Monday, April 28, 2008

5 thoughts from my BART ride today

5. The past week, BART has consistently been 10+ minutes late daily, causing the trains to be unbearably crowded and uncomfortable. What the heck is going on?

4. Not only is it 10+ late, the next train (for those with time to spare and want a less stressful ride) is usually another 10 minutes away! Despite that fact, train operators announce inside the train that "the next SF bound train is just 1 minute behind, please step out of this train!" Who the heck is going to believe him when the electronic sign says "SF Daly City Train 10 minutes"! Needless to say, no one waits and everyone piles on.

3. I was within centimeters from passengers today. I was sandwiched between a woman who was within kissing range from me. If the train had come to a sudden stop, she would have no doubt fell on my face and planted a kiss on me. Behind me was this huge man....I was literally under his chin. Yes, we were all that close to each other physically during today's miserable ride!

2. I am considerate...I actually step out of the train at each stop to not block the doorways so people can exit and enter! But as I step aside to let people through, a short miserable looking man in a suit that is way too small for him takes my space! I was pissed and had no patience to deal with such inconsideration. I said sharpy, "Excuse me" and pushed him out of my way with my shoulder.

1. On a more positive note, my parents and sister came visit today. My sister flew in from the midwest to SFO and took BART to Orinda. She thought the process was easy and efficient although she commented on the train operator's announcement at each stop to be incomprehensible and inaudible, and the interesting mix of passengers on BART. Overall, her experience was positive. SFO BART ridership has gone up significantly the past year! Take a look at this article.

Hope tomorrow is a better day on BART! Not a good way to start off the week. I came into work quite late...from the BART delay, and then from missing my company shuttle connection.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

BART police and food violator come face to face

Two BART police officers walked up and down the trains during my ride home Thursday. They are probably patrolling the train and looking for something questionable. There was a man eating Burger King in my train car and I was bothered by the smell the entire ride. I'm not the only one who minded the smell. It stunk. When I saw the BART police officers, I was very happy. "Perfect timing!" I thought! They've gotta say something to this man. I'm sure they can smell it too! Burger and fries are delicious but the smell does NOT mix well with stinking carpet and seats, lack of oxygen, perfume, body odor, and lord knows what else. Any food smells bad on BART!

Now, I'm not naive, I'm sure these BART police officer were hunting for a criminal as they paced leisurely down the aisle (yes, there is sarcasm here!), chatting with each other about the San Jose Sharks. No, but seriously, I'm sure their presence on the train make BART safer, in some way. I'd rather have them around than not! When the BART police saw the man stuffing a handful of fries in his mouth, I was thinking to myself, "AH HA! You are caught!". Oh, how wrong I was. Both of them looked at him and just walked away! OK, maybe they were in a rush to catch a criminal (yeah, ok) but they could have at least said something to him. Something as quick as, "No food on BART, sir, please put that away." They said nothing! By saying nothing, they are validating that it is OK to eat on BART.

I just don't know why they couldn't have verbally warned takes less than 2 seconds to say "no food on BART". What good is a rule then?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A theory: +1 twice as nice?

Maybe that's the secret to making a BART ride pleasant? This morning, I had the rare opportunity to ride BART with my husband who was headed to an event in SF. The train conditions were the same as always-- packed to the max with standing passengers, running a bit late, people jamming in despite the train reaching max capacity, and so dirty that it looks like it's been days since the last cleaning even though it is only morning.

But because my husband was riding with me, I was chatting with him through the entire ride, and although we were standing and packed like sardines between plenty of other passengers, the ride was much more tolerable than if I had been riding (or I should say standing) alone on my own.

Being able to have conversations with him (although we were practically whispering for privacy and to not bug people with our chatters) made yet another late and crowded ride, better.

Not sure if this theory is true...perhaps if both of us rode BART together daily, the positivity will wear off, and he will become just as picky as I am with every little thing on BART.

Monday, April 21, 2008

With gas prices at record high, what's not to love about BART?

