Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Increasing # of SFO-bound riders. Good?

This is a good and bad thing. I've noticed that there are more and more SFO-bound passengers on BART. I don't blame them: I take BART to SFO too, but, during commute hours, this is really becoming a big problem.

Why? Because airport-bound passengers come with suitcases! Business travelers have one, that's tolerable. Young backpackers have one, that's fine. But families and older travelers, my goodness, I counted 7 pieces of luggage today for one older couple. On my train this morning, there were at least 8 airport bound passengers within the same train car, and about at least 15 pieces of luggage total. That's a LOT of room to take up in an already crowded commuter train!

Even worse, some airport-bound passengers don't know the basic BART etiquette. For example, some take up two seats (one for luggage), others completely block the aisle.

I proposed overhead racks in my blog post last week, but I've noticed since then that BART trains are probably too low for overhead racks (and in our lawsuit-happy society, I can see someone getting hurt and suing BART, not good). I looked around carefully today and noticed that if BART can raise the seats just a little bit, people can slide their suitcases under. Actually, as the seats are now, there IS enough room for a small to normal-sized roller suitcase. I'm going to try that in my next trip.

All I'm saying is, something needs to be done as SFO train becomes increasingly popular. Can we make airport-bound passengers all take car #1 and install racks or raise seats there? Probably not a viable option. Today was just especially frustrating because the couple did not seem to care that their SEVEN bags were taking up standing room, a corner seat, another passenger's leg room...etc.

I always scoot my bags immediately in front of me, taking up my own leg room, smashing my legs. But that's just me! I don't want to act like someone that typically annoys me on BART!

Friday, January 26, 2007

A dare too dangerous

What I saw at the Civic Center station was disturbing. A group of kids, no more than 15 or 16 years old, made up of both males and femals were waiting for a Richmond bound trian. There were not lining up like the rest of the passengers, instead, they were standing in the yellow area, too close to the tracks.

The kids were daring each other to stand as closely to the end of the yellow area as possible without falling into the tracks! One by one, they lined their toes to the edge. One boy got so close that he lost his balance. Another even gone so far to pretend to dip one foot into the pit while balancing with the other on the very tip of the yellow painted line. Each attempt was met with laughter and more dares!

Granted, if they had fallen into the tracks, they probably would just have some bruises and minor cuts since the pit is not that deep. However, what if a train comes by and they struggle to get back up?

It was so sad to see how little respect these kids had for their lives and rules, especially their own safety!

One by one, they went farther and farther. I was really relieved that no one got hurt. There weren't any BART station agents there to stop them, but then again, these kids really should know better....or not these days.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

EZ-Rider Card

Courtesy of "ConcordCommuter", I thought I'd post this comment thread as a topic since it might be useful information for some. I've seen people with their slick and fast cards at the ticket gates. I get commuter checks monthly from my employer....I pretty much save them until I'm out of tickets, then I go to Safeway or wherever to buy a big stack of tickets until I run out again.

It would be GREAT if I could get a EZ-Rider card so I won't need to worry about demagnetizing my BART tickets because I've accidentally placed it too close to wallet, or wasting time going to Safeway or Long's when they've run out of high-value tickets to sell, or lining up at one of the FEW BART commuter stores! But, apparently, EZ-Rider cards don't work with commuter checks. Bummer.

ConcordCommuter said...

You should sign up for BART's EZ-Rider card. No longer do you have to wait for a ticket to spit back up out of the machine. It actually speeds up the process of going through the fare gates. Even better still, no need to keep buying new tickets and hoping that you aren't delayed at the machine and miss your train. I've been using it for a few months now, and it is excellent.

12:45 PM

bartmusings said...

Do you know if EZ Rider cards can be "charged" by commuter checks?

I really need to start looking into that!

1:09 PM

ConcordCommuter said...

They don't take commuter checks yet. Not sure if they ever will... Doesn't affect me so much, as my employer reimburses me directly, I just show them a copy of my credit card statement with the EZ-Rider charges.

I have a stack of commuter checks from elsewhere that I need to redeem. I'm hoping if I hold out long enough (but not past the expiry), I can apply them to my EZ-Rider balance.

Linton, if you are reading this, please let them know: We'd like to be able to apply Commuter Checks to our EZ-Rider blances. Thank you. :-)

I've lost my BART wits after vacation!

Sort of embarrassing to share this experience but since I make fun of others, it is only fair that I make fun of myself!!

After a 2-week commute hiatus, I seem to have lost my quick moves and passenger efficiency. This morning, I actually tried to walk through the ticket gates without pulling my ticket out first! The man behind me even made a "tsk" sound after I cluelessly wondered why I can't walk through. Took me 2 seconds (too long to wait for a daily BART commuter) to realize that I needed to pull out my ticket first. How embarrassing...I've become someone I usually get annoyed at.

Then, an even more clueless thing happened. Usually, I know exactly when Civic Center station is up. I know by heart that it is 4 and a half minutes from Embaradero, and 40 seconds from Powell. This morning, I somehow "lost count" and got up to stand by the door AFTER Civic Center. I was all ready to dash out the door...but I started to realize the train is still moving and not stopping after 40 seconds, 1 minute, 1.5 minutes.

Whoa, I thought, did I actually miss the stop?? Sadly, I did. I ended up at 16th street and had to wait for the next downtown bound train (4 minutes away) and missed my company shuttle.

I have no one to blame but myself. What happened to me? Pretty funny actually. I usually am quite proud of my BART wits and quickness, but it appears that I need a couple days to get it back after a 2 week break.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Thoughts from riding transit systems in Italy

Happy to be back at home after living in hotels the past 2 weeks. Again, barting to and back from SFO proved to be nearly effortless and more econonimcal than parking in long-term lots! I highly recommend it.

