Monday, April 30, 2007

BART Police (updated)

After posting my first entry this morning about the questionable characters passengers often encounter on free BART days, I've learned that others actually have experienced similar situations. One reader suggested having the BART police number ready on your cellphone- which I thought was a great idea. A lot of times, if you call the TO during the harrassment, you actually might get yourself into more trouble. But discretely dialing the BART police with your personal phone might be a safer alternative...or you can report someone else being harrassed.

Here is the number for BART police in case you encounter any questionable characters while on BART today. BART POLICE: 877.679.7000

(UPDATED) After a brief exchange with Scott Marshall of Contra Costa Times on 5/1 regarding what best to do in these situations, he recommends the following:

Directly call police communications center, 510-464-7000, but the best way to get help quick is to use the intercom phone on the train.

Just talked with Zone 2's Sgt. Barry Williams. He says you're going to get a much quicker response by using BART's intercom system. You have to decide if it's safe to move to another car. But if you can and pick up the intercom, you go directly to the train operator and you're in contact with the police in seconds.

Describe the people, the behavior, tell them what train you're on and which direction you're traveling. They'll stop the train and investigate. If they can't get to you, they routinely call a local agency (Orinda police, Oakland police, and so forth), who are more than willing to assist another agency (they train for that).

If you call 911, then your call goes directly to the Highway Patrol's Golden Gate Division dispatch center in Vallejo, and then they transfer you to a BART police communications center.

BART status this morning

Not sure if it's because I left very early today, but my BART train was not crowded at all. However, I suspect it is because the system was a few minutes delay (less than 5) and the trains are not spread out by time properly. The train I hopped on arrived 4 minutes earlier (probably a delayed train from earlier) than anticipated, forcing me to sprint up the escalators and stairs. I barely made it on.

Having free BART today was nice but it definitely had its drawbacks and safety concerns. In my train car today was a group of very questionable characters who were literally harrassing passengers around them. They seemed like they were just taking a fieldtrip to nowhere- had no idea how the system worked nor where they are going.

They even ended up harrassing a larger woman, calling her fat, asking her how she got to be this **ckin large. They then started cussing at nearby passengers, asking them what they are looking at. A lot of passengers walked out of the car to another. Then, they started screaming, where the **ck you are going. It was actually a little scary. They looked like they could very well be carrying weapons.

Traffic on the freeway (24) looked like the normal level of congestion as of 7:50 AM. Maybe people are staying home to avoid significant delays?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

80-580 Connector Collapse

This is absolutely crazy and the one and only non-negative is that this didn't happen when the interchange was packed with cars. I haven't heard that there were many injuries aside from the driver of the gas truck. And from what I heard from KRON News, he was not the most responsible person. Apparently, the truck flipped over due to fast speed, entire tank load of gas explodes, he gets out of the truck right before, CALLS for a cab to bring him to Kaiser (correction: later reports state that he walked to Kaiser and was picked up by a cab along the way), instead of reporting the explosion ASAP, and after he gets to Kaiser, THEN he FINALLY calls 911 to report the incident! He has 2nd degree burns- yes, that is bad, but what is he thinking not calling 911 right away? There's no guarantee that would have minimized the melting of the connector but still, how could he think that walking to Kaiser would actually be better than calling 911 to A) treat his burns and B) minimize the damage. He was later transferred to St. Francis and will recover fully.

This is going to affect almost everyone tomorrow morning. I am aiming for a much earlier train to anticipate any delays, confusion, changed schedules...etc. My husband cannot even get to work anymore by car and will need to explore BART and bus as an option.

Get ready for a very very messy day on Monday. Free BART and public transit was just announced.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Train Operators, Speak Up!

Let me start by saying that what I'm about to say only applies to some of the train operators I encounter. There are others who speak loudly and clearly, which passengers appreciate.

Today, (actually, this happens many times), our train needed to hold still for a few minutes for some reason that I still don't know because I couldn't hear it! I actually didn't know how long we would be holding because all I knew was the door remained open for at least 2.5 minutes and the TO was mumbling something softly over the system that no one could understand!

We all looked at each other, asking, "what did he say?" "what's the problem?" I don't know if it's a problem with the speakers but a good number of TOs do have this issue. They go on and on about the transfer information (which, by the way, is VERY important to visitors, first timers..etc.), door warnings, or just announce the stations with a whisper when none of us can hear a thing! In this case, I think someone tried to call the TO to ask, but I'm not sure what happened because I never heard a clarification.

We know something is being said, but all we hear are mumbles, whispers, and a lot of noise.

