BART Sharts on Twitter

To demonstrate the quality of its air filtration, the transit agency’s official account used a potent portmanteau.

With a deadly airborne virus circulating, BART wants to reassure the good people of the Bay Area that its trains are safe — at least with under-capacity crowds and 100 percent mask compliance. But, in a sure sign of the times, things quickly devolved into potty humor. 

First, the information that is actually relevant to people’s health and safety: BART’s official Twitter account on Thursday posted a thread complete with nifty graphics and real science, explaining how air on its train cars is filtered out every 70 seconds. The thread notes that “air is filtered more effectively than in an office or grocery store.” 

Technically-inclined people can read an in-depth description of BART’s air filtration protocols and the new technologies it is testing on the agency’s website. The New York Times also has some impressive and rather upsetting graphics showing what happens to viral air particles when somebody sneezes on a subway train. All of this information points in an encouraging direction: studies from around the world increasingly show that mass transit is not a major vector of coronavirus transmission. 

Of course, BART’s thread didn’t reassure everyone. Twitter user Mike Spinney asked, “All we really want to know is how long it will take the new system to filter a fart out of the car.”

BART’s official Twitter account, or perhaps a rogue intern, took the bait, escalating things even further. “About 70 seconds, maybe longer if you laid a real monster of a fart or sharted yourself,” BART replied.

With 5,000 likes and counting, the tweet featuring the portmanteau of “shit” and “fart” has many times the engagement of the original thread about air filtration, which begins with the sober message, “Let’s talk air flow in BART cars.”

BART’s educational message about air filtration in its cars is also a lesson in postmodern communications. If you can’t get the people to listen to science, they’re all ears when it comes to shart jokes. 

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