After seeing 6 cities in Italy and getting around by local transit systems and cross-cities by Trenitalia, I have made some interesting observations!

1) I loved that the Milan metro tells you inside AND outside the ticket gates exactly how many more minutes until the next train is arriving.
2) I loved that the Milan metro has large TV screens with news updates and of course, commercials, to keep you entertained.
3) I loved that the Milan metro trains come every 5 minutes (even though it's a huge system covering a huge mass of area and nearby surburbs) so you don't have to pull a muscle trying to run up the stairs to catch your train.
4) I loved how easy it was for a first-time visitor to go cross-country on Trenitalia, but I did NOT like how nasty the station and train restrooms were. Every stall was flooded with urine and other things. I need to disinfect my shoes or just throw them away!
5) I loved the small electronic buses in Florence! Very eco friendly and does not take up two lanes on the roads or block lanes like our buses do.
6) I loved how all the trains and buses, no matter which city, was on time!! Right on delays at all.
7) I didn't like that the buses in Italy did not have many seats but in many way, that just made everyone equal...we all stand! No need to squabble over seats!
8) The trains were not necessarily cleaner than BART. Some were spotless, but others had just as many stains, old gum, trash..etc.
9) I did not like the shady vendors lining up inside and all around the outside of the stations to force their illegal products on me! I definitely felt a lot safer walking around homeless folks in BART stations (well, sometimes) than aggressive vendors and beggars.
10) I found the transit fares to be MUCH cheaper than BART!!!!! Why must I pay nearly $8 a day roundtrip here but only $2 euros roundtrip (anywhere within the system)??

and last but not least....

11) BART needs to install overhead racks to save standing room! People with big briefcases, laptop bags, shopping bags, suitcases can then toss their items on top so they don't take up too much space, and so that they can actually free their arms!

But BART rocks...despite my little complaints here and there (although many are about the civic center station specifically), I don't know what I'd do without it!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

International experience

On vacation in Italy the past week and rest of this far, the trains I have been on have been very clean, much cleaner than BART. However, the condition of the stations are much worse than Civic Center...same scent, similar populace, but filled with graffitis.

More to share next week! Ciao!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The speedy train

I love it when this happens....when the train operator actually has the go-ahead to hussle to make up time! My morning train arrived 6 minutes late today. I thought, oh great, I am going to miss the company shuttle again and be late to my meeting.

I processed all the negative thoughts quickly to put it all behind me. By the time we arrived at Embarcadero, I looked at my watch! Wow, we are actually earlier than an ontime arrival. By the time we reached Civic Center, I had so much extra time that I had to stand on the right side of the escalators as they moved up, just to pass time!

I don't know how this train operator was able to make up time like this! But we somehow made up the 6 minutes lost and 2 additional!

Good job!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Skunk and dime-sized nostrils in my evening ride home

The ride home tonight was miserable. As if the evening trains don't smell musky enough already, the moment I walked into the train, I was welcomed by a very heavy scent of skunk spray. Instantly, everyone looked around for something that resembled a skunk, or what's left of it. No sign of a dead animal or parts of it on anyone's shoes. The scent was uncomfortably thick. I tried to go to the opposite end of the car, but the odor remained. In the absence of a clear evidence of skunk spray or residues, I instinctively avoided stepping or sitting on any sort of dark stain. But of course, on BART, there are dark stains everywhere on the seats and carpet, causing me to awkwardly tip-toe down the aisle to sit down on a seat that appeared less dirty.

The scent bothered me for about 2 stops, but soon enough, I became part of the scent. I felt it on my hair, my clothes, my skin. To make matters worse, the train got extremely crowded. I was dying for fresh air. But instead of fresh air, I got the breath from the man standing next to my seat. His breathing, in and out, in and out, caused the pages of my book to flip. I looked up at him to give him a hint that I did not enjoy his heavy breath. Instead, however, I got a way-too-close view of his huge, round, hairy, dime-sized nostrils. YUCK! After that, I feared that particles will be coming out of his nose with his breath.

Finally, I arrived at my stop. I dashed out quickly for some fresh air. I can't tell whether the skunk odor has penetrated my clothing, but I'm washing them anyways!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It's Wednesday, not Thursday!

There were delays today, but luckily, it didn't affect my route yet! Again, I luckily arrived on time.

The train operator today announced welcomed passengers onto the train every three stations and loudly announced, "Welcome aboard on this lovely Thursday of the new year". It really was no big deal and no one seemed visibly annoyed. Most of us just looked up for a second and made a face and returned to our newspapers, books, or blackberries. But since it was early morning, and I was tired, therefore irritable, each time she mistakenly announced Thursday, it bugged me. It's not that hard to get your days straight. And....if you're not sure, don't announce it since the rest of us know very well what day it is.

Well, like I said, not a huge deal, just a tad bit irritating after 3 times.

I wished it was Thursday...closer to the weekend.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A good start to the new year with BART, maybe?

With the new increased tolls on the bridges and the first day of work after the holidays, I anticipated today's BART ride to SF to be a horrendously crowded and delayed. I thought I would have at ton of new complaints to But instead, it was ridiculously ontime..the second the arrival time flashed on the clock, the train arrived! Not only that, I got a seat!

It's probably because there are still folks on vacation and I know some companies gave today off too. But still, it's nice to have SOMETHING go my way today.

Hope that in 2007, BART trains will have a higher ontime arrival percentage, no more fare and parking fee hikes, and new plastic flooring. Actually, just the first two will please me enough.