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Update: Noise, Safety, Cleanliness Top Concerns At BART Forum

BART Board President Bob Franklin spoke at the San Leandro Main Library Tuesday night. Added now are documents he provided about a cell phone service cutoff. He got no questions on this at the forum but the issue arose on Facebook.Com/SanLeandroPatch.

Track noise, safety at the stations and cleanliness of platforms and bathrooms were top concerns when BART Board President Bob Franklin held a two-hour public forum at the main San Leandro Public Library Tuesday night.

Several dozen people attended the meeting, which was dominated by senior citizens.

Track noise was a predominant concern.

Franklin said that as the tracks age they need to be sanded or ground down to allow the trains to travel more quietly. The system has had one grinding machine and recently acquired a second.

But those machines are busy now grinding the Transbay Tube to lessen the noise in that artery.

BART officials promised that San Leandro's roughly 10 miles of tracks -- adding southbound and northbound together -- would get grinding attention by late March.

Meanwhile, Franklin said the winter rains should provide a natural lubricant to lessen the noise for now. He said homeowners with particular noise complaints could email him and he would direct their notes to the proper officials.

The first question of the night came from a former BART commuter from San Leandro who said she had stopped riding the system after someone accosted her while she was waiting for the train on the platform.

Franklin said BART was trying to address safety by putting more visible patrols on trains during commute hours.

He also spoke about design changes in the works for the Bay Fair BART station to lessen the number of places where commuters have to walk through areas where they can be preyed upon without being seen.

Cleanliness was a big concern.

Attendees said the stations were getting dirtier. Franklin said BART was doing its best but its budget cuts have hit custodial services.

The issue of pigeon poop at the San Leandro station arose.

Franklin said officials keep trying new things to discourage the birds from roosting overhead and dropping on the platforms and walkways with limited success.

Franklin also addressed why BART shut down cell phone service on August 11. He said it acted because it had intelligence that activists would be communicating with each other to disrupt service in a way that could trap thousands of commuters in the Transbay Tube.

He said that after the cutoff, which drew public criticism, BART had revised its policies to insure that public communications on the system would only be shut down in the gravest of circumstances. He was not questioned on the matter.

(Note: Documents provided by Franklin were added to this story on Nov. 10, after the cell phone issue surfaced on Facebook.com/SanLeandroPatch. They describe the protestors planning process.)

San Leandro city engineer Keith Cooke also previewed the city's plans to plant trees and make other visual improvements along San Leandro Boulevard near the downtown station.

The idea is to make the area more pedestrian friendly for housing that the city hopes to attract near the BART station, as pat of San Leandro's Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) strategy.

Although the recession has made housing developments unlikely for now, the city expects to start making street improvements along San Leandro Boulevard near the downtown station next spring.

The forum was organized by San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who roamed the room with a microphone to facilitate the questions.

(Editor's note: Additional details from the meeting, including plans to purchase new cars, can be found in a series of postings on our Facebook page. Friend us!)

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