I may pick on BART here and there (whether it's people, conditions, or delays) but really, I don't know another commute option that makes more sense for me than BART, especially when gas is well over $4 a gallon. I just heard a news report saying that BART ridership is up by 32,000 passengers this year, and soaring gas prices is one primary reason. And while car sales are declining, hybrid sales are up by 20+%. Number of cars that cross the Bay Bridge has declined too.

I don't mention in this blog the huge convenience that BART brings me but I do appreciate it for sure.

BART is economical (compared to recent gas prices), green, reliable (most of the time), very convenient, safe (I guess depends which station you frequent), quick (at least compared to driving during traffic peaks), and always great for people-watching (hence, this blog)!

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Do at least one new thing that's good for our planet.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chatters on BART

I'm a fairly social person...I know how to make conversations with strangers when I need to, but one thing I don't like doing is striking up a conversation on BART. A couple times, conversations naturally happen, whether triggered by an experience (BART delays), similar reading material, or common dislike of someone else's behavior. But most of the time, people on BART prefer to be silent...immersed in their own reading, music, mobile device, or dreams.

This morning, I sat next to a woman who wanted to talk, apparently. She said hi, I said hi back. She said it's chilly today, I said, yeah, it sure is. OK, that's all fine and dandy, I don't mind brief small talk out of courtesy, but she took it too far. She went on and on:

She says: Where do you work?
I said: City (As I'm taking out my magazine AND Treo, trying to signal that I'm busy)
She says: Where at?
I said: XX *name withheld here (By now, I'm actually reading my magazine in between responses)
She says: What do you do there?
I said: Oh marketing (Purposely being vague with her about my exact role and responsibilities to avoid more conversation)
She says: I always thought marketing is fun. Better than customer service. You get to do fun and creative things with marketing like being on TV. Do you like it?
I said: Uh hum. (At this point, I can tell she has no clue what she's talking about and I really do not feel like being a marcom professor here. Besides, I could care less if she doesn't know what marketing is. Even more, I don't even do marketing...I have a much more specific role within Corporate Marketing)
I added: Go look up the website if you're interested. I'm sorry, I have some urgent work here that I need to take care of....I wish I could chat more. (I actually did have a problem at work and buried my head in my Treo thereafter). Sorry!

She looked at me with disgust as if I am the rudest person in the world and kept quiet therafter!

OK, some of you may think I'm a b*tch but I'm sorry I just don't feel like talking about my life or my day at work with a stranger while on BART! There are tons of people nearby probably chuckling at the situation that I was in. I really am social but BART is not a social setting and I prefer to keep to myself!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Technology matching 2008

Most of you probably have seen this new 21st century technology already but I generally get off at Civic Center station so I didn't see this until last Saturday while taking BART to a Giants game and getting off at Embarcadero to take Muni down to the ball park.

I'm talking about a flat screen right on top one of the ticket booths inside the Embarcadero station that actually tells you when the next trains (real-time, tracking delays) are coming BEFORE you insert your ticket and get stuck waiting at the platform. While I walked by, the screen showed, "Daly City Train 3 minutes Pittsburg/Baypoint train 13 minutes". Wow, finally!

I've been hoping for something like this OUTSIDE of stations so we know when we have a few extra minutes to grab a copy of newspaper, or finish up a coffee before we walk through the ticket turnstiles. When trains are delayed, it's a huge convenience to find out before you insert your ticket and commit yourself to waiting on the platforms where it's windy, loud and freezing (at least where I am in the morning). For those stations with parking structures, it would be even better if they can install these flat screens as you enter the lot.

It's easy to dismiss these benefits as unnecessary but they make things easier and more convenient for passengers so why not?

I don't know how long this flat screen in the Embarcadero station has been up...perhaps awhile but it's a good start. I hope to see more of these all around the BART stops.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Clever way to survive

Before I get into the real story here, I just have to say that as miserable as it was getting up at 6am this morning and getting on BART at 7am, I do love the less crowded, tamer trains...with open seats! I enjoyed the calmer commuter train atmosphere in the very early morning, versus the post-8am rush that I'm usually involved in. Although, I probably wouldn't voluntarily get to work this early daily.

