SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Elevators at two San Francisco BART stations will be staffed with attendants from open to close starting Monday as part of a six-month pilot program, thanks to a partnership between BART and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

In an attempt to address safety, cleanliness and availability issues, attendants hired through the San Francisco-based organization Hunters Point Family will be monitoring the elevators at the Civic Center and Powell Street stations daily as part of the new pilot program.

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The attendants will greet riders and direct people seeking bathrooms to the street level Pit Stop toilets located above both stations, BART and Muni officials said.

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BART elevator attendant Tawanna Haines smiles during her first day on the job at Civic Center station. (CBS)

At Civic Center station Monday, elevator attendant Tawanna Haines told KPIX 5 her appearance was well-received. “So far, so good,” she said. “I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback.”

Haines said on her first day, she was able to ward off several issues just by her presence.

“One was coming up with the needle actually in his hand. Another person was just, like, walking up, seeing me, and turned,” said Haines. “Each time they saw me they turned on their own, which let me know, you are coming in here to do something you weren’t supposed to do.”

BART board director Bevan Dufty said having clean and safe elevators makes the whole difference for riders.

“BART has really been focused on what the rider is experiencing and Civic Center is really ground zero for the frustration that riders feel about homelessness, about people that are mentally ill, about feeling unsafe late at night,” Bevan Dufty, a member of BART’s Board of Directors, said this morning at the Civic Center station.

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“For too long we have heard from some of those riders that the worst part of their trip was the elevator ride,” Ed Reiskin, Muni’s director of transportation, said.

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“This partnership … will restore dignity to that part of the ride. We want that dignity for riders whether they’re in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller or with a suitcase. We want to make sure that not only is it a pleasant ride but a positive experience so they don’t have to hold their nose while they’re in the elevator or so that they don’t have to fear for their safety,” Reiskin said.

BART and Muni riders have complained for years about unsanitary and unusable elevators. In 2015, BART attempted to mitigate the problem by replacing the flooring on all 27 elevators throughout the system, making them easier to clean. Splashguards were also put in place along the sides of the elevators to prevent liquids from flowing underneath the floor and damaging equipment.

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Hunters Point Family, an organization that empowers youth, adults and formerly incarcerated people, already provides attendants for the Pit Stop public toilets above the Powell Street and 16th Street Mission BART stations.

The organization’s founder and co-executive director Lena Miller said the new elevator attendant pilot program is another opportunity for the organization to fulfill its mission of providing support to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“San Francisco is faced at the intersection of an opioid and methamphetamine epidemic with homelessness, with extreme poverty and with the impact of mass incarceration,” Miller said.

“We are tasked with bringing a sense of security and safety to areas that have become chaotic and we are excited and we are honored to do it,” Miller said. “The fact that BART and MTA chose the Hunters Point Family to do this is not lost on us and we are going to work hard to transform this area to a place where everyone can feel safe and everyone can be proud of.”

“We need our stations to be accessible, we need to them to be friendly and we need community members taking dominion over these stations,” BART director Lateefah Simon of the partnership with Hunters Point Family.

“What a day in San Francisco when you have two of the biggest public agencies in our state, BART and Muni, coming together with a grassroots organization, for over a generation that’s been training young men and women to stand up and fight for their new communities,” Simon said.

After six months, BART and Muni officials will determine whether the elevator attendant pilot program will continue at Powell Street and Civic Center stations, and whether it will be expanded to other stations.

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