Approximately 50 BART officials and directors toured the Powell Street BART Station Thursday as part of an official look at what Macy's Union Square employees apparently call "The Toilet."

The San Francisco Chronicle's Michael Cabanatuan opens his piece on the tour with this gem: "Near the end of Thursday's BART Board of Directors meeting, the transit system's elected leaders found themselves in the unusual position of staring at something not on the agenda: a fresh puddle of urine."

Cabanatuan's article on the tour is worth a read but here are some highlights:

  • In looking at an elevator, assistant chief transportation officer for BART's San Francisco and Peninsula lines Paula Fraser said, "You can see, there's fluid at the bottom. It often includes a tissue, too."

  • "Here at Powell Street, just about every time the elevator goes up to the street, unfortunately, it is used as a restroom," said Fraser.

  • "What are you going to do for the riding public?" shouted Tom Selhorst, an El Cerrito resident who rides BART to Powell Station daily.

  • "This was important to do," said Director Joel Keller of Brentwood.

  • The Chronicle's photographs of the tour include experts speaking into a microphone throughout their stroll as a woman holds a speaker system connected to it in her bare arms.

Thursday's tour had interesting timing. The Examiner reported that on Monday, the Department of Public Health issued a notice declaring the area within 50 feet of the Civic Center BART Station entrances are "a public health nuisance" and gave homeless people 72 hours to vacate. This means that on the same day the big-wigs were touring Powell Street's Station, homeless people were being kicked out of the Civic Center Station.

BART board meeting taking place at Powell Station. #Onassignment

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"When people are in crisis, they look for places to be and these public spaces in the stations are a place where people go. What they're looking for is assistance, they're looking for a quiet place to rest but they're also looking for a way back into society," said Sam Dodge, deputy director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, also along for the tour.

Claude Imbault, director of strategic initiatives for the Union Square Business Improvement District pointed out that when tourists arrive from the airport, Powell Street Station is often their first introduction to San Francisco. "What's happening in Powell Street Station is having an economic impact on San Francisco. We can do better," said Imbault.

According to the Examiner, both BART and Muni will contribute "$125,000 toward the cost of hiring two homeless outreach workers who will specifically target the four downtown BART and Muni stations."

"Homelessness is a serious problem that impacts society in general and has a huge impact on BART. We simply have to improve the conditions in our stations. It would be a shame to let our stations become de facto homeless shelters," said Keller.

The Powell Street BART Station is slated to undergo some big changes in the coming years, to the tune of $80 million. As previously reported, a new metal grid ceiling will be installed, vending machines will be moved to free up space, and folks will have to have purchased a ticket before they're able to use the BART elevator as a toilet.

Related: Sorely Needed Improvements (Like An Actual Ceiling) Bound For Powell BART