Bay Area Rapid Transit (CA) directors held a special meeting last week to hear proposals for a cell-phone shutdown policy from a newly appointed citizens review panel. The action was in response to BART’s shutdown of cell-phone access at several stations in anticipation of a planned protest in August. One proposal called for requiring three of four BART officials (police chief, general manager, board president, and legal counsel) to sign off on any actions; another would allow cell-phone shutdowns only in cases of extreme risk to public safety. But board members could not reach a consensus according to reports in Transportation Nation and San Francisco Bay Guardian. “Neither speculation about a protest, nor mere disruption of train service, nor other illegal activity by itself constitutes a risk to passenger safety that would warrant interrupting cell service,” director Robert Raburn said. But board vice president John McPartland disagreed, saying the action was justified. “This is the beginning of a review from a national perspective on this issue,” he said. “I, for one, think we should maintain our ability to control cell service until we have it looked at from a legislative perspective.” Taking the middle ground, board member Joel Keller urged caution. “I think we can slow down a bit at this point,” he said. “Let’s make sure this is properly vetted.” Despite the apparent division among board members, BART officials expect to develop a policy and bring it to a vote within a month.
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