Monday, June 30, 2008

2 unrelated thoughts for the 1st of July

July already! This year has really flown by. 2 totally separate thoughts to share on this day.

First, nice new website BART has! More on par with web standards these days. I just used it and liked it. Found it much easier to browse and search. Looks good, BART!

The second thought is a bit more serious. As the hands-free rule go into effect in California, I can't help but wonder if that also applies to train operators? A nice reader shared with me his recent observation of a train operator who was chatting up with a friend on her cellphone. According to this reader, she was on her cellphone the entire time except as she approaches each station (thank goodness she does this at least) then she'd put her phone down, but as soon as the door opens, she's immediately back on it. This reader has seen this particular train operator do this regularly. I've actually seen similar action myself several times. Once, a passenger tried to call the T