The walls of the Embarcadero BART station are getting a cleaning. This photo was first posted to the San Francisco Reddit board earlier this week. (Photo posted to Reddit by broostenq.)

The Embarcadero BART station is getting a thorough scrub-down this week. Workers on the graveyard shift have been sandblasting sections of the walls along the tracks at night, says BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost.

The results are dramatic: It almost appears the clean sections of the wall have been painted white.

Despite appearances, the station walls aren’t plain gray concrete but are actually white terrazzo, a composite material made of rock and glass chips suspended in cement. Decades of brake dust from BART and Muni trains, plus the grime brought into the stations by humans, have caked the walls in filth.

“The main reason that Embarcadero is such a problem station with the walls getting as dark as they do is that it’s the first station out of the Transbay Tube,” Trost said. “The walls collect all the subway grime and train brake dust that blows out from the tube.”

Earlier this year, a decades-old textile installation, “Legs” by Barbara Shawcroft, was removed from the station. Originally orange, the work had grown so dark with soot it was barely perceptible against the station walls. In its 35 years on display, it was cleaned twice, at great expense.

Left: Barbara Shawcroft’s “Legs” in 1978. (Photo courtesy of the artist. Taken by William Hocker.) Right: "Legs" in 2008. (Maria Hanafy/KQED)
Left: Barbara Shawcroft’s “Legs” in 1978. (Photo courtesy of the artist. Taken by William Hocker.) Right: “Legs” in 2008. (Maria Hanafy/KQED)


Embarcadero BART Station Gets Dramatic Cleaning 22 July,2014Olivia Allen-Price

  • Leslie Nope

    YAY !! get out there and enjoy the white walls, it will be another 40 years till you see them this clean again 🙂 hehehe

    • Tony Trudeau

      For some reason this reminds me of the book Wool…

  • SFnative74

    Those walls are amazing! Thanks for cleaning them, BART. And please, do not put “Legs” back – it wasn’t very good even when it was new and clean.

  • Is BART dust delicious or good for our health? If so it would save me a trip to the health food store.

  • powerwashing can’t cost that much – should do that more often. Also if any more art installations go in – lets not have so many nooks and crannies for soot/dust to sit 😉 easier to clean too.

  • Danielle

    I don’t know if I am happy it is clean or worried about what my insides look like after using BART for so many years… yikes!

  • NotAGreatNose

    Wish they could do the same for the balboa park station stairs that always smell like piss.

    • Mark

      I think you mean “all of San Francisco”?

  • Fidigirl

    It’s a tragedy that a world class transit system like BART continues to operate under such filth. I have to hold my breathe every time I walk down Powell station. No other business would get away with it.

  • Cathryn Mataga

    Yeah, what can I say? Thank you, but it’s about time, really. Come on. This is just the first step. Bart is like, 99% gross.

  • Aaron Bateman

    LOL, even though CivCen stank more, I was always shocked at how grimy EMB looked. Guess I know why now.

  • MizKatz

    If the walls are that dirty, imagine the air that we breathe down there every day during the commute!! Wish they had the $$ for an air filtration system…

  • Lisa Baroni

    great way to conserve water bart!!!!!!!!

    • Jack

      you are an could’ve been dry version of sand blasting with tiny particles going at a high velocity. probably one of those dipsticks that thought steven spielberg killed triceratops.



Olivia Allen-Price

Olivia Allen-Price is producer and host of the Bay Curious series. Prior to joining KQED in 2013, Olivia worked at The Baltimore Sun and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. She holds degrees in journalism and political science from Elon University. She loves to talk about running, ice cream and curly hair.

Follow: @oallenprice

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