Friday, March 30, 2007

(#2 Post of the Day) Final Four weighing me down

OK, I generally don't use to talk about anything other than my BART experiences but I can't help it today. My mind is about 95% consumed with tomorrow's Florida-UCLA game, with the other 5% minimally answering emails/calls at work, eating and dealing with human interactions around me.

If you've actually followed my blog through the years, you might have caught on that I am a big sports fan...Giants, 49ers, UCLA, and because of the UCLA factor, I've become more emotionally invested in the Warriors too.

Last year's loss to Florida in the NCAA championship game was brutal- 16 points! In fact, it was over 20 points most of the game until Florida, realizing they've already won, allowed us to score a couple shots in the last 2 minutes. Seeing that idiot Joakim Noah screaming and pounding his chest like an ape throughout the game really pissed me off! I've been looking forward to revenge for nearly a year, and now that we have our chance in Final Four, I am nervous and anxious, fearing that we don't have quite enough to execute that dream revenge!

I believe in the Bruins' defense, heart, speed, chemistry, attention to details, tested experience in high pressure games, and Howland's strategy but, the Gators are damn near unbeatable with close to zero weakness when they are on. And they have been SO ON!

After pouring through at least 100 articles using Google News on the game analysis, I've found only 2 sports experts predicting a Bruins win. Sports books all have Gators winning too.

What does my heart think will happen? I want more than anything for my Bruins to beat the Gators and carry that momentum to beat Ohio St. (my prediction) and bring another banner home to Pauley Pavilion.

What does my brain think will happen? Despite what every "expert' says, I believe heart speaks louder than anything! Bruins will prevail. However, just in case I'm wrong, I am still trying my best to prepare for absolute heartbreak in case Bruins lose to Gators again. The game will be close, unlike last year's game. I predict around the ball park of 62-58, UCLA.

What will I do to help the Bruins win? I will be wearing the same dirty sweatshirt I've worn all tournament (still unwashed because I don't want to wash out the good luck we've had so far) and doing the same exact game routine that I've been doing throughout the tourney.

Look for to the first comment I make on Monday on this blog, it will reflect my post-game emotions. Will I be happy or sad? I guess I'll find out in 31 hours from now.


Increasing gas prices prompting people to take BART?

After a quick break in gas prices late last year, we are now seeing the prices approaching $4 again! It is projected that by summer time, we will certainly near the $3.90 - $4.00 range.

With lighter traffic on Fridays, I certainly can drive to SF from where I live. In fact, if I'm lucky, I can make it within 30 minutes, which is nearly half the time it takes for me to drive to BART, park, ride the train, wait for the company shuttle, get to work via shuttle from Civic Center station. But I don't do it!

Why don't I drive on Fridays? Because $4 toll, plus 1/5 or 1/6 tank of gas (depending on traffic both ways) of gas which comes out to $8 - $10, plus parking in SOMA which comes out to $10....all make it completely illogical for me to even try to drive to SF! If I try to park in the meters, I do save the $10 in parking costs, but I have to come out every two hours or risk a $25 ticket!

So, as much as I don't like being bound to BART's schedule and especially the company shuttle's schedule, I submit myself to it nonetheless because I do not want to spend $16-$20 just to enjoy the liberty of driving to work in the comfort of my own car.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Civic Center Station Uplift

I've been noticing that something looks different inside the CC BART station's platform level. After a couple of days, I realized that it is brighter! And in this case, brighter looks much better! It used to look so dark and depressing, making the already filthy floors look greenish. But with the new added lighting, it makes the gloomy and dirty platform level some energy...and even gives the effect that the floors and walls are cleaner! It is significantly brighter than it used to be.

It doesn't make the stains and smells less disgusting, but it does make the overall feeling a little more positive.

Now, if only they would spend some time/money powerwashing the stains and getting rid of the horrendous smell.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The power of "sorry" with a smile

I completely swung my bag into a seated passenger's head today! I think I might have done it a couple times before I realized what I did!!! Once I realized, I felt so bad! I turned around and caught the horrid and anguished facial expression of the woman who is the victim of my careless arm motions.

