Please try again

Broken elevators and service outages may seem like routine inconveniences to many BART riders. But to people like Ellen Greenblatt’s friend Blaise they’re serious trouble.
Among the background noises we barely hear as we ride BART are the announcements of out-of-service elevators.
But if you are my wheelchair-bound swim-buddy Blaise, and you travel on BART from your downtown Oakland apartment to UC Berkeley for your swim, you know those announcements all too well.
Blaise checks online ahead of time to see what’s out of service. So, even if the elevator is not working at 19th Street and he has to go from 12th Street, farther from his apartment, he doesn’t complain. The pool awaits.
Blaise leaves his Oakland apartment by 9:30 to make our noon pool date, rolling up to the campus pool in his manual wheelchair. He knows the plan and what it takes, and he is justifiably and quietly proud of his independence.

But the other day, he texted me at 10:42, “I’m at the downtown Berkeley BART station where I was told street elevator is out of service. Enjoy your swim. Are you available over the weekend?”
He didn’t feel outraged, but I did. If BART elevators broke only rarely, maybe we could understand a last-minute outage. But BART elevators and escalators break all the time, and both BART maintenance and BART announcements “apologizing for any inconvenience” are simply inadequate responses to a problem that is more than an inconvenience to people like Blaise, whose lives depend on public transit to get around.
He and I rescheduled, hoping the promised elevator repair would, in fact, take place before the weekend. I missed his company at the pool that day, and the lifeguards who help me operate the chairlift that gets him in and out of the pool shook their heads when they learned that BART had kept one of their most dedicated swimmers away.
Blaise’s courage, resilience and equanimity are amazing, but he isn’t Superman. It’s time for BART to help him out with elevator service he and the rest of us can count on.
With a Perspective, I’m Ellen Greenblatt.

Ellen Greenblatt is a Bay Area educator.