It can't all be because of the noise, because I have encountered many TOs who actaully loudly and proudly announces every bit of important information!

So, is this problems caused by the speaker system/sound, or is it just that many TOs don't want to speak with volume and clarity??

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Citizen Carpool Police - Good start but will it be enough?

Did you guys see the good news today?? SB889, legislation that would set up a hotline and website for us to report illegal carpool lane users passed in the Senate Transportation Committee this week. Check out this article on SF Gate! We're moving one step forward to citizen carpool police- which I applaud.

I ride BART 4 times a week, but once a week, I drive to my company's San Jose location. It is a horrendously long drive. Always, on 680, I see single drivers zooming past me in the carpool lane. Over 10 years ago, I did the same thing and got caught. I've never done it again! There are much better ways to spend $300+ than to give it to the government.

It just drives me crazy seeing just HOW MANY solo drivers freely take up the carpool lane during carpool hours! WHERE IS THE CHP???? I've yet to see someone get caught! Why aren't the CHP patrolling during those hours??

It makes me so angry to see those law breakers get away with it while I am stuck in traffic. Particularly during the stretch from Bollinger on 680S to my turn off on 24W. It is 13 miles but could take up to an hour on a bad day! Yet, these law breakers take up the carpool lane, and then cut me off when their exit is up!

Am I going to use this hotline? YOU BET I AM! The limitation, however, being that it is a citizen-reported incident, is the offender will only get a measly WARNING! Still, better than nothing at all! It is a start, although I'm not sure it's enough.

So all you solo carpoolers, you better watch out for me on 680! I have a good memory and I am on to you!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hit by computer bags three times today!

It was just one of those unpleasant morning rides today. A lot more crowded than usual for some reason, and everyone seemed to be getting in each other's way. When I finally sat down in a vacated seat after MacArthur station, I didn't realize that I was seated in overhead danger zone.

Because of the many people standing in front and next to me, and all the nearby people squeezing in and out of the aisles, my head got whacked by three different passengers' over-the-shoulder computer bags, during 3 different stops when people are making ways for each other to move out of the aisle.

BAMN! The first computer bag swings right into my head as one passenger tried to turn around to let someone get out of the crowded aisle.

WHACK! Another computer bag hits my head as the passenger excitedly turned around to scoot herself into an empty seat.

THUD! The 3rd bag bumps the back of my head this time as the passenger tilts his body to fit into a tight standing space.

My initial reaction was anger, but then these passengers were so apologetic and obviously didn't do it on purpose that I just smiled and said, "it's ok!"

This happens often on BART. It'll be nice when those new trains w/ extra storage space are finally ready. Maybe that'll alleviate these "headaches"!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Is it up to me to enforce the No Food rule? What would you do?

Saw a girl (who purposely chose to wear a sweater and dress full of holes and rips but she's not homeless) who busted out a big burrito from a brown bag, with a salsa dip, in the middle of a crowded train already lacking fresh oxygen.

Everyone smelled the burrito instantly. She took big bites after big bites and even poured salsa into the burrito after each bite. It was stinking up our entire area! Most of us looked at each other and made an annoyed face. Some even stared her down. one, including myself, actually interrupted her forbidden afternoon feast to say, "Hey miss, you know that food is not allowed on BART??" or something like that.

I thought about telling her from a few feet away but didn't. I then thought about why I didn't...and it's mainly because judging (yes, being very superficial here) by her attire, I would expect her to tell me to **ck off and mind my own business, which in response would trigger me to want to argue back with her, and I just didn't have the energy at that time to engage in a verbal battle. So, I'd rather not deal with it and put up with the smell. I'm wrong, I know, I should probably have said something but why didn't anyone else say anything? We were all suffering from the burrito scensory overload.....we all wanted her to put it away, but why didn't any of us speak out?

I had fought back a few times inside BART or at the station, but as sharp tongued as I am when provoked, I typically prefer to not cause a scene and judging by the way this girl appeared, I think she would provoke me to leave the boundaries of professionalism and courtesy.

What would you do? Now, think a little bit before you immediately say that you'd actually tell her in a crowded train to not eat! I welcome your feedback!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In Boston this week....navigating through the congestion

I'm in Boston this week for business. I've been here before but never had the pleasure of navigating the congestion, traffic, and confusing one-way streets on my own...generally, I'm here in a group where hiring a driver was allowed. Not this time, however. Maybe it's the combination of very bad weather (don't even get me started about my trip here from SFO...I've had enough gas fumes from sitting still for 3 hours in the jetway that I think I probably have lung cancer), Boston marathon + tourists, and the massive size of the tradeshows here this week, it has been very trying getting anywhere by foot or by taxi.