She looked pissed. But I was already in the middle of my sincere apologies, "Oh my god, I'm so sorry! Are you OK? Sorry about that!" I didn't quite smile but I probably had an innocent "oops! my bad" expression on my face. The woman suddenly turned from mean and angry, to nice and laughing!

She responded, "It's ok, no worries." and smiled back at me! What a 180!

Well, I was relieved. I did feel very bad. I remember being in the very same situation with people's computer bags or gym bags knocking on my head! I was pissed off too!! But they never said sorry.

Maybe some politeness and common courtesy on BART could make it more pleasant?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Watch out for the WET seat

You know there must be something wrong with a seat when the train is packed with standing passengers but everyone avoids sitting on that seat once it has been vacated by the previous passenger.

A woman in a ripped tank top and sweats (didn't get a chance to look at whether her rear was wet or not) left the seat at MacArthur. Once she got up, many people walked towards it, but only to make a funny face and quickly walk away from it.

Why? It had a big wet stain on it! It was a concentrated wet stain....a big circle that still appeared to have ample wetness. It didn't look like an old coffee stain, the edges didn't turn light brown, like other coffee stains.

I wasn't about to touch the stain to see if it's wet or dry, and neither were other passengers. We all just stared at the big wet spot, paused, and walked away. I would much rather stand than be the one to test whether the stain is dry or wet.

Finally, a man who was paying more attention to his cellphone than the seat sat down! We all looked at him, thinking, "you don't know what you just did!"

Too bad I had to leave the train before he did....I didn't have a chance to see whether the wet stain transported to his jeans.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bring Sweet-16 back to Oakland!

Having Western Region Sweet-16 in Oakland last year was awesome! Sure, it congested 880, but locals like me can take BART there easily!!

Now, Sweet-16/Elite 8 is in San Jose! So far!!!! Traffic is just as bad there with 87, 101, 280 and 680, but there is no way for the rest of us to BART there! I guess you can take Caltrain but that is extremely limited too.

Personally, I can't believe it's been a year since my beloved Bruins pulled off the miraculous comeback against Gonzaga. I hope they can win tonight against Pitt. Go Bruins!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

When doors don't open

I think there is a little claustophobia in all of us. If not that, then it must be extreme impatience.

It was raining this morning, and as I've come to expect, BART was late (9 minutes to be exact). The train was overly crowded. When we finally arrived in Embarcadero, passengers crowded around the doors. They heard a "ding", but the doors didn't open. A few seconds later, another "ding". Door still cannot open. The train operator finally announced that we were having door mechanical problems. We then heard a few more "dings". People waiting by the doors were getting very very uncomfortable. I don't get off until Civic Center so I was just watching them.

People were breathing heavily. Some were sighing out loud. Many shook their heads repeatedly while they waited and waited. A few even complained verbally, mumbling, "This is great. Just what I need" or "Damn it, we're trapped". Everyone around the door looked so uneasy and upset.

After one minute (pretty long for a door to open upon arrival), the doors opened and people dashed out like mad!

The door problem was fixed at the Powell station. We had to wait an extra 2 or 3 minutes. I was already late for my connecting shuttle so I just calmly waited.

Interesting observation though! We do live in a very impatient society. And I am one of the impatient people.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ultimate Rudeness and my BART passenger personality breakdown

There are 4 types of BART passengers: A) the ones that are always considerate and polite, B) the ones that are innocently clueless but don't mean to be inconsiderate and are willing to correct their actions when told, C) the ones who are considerate and polite most of the time but can react negatively when provoked, and finally, D) the ones that are just plain rude and could give a damn what you tell them to do or not do! (I fall in type C)

