This past December a group investigating the cleanliness of five national transit networks found BART to be teeming with gram-positive cocci — bacteria that can cause skin infections and pneumonia. Samples obtained via swabbing handrails in BART cars were sent to a lab for testing, and the results remind us BART is very much a public space shared by many, many people.
"BART in San Francisco and the Metro in Washington, D.C. both predominantly hosted gram-positive cocci, which are a common cause of skin infections," reads the study conducted by travel website Travelmath. "The Metro was also the only location that yielded type II gram-positive cocci, and only BART and the L-train [in Brooklyn] contained Bacillus (which can cause a range of infections, including respiratory illnesses)."
Fun! But worry you not — according to the study, BART's bacteria count pales in comparison to the New York City subway's (which, yeah), and besides, not all bacteria is inherently harmful. Regardless, the study suggests that you should "[avoid] touching surfaces if you can help it" while riding BART.
This news, of course, reminds us of a 2011 investigation by the Bay Citizen which determined BART's cloth seats were covered in "fecal and skin-borne bacteria resistant to antibiotics." Well, now that we've had those easier-to-clean vinyl seats for a few years, and most of the gross carpeting has been torn up, it was perhaps time for another close look at the agreed-to-be filthy public transit on which we all depend. Sadly, the results aren't really all that surprising.