeless-baiting Chronicle gets fed a story that escalators are out of service because of feces, thus causing a cavalcade of disgust and anti-poor/inner-city/homeless sentiment to come crashing down, obliterating the original story of BART ignoring City stations.

    The thing is, BART has a long, awful history of poor treatment of its urban stations at the expense of its suburban stations, and their defense of this inequality has always been astonishingly, blatantly classist, and by implication, racist: a response from a BART board member to a complaint I made years ago about the state of 16th St Station infrastructure was met with the response that improvements were useless because “those people” treated the station so badly. Of course, issues like the inadequate fare gates and the single overcrowded escalator to the station platform show BART prejudice that has little to do with how inner city riders behave.

    Moreover, of course we all know about BART’s recent trouble with, you know, shooting people, and unilaterally switching off cell phone service to prevent people from protesting about that, and lying about it. So BART has a history of, well, sneakiness, at best. It would be great if rather than just parroting an obviously spoon-fed story to the Chronicle meant to grab gross-out headlines, somebody responsible like Boing Boing actually looked into this to see how BART treats its inner city stations and why it counters bad press with homeless-baiting, um, crap.

  17. And the most common argument I hear against public washrooms? “We’d have to pay people to clean them”.

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