Today, a man in his 30s was blocking the left side of the esacalator. The right side was also completely occupied with standing passengers. This man had headsets on. He carried a huge duffle bag with him that was intruding into the space of the passenger standing right next to him on the right side of the escalator. He had a long line of people in back of him...trying to walk up the escalator. I was two behind. The woman in front of me asked this guy to please walk up because there are people behind him. He didn't even turn around. Then, the woman tapped his shoulders to tell him, and he reluctantly took off his headsets, But his response to her request was, "I ain't walking. You can walk around me." I have a lot of respect for this woman- she actually pushed him further and told him, the left is for people who want to walk up because they need to get somewhere and the right is for people who want to ride the escalator. This man replied rudely, "I told you, I ain't walking."

So, we all just stood there behind him. Finally, once he reached the top, he didn't even make way for the rest of us walking forward. He stood there, changing his CD, blocking the escalator area completely!!

Blatantly rude and inconsiderate! There are just people like that out there!! I find that most daily commuters are Type C BART passenger profile like me. The infrequent BART to SFO riders are often Type B. Type A profiled BART passengers are very rare but always pleasant to encounter because they are the ones that actually give up their seat for people, even when they're not in one of the exit seats. Type Ds are the ultimate worst!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wow, don't forget to check out the "ad movie" on BART!

Did you guys read this? BART will debut a "moving" ad placed in between Embarcadero and Montgomery, made up of a series of posters. It's supposed to look like a moving picture when the train speeds along. I have to be sure to check it out tomorrow between Embarcadero and Montgomery! On a side note, I'm ALL for more ads on BART! I don't care. I'm sitting there anyways...if they can generate more ad revenues, perhaps one day they will decrease ticket fare (hey, one can hope!) or at the least, not increase it!!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Just the laughing stock today

The morning train was 10 minutes late today! By the time it arrived in Orinda, it was extremely crowded. I barely had room to stand up straight, and certainly could not comfortably grab on to a safety bar above or in front of me due to the number of arms and hands in my way.

I've been hooked on a good novel this week and stubbornly insisted on holding my book with one hand while balancing myself on my two feet alone. I really did not want to touch someone else's hands on any of the bars (yes, it was THAT crowded!)

I made it through the Caldecott tunnel without losing my balance. As we started to decrease speed as we approached Rockridge, I was so engrossed in my book that I didn't realize that I was about to become a laughing stock.

The train came to a halt and stopped at Rockridge, causing everyone to tip over backwards. Normally, I'd just grab on to maintain my footing, but today, I was holding on to nothing...except my book, and my feet were not wide apart with a strong footing, instead, they were uncomfortably positioned sideways, with no balance whatsoever.

As a result, my entire body fell right foot wasn't even on the ground anymore. I was literally at a 45 degree angle and lying on other standing passengers. I looked like I was a ballet dancer, balancing on one foot and arching backwards, except, I was anything BUT graceful! My hair fell all over my face. My purse dropped to the ground. I tried to grab on to something, anything, but nothing was within my reach. I tried to grab on to passengers, but they avoided me since if I held on to them, they might just fall over too. Around me, people were laughing and smiling. Finally, this woman next to me gave me a hand and pulled me up from the awkward mid-air position.

I thanked her and looked around pretending to be un-embarrassed. People were still staring and chuckling. How annoying! Afterwards, I decided to put my book away and grab on tight to the bar above me.

Glad to be a source of entertainment for other passengers....sheez!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I tripped and fell today. Why?

I tripped and fell (a half fall) this morning because as I was trying to avoid urine puddles outside of the Civic Center BART station, a homeless man shot out a substantial ball of spit out of his mouth towards my direction. The spit, more like a solid mass than liquid, landed about where my next foot step would land, causing me to maneauver a last second change in step, tripping over myself.

I arrived at work and glanced through the headlines on and saw Rachel Gordon's article today citing that there is growing dissatisfaction with BART train and station cleanliness. I agree with the survey results and the interviewees in the article. Issues cited were: "The new findings found growing concern about cleanliness, the noise level on trains, dirty station restrooms, the condition of the train windows, the appearance of the train exteriors, grubby stations and the availability of parking". It also cited a decline of 6.9 % in number of people saying that BART is clean. I want to know the percentage of riders who actually said BART was clean.