As for public transport, I do not even want to attempt to learn it. I've heard good things about Boston's public transportation but just looking at the intricate map routes confuse the heck out of me. That, plus freezing weather, made me lose my will power to be adventurous. I HAD INITIALLY intended to try it out and compare it with BART and MUNI, but not this time...maybe in my next trip.

Not much to say here except, I'm looking forward to going home and taking BART to work-- at least I know what to expect.

BARTed to SFO again- several first timers asked me questions about transfer, where it goes in SFO, how it works..etc. Do I just look like I know BART or something? Maybe I appear very approachable. Anyhow, I was happy to answer their questions and show them the way.

Friday, April 13, 2007

BART to add 24 workers to cleaning crew

With an estimated $8.9 million budget surplus, BART is planning to expand their cleaning crews. That's good news! I just hope that it will make a visible difference. Will they clean during the day, after morning commute but before evening commute? Will they actually keep up with the frequent spills on the platform level to avoid passengers slipping? Will they actually pick up after fast food wrappers left all over the trains by mid-day riders for daily commuters to find during their ride home? Will they clean off urine, alcohol, throw-up, and other lovely things frequently surrounding the Civic Center BART station entrances (and some other stations I'm sure)?

We'll see if the cleaning crew will make a difference but this is indeed a step in the right direction.

However, I must question: Why is it that the $8.9 million surplus will only add 24 workers? What else will be done with the surplus? Don't tell me we are hiring superpower cleaning workers who cost that much each year? How else is BART using the surplus to help current conditions?

On a side note, expect another fare hike on 1/1/08. 5.4%! Board voted in 03 to increase fares every other year to offset inflation. Boy, BART just continues to get more pricey. How do passengers with lower incomes afford it??

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Teaching your kids the right thing on BART

Saw a mom with her little girl who is probably no more than 4 years old. They are seated together in the handicapped seat. The mom whispered something to the little girl and the girl got up instantly and asked a senior citizen to take their seats. It was very sweet. The little girl then made sure she was out of the doorway whenever someone walked in or out, and even when seats became open, she always pointed to anyone who looked "older" and asked her mom if she could ask them to sit down.

It was very cute and refreshing. Especially since there are so many 20 and 30 somethings who DO NOT get up for anyone!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

People who dump liquids into the paper recycle bin

Saw a "disaster" from afar today. A man was poking his head into the paper recycle bin at the BART station; flipping through for a copy of today's paper. I'm not sure why he was flipping through copies after copies, digging deeper and deeper, but as he finally pulled out a copy of the paper, I saw dripping coffee all across the paper, and he, unknowingly, clutched the copy of newspaper under his arm, and stained up his shirt. He was very pissed off when he noticed the stain and wetness. He threw the paper out of his sight from the escalator. Luckily, the coffee stained paper didn't hit anyone else.

As I approached the paper recycle bin, I took a quick peak. Yep, there was a large 7-11 coffee cup right on top, and apparently, the coffee has drenched and stained up a thick stack of paper on the very top. I guess that's why he kept on digging deeper for a clean copy but he didn't dig deep enough.

The sad thing is, I am not at all surprised that this happened. I see people throw trash in there all the time, anything from food, bottles, to wrappers. I see people spit in it all the time...and I have even seen puke in it before!

Personally, I'd never pick up a copy of paper from the bin. It's just too risky, especially seeing what this man had to deal with, I would rather stare into space with no reading material than to stain my clothes with someone else's old coffee.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Baseball is back! Know what makes a heated Muni ride?

After UCLA's loss to Florida last Saturday in Final Four, I had to quickly reajust my mindset, get over my depression, and focus on the Giants. I haven't attended a game this week yet but we're going to Friday night's game against the Dodgers and will be taking BART. Great option to have to avoid the horrendous Friday night Bay Bridge traffic while saving $$ on parking.

Those BART/Muni rides to ATT Park are always eventful because you are pretty much putting Dodgers and Giants fans into a small, uncomfortably crowded space (Muni) and we bicker, especially after the game when one side is obviously very pissed off about the loss, add alcohol on top of the emotions and you have a train-full of short-fused sports fans who pretty much hate each other!!

Although I haven't seen anyone get hurt yet. Nothing can be as bad as the Dodgers-Giants game back in 2003 (I think it was 03) at Dodgers Stadium where a Giants fan was shot by a Dodgers fan in the parking lot. I used to live in LA, and I've been there as a Giants fan. Compared to ATT Park, Dodgers Stadium is a very ghetto ballpark with very questionable chracters there who look like they are armed. I definitely didn't feel safe there with my Giants gear.

