Providing Adequate Security on BART

Honorable Bevan Dufty
President of the BART Board

Subject: Providing Adequate Security on BART

Dear President Dufty and other members of the BART Board of Directors:

It is come to our attention that in recent hearings, the BART Board, bowing to intense pressure from people who claim to be privacy advocates, has backed away from previous efforts to ensure security and safety in BART cars and in and around BART stations.

BATWG strongly supports reasonable security arrangements conducted in accordance with established State and federal law. From our review of case law and elements of the Government Code it appears to be quite legal to visually monitor people in legitimately public areas. These would include the interiors of BART trains, the public areas inside BART stations and the BART-owned public areas around BART stations. If BART believes that statutory and/or case law; or contractual or other legal requirements exist that contradict our findings, we ask that we, and the public, be made aware of the specifics thereof.

At a time when Bay Area traffic congestion has become the 2nd or 3rd worst in the entire U.S. it is disturbing to find transit ridership dropping. In order to reverse this destructive trend a greater effort must be made to identify, reduce and ultimately eliminate the factors causing would-be transit riders to turn away at a time when more transit riding is needed. One of the most of damaging of these negative factors stems from the inappropriate actions of some individuals in and around BART stations and on BART trains.

Most transit patrons are intent upon getting to their destinations and prefer to be left alone to read, sleep, engage in private conversation or use their cell phones. But in today’s world that is often not possible. It doesn’t take a million dollar study to recognize that riders who frequently witness or experience fare evasion; theft; spaced out drug addicts; drunks sprawled across two or three seats; loud music; acrobatic panhandling; abusive or profane language, or obnoxious and even threatening acts, are less than happy with the situation. Some riders don’t much care what they encounter during their transit trips. But others care a great deal. It is a certainty that unacceptable in-station and on-car behavior is causing would-be transit riders to turn away.

So what to do about the problem? Putting attendants or perhaps police on every train car and every bus might help…but it’s unrealistic to think that a transit property could afford to provide that level of personal security. Establishing and posting clear rules would let observant riders know what’s regarded as unacceptable, but is unlikely to constitute much of a deterrent. One important security measure that has not as yet been adequately deployed is video surveillance. As indicated above, it appears to be well established that the law permits video surveillance in ordinary public places, excluding bathrooms and other locations that are generally understood to be private.

We are convinced that most riders would much prefer to be video-taped than offended, bullied, threatened or victimized. To detect, apprehend and perhaps deter inappropriate actions, cameras should be mounted where and as necessary. And it goes without saying that to be effective a video surveillance system must be accompanied by diligent monitoring and vigorous follow-up.


Gerald Cauthen
President, Bay Area Transportation Working Group
510 208 5441

cc Grace Crunican
Ed Reiskin
Michael Hursh
Elements of the press and media