OK...the point of the it comes. I attended RSA Conference today at the Moscone Center. Aside from all the work responsibilities and schmoozing, I made an interesting observation. In the late afternoon, I started noticing homeless people inside the Moscone Center, with badges around their necks! A couple of them were lining up for free popcorn (provided by exhibitors), a few had cookies that were being given out at booths, and one of them grabbed a handful of mints, also available at booths. These homeless men were smart-- why? Well, as RSA Conference attendees started leaving in the mid-afternoon, tossing away their badges as they left the conference, the homeless pick them up from the trash bins, and wear them around their necks while walking right onto the show floors. Since Moscone is a weekly conference machine, these homeless men KNOW when to start going in to get themselves some food!

It was pretty evident they were homeless but show floor security didn't stop them from walking in, or just didn't mind them. I found that pretty ironic considering how strict they were about attendees going into track sessions, but here goes homeless folks, one by one, to the show floors, grabbing snacks to fill their stomachs.

Anyway, just an interesting observation. I guess being homeless, they learn how best to survive out there! Clever.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hard to resist Krispy Kreme donuts

I sat next to a man today who had a small individual sized Krispy Kreme donut bag with a round, plump, center-filled donut inside. The sugar on top was oozing all over the paper bag. He folded in the opening of the bag and held the donut bag with his right hand during the entire BART ride. He followed the "No Food" rule and never cracked open his bag.

I don't know if I could have done that....I LOVE KK donuts and haven't had one in over 7 months, ever since the closest KK donut shop (which wasn't even that close) shut down. I don't like the ones they sell in supermarkets-- they're not fresh, so don't even point me to one of those!

Anyway, kudos to this man for following the "No Food" rule even with a Krispy Kreme donut in hand. He'd rather let the sugar smear all over the donut bag than break a BART rule. Wow! Not sure if I'd be so law-abiding in this situation :)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

BART Survey

I finally got a BART survey to fill out! After years of riding BART, I honestly don't know why I have yet to receive a survey until this morning! Maybe I just happen to be on vacation out of country whenever they pass it out? Well, I got one today, yes!

I just filled it out but realized it is not a satisfaction survey like I hoped it would be. It's more of a profile/background survey to understand riders. Oh well...maybe next time.

If it had been a satisfaction survey, I was planning on posting my responses on BART Musings to show how I feel about BART. You might be surprised just how many positives I would have indicated and if you've been reading this blog for awhile, you probably wouldn't be surprised at all at which areas I would have indicated as below average or need improvement.

But since this survey didn't address satisfaction whatsoever, I figured I'll give my own rating of BART ridership satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest.

My BART satisfaction rating is 7. Not bad.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

No way to escape the smell

BART trains were 10 minutes late today, causing huge lines at each station. As expected, trains were beyond maximum capacity, with people tip-toeing to fit themselves on the other side of the door. It was uncomfortably definitely can smell the shampoo used by the person next to you...if you're lucky that is (since you can be smelling worse things!)

At MacArthur, as everyone impossibly squeezed themselves onto the train, in walks a homeless man! To be blunt, he stunk. His clothes were filthy and torn, his hair was knotted all around, and his skin had blemishes, scratches, and dried patches of skin ALL over. It was obvious he hadn't had the chance to shower in a LONG time, and to make things worse, he was carrying a trashbag full of his belongings ranging from leftover scraps of food, cans, newspapers, to a few shirts.

There was already lack of air in the trains and once he came in, the smell penetrated immediately. It was tough to breath. His scent dominated the entire train. All of us were trying to stop can just tell.

I couldn't take it. At the first Oakland downtown station, I walked out and changed a train. A few others followed me and re-entered the train a few doors down. We all sighed with relief and took in a deep breath of fresh air...well, as fresh it BART train air is.

It seemed like the longest 3 minutes ever (from MacArthur to Downtown Oakland). You want to run, but have no where to go since it is so crowded.