I hope that I will be a happy fan on my BART ride home. I am slightly more encouraged now seeing their improved performance Thursday night against Padres. Still pessmistic though.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Road rage galore

I had to drive to work today because I needed to carry something heavy home, and there is just no way I can handle that on BART, especially standing. (Note to BART: This is when overhead racks could come in handy, esp. when things can't fit underneath the seat. A few subway systems in Europe and Asia have this.)

Due to spring break and the religious holidays, Bay Bridge was fairly light today until past the toll plaza. During the lane merge, you generally have no problems since every driver knows that one goes behind the is just how everyone normal does it. But some jerk *ss driver decided that he will NOT let me go when it is my turn and just kept on pushing his car forward and forward, not leaving me anyroom to merge.

I definitely am someone with roadrage (that's why BART is better for my blood pressure). And this was one of those incidents that I just could not understand...why the hell would he go out of his way to not let me go when everyone is merging in order????

I couldn't take it. I yelled and gestured with my arms, "WHAT THE **CK ARE YOU DOING? IT'S MY TURN!"

He, as expected, responded, "**CK YOU!" and kept on moving forward.

Then I squeezed my way through, risking him hitting me...but no, the war has not ended, not by far!

Once his car was positioned behind me (as it should be), he started honking at me and flicking me off!! I turned around and told him to "**CK YOUSELF!" and just decided not to even look at him.

He continued on with the honking, the finger giving, and whatever else.....

Not a pleasant commute. True, I got to work about 15 minutes faster than I would have with BART (My BART ride is only 30 min. due to my company shuttle, my commute is 45 min.), and I now have the liberty to drop off the heavy load into my trunk instead of struggling with it on BART, but this *sshole really raised my blood pressure today!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"Just block the doors for me!"

A seemingly first-time BART passengers today did something completely idiotic. It was obvious they were running late since I saw them just being dropped off with their suitcases as I was inserting my tickets in the ticket gate. 2 minutes later, the train arrived.

As I was walking into the train, I see the wife running up the escalators yelling down to the husband, "Hurry, we're going to miss the train! Hurry!"

He was obviously still struggling with the suitcases (they had 2 huge ones) and could not quite hand carry them up the escalators. He yelled back, "Tell them to wait! I'm almost there."

The wife walks into the train, confused, looked around, and then stands in the middle of the doors, yelling, "Hurry, the doors will close soon."

The husband was visible at this point, he was finally making his way up the escalators towards the top, but still needed to drag the suitcases onto the train. He yells, "Just block the doors for me!"

At this time, we heard the warning, "Doors are closing, please stand back from the doors." Followed by the "ding" sound. The wife must freaked out because she didn't block the doors (thank goodness!) and she didn't step out of the train to help her husband. Instead, she ended up in the train, riding with the rest of us to Rockridge!

She was panicking....she must not have had a cellphone on because she didn't attempt to call him. She ran out of the train at Rockridge, stressed out, looking from right to left. I hoped she had the sense to just ride the Pittsburgh Baypoint train back to Orinda and re-unite with her husband there, or just wait patiently for him to arrive at Rockridge and join his train.

The next train was only 5 minutes behind......they really didn't need to put themselves in such a situation.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Pursuit of Happyness

So, I finally watched this movie. I didn't realize what a huge part BART played in it. The bathroom scene was very touching and sad, perhaps might even soften my views a little bit on homeless population in SF. But, having volunteered in shelters and Homeless Connect Days, I know that 99% of the homeless population is not like Chris Gardner, who never stopped trying to get himself and his son into a better situation.

What I wanted to share here was my observation of the BART scenes. Did they actually shoot this in real trains and stations? Because I am pretty certain that in the movie the seats and the floors in the train are much much cleaner than they are in real life. Also, the floors in the station are less stained and more polished than in real life. I realize that the movie was set back when BART was still fairly new, but if they really spent the effort to clean it up for "new-ness" to fit the time of the story, why can't they spend the effort to clean it up for real, for all the passengers that take it daily TODAY?

Did anyone else see the movie? Was it just me or did you think the train seats were cleaner (darker, not faded with stains), and the floors were much cleaner?

As for the side note I made on Friday about UCLA-Florida, I guess my pain has subsided a tiny little bit now. It still hurts and I was pretty down after the game. I'm still extremely disappointed that Gators have devoured my Bruins two years in a was hard to watch, and very hard to swallow. I hope Ohio State beats them in them championship.