Cleanliness certainly is a huge problem with BART. I don't care much about noise level on trains, appearance of train exteriors, and I actually pay a bundle for my reserved parking space (expensive but beats circling aimlessly for a space or missing trains because of lack of parking). But, almost daily, I find something on the train or at the station that completely grosses me out. Yesterday, there was a sticky and wet cough drop just lying on an empty seat. Earlier in the week, someone apparently made an imprint of their oily face on the window-- I could see the facial definitions (through the oil imprint) and an imprint of the lips, complete with a small speck of a leftover crumb. And let's not forget my experience this morning with urine puddles and flying spit. Civic Center station just smells from all angles, inside and out! It is time to POWERWASH the station entrances and even the platforms!

What will be done about this? Is cleanliness a priority for BART? Does BART plan to make a visible improvement? The verdict is still to be determined, but I will be watching and observing closely.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Free MUNI? Good or bad?

You guys have all heard the statement from Newsom. He has asked transit officials to study eliminating fares on city buses, streetcars and cable cars and stated that it is feasible.

Call me a cynic, but the first thing that popped in my head was not the $$ we will save but the homeless population that will be taking refuge in the buses, streetcars and cable cars. They already do! It's already a problem when a homeless person sleeps in a MUNI bus....they tend to smell and the scent carries heavily throughout the vehicle. It's not pleasant. I can't even imagine what it will be like if MUNI is free for all!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Growing # of BART tickets for sale on Craigslist

As I'm browsing Craigslist for NCAA tournament tickets (GO UCLA BRUINS!!!) the past couple of months, I've been noticing an increasing number of postings selling high value BART tickets at lower price.

I am a daily BART commuter. I get commuter checks from my employer and use them to purchase high value tickets. I guess I could see why other people who receive commuter checks but don't actually commute, buy the high value BART tickets and sell them for personal gain. Why not make some cash? But, that just seems very wrong to me.

The ease of commerce on Craigslist encourages and nurtures these types of profit-making behavior. But selling BART tickets is not the same as selling Southwest flight vouchers, an item that is meant to be a reward for the flyer.

But many of you will probably say....who am I to judge? People will say that this is a win-win situation. The seller of the BART tickets earns some cash, while the buyer of the BART tickets saves money on regular fares. I guess the only "loser" is BART? But if this 2nd hand BART ticket sales trend becomes a big enough problem that law-abiding, daily commuters like me have to deal with YET ANOTHER fare hike, I certainly would insist BART to do something against these ticket sellers on Craigslist.

Just take a look at these in the past week alone:

A kinder, gentler BARTmusings?

A friend of mine told me yesterday that when comparing my posts with my earlier posts back in October 2005, I've gone soft! He said that I used to be meaner and more harsh with my criticisms and observations.

Have I gone soft? After some self-reflection, I don't think I have gone soft in terms of what annoys me, what pisses me off, and what I can't tolerate during my BART commute. My tolerance level definitely has not gone up, that's for sure. However, I do admit that whereas my earlier posts were more straight out bashing and full descriptions of my thought process, I now think twice, and from differing perspectives, before I write something.

Since the article on Contra Costa Times last summer, I do receive periodic comments or personal emails from train operators, station agents, BART management, handicapped passengers, anti-BART commuters, daily BART commuters, homeless advocates...etc expressing their opinions about what I write. Hearing from people has made me think for a bit from differing perspectives, although I still write what's on my mind. Also, I have to say it is true that there have been more posts about BART improvement areas and why we need them than flat out bashings.

So, the answer to the question, have I gone soft? Maybe a little but I am still as annoyed as ever about delays, lack of etiquette from people, train cleanliness, station conditions, and the hundreds of other things I've complained about on BART Musings.