BART will review its safety protocols and announce new initiatives to protect passengers and employees — measures that take on new significance in the wake of last week’s bombing attack in Boston and a thwarted railway attack in Canada.
At the Thursday board of directors meeting, BART officials will discuss new communication strategies, upcoming training programs and efforts to improve relationships with other agencies. All of the proposals are aimed at improving safety conditions for workers and passengers, with specifics to be discussed in more detail at the meeting.
Board President Tom Radulovich said safety issues have been a concern for years at BART. The growing number of people camping out in stations and a lack of police officers due to hiring difficulties are top concerns among BART employees and customers, he said.
Radulovich said there is a renewed interest in establishing specific safety protocols following the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three people.
There is also a heightened attention to rail safety after two men were arrested in Canada on Monday on suspicion of plotting to blow up a bridge and derail a passenger train that runs between Toronto and New York.
“I think we’re all very interested in what the agency has in mind for safety improvements,” Radulovich said.
“Things are obviously a little tense for everyone right now, so this is the time to address these issues.”
Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 — the union that represents station agents, train operators and other front-line workers at BART — said the members of her organization have to deal with verbal and physical abuse on a regular basis. Union workers have complained to BART and its board of directors about this in the past, she said.
The union has suggested the use of Dutch doors, which are built so the top and bottom sections open separately, at station agent booths as a way to protect the workers, who have been attacked by unruly passengers in the past.
The doors could offer an extra sense of comfort for station agents while still allowing them to communicate with customers, the union says.
The union also complained about the meeting item regarding safety issues, which officials did not know about.
“We have no idea why they didn’t come to us first,” Bryant said. “We feel this is just another way for management to politicize an issue that could be handled in a much more direct manner.”
ATU Local 1555 and other BART unions are currently engaged in contract talks with the agency’s management. Bryant said increased safety conditions for workers will be a topic discussed at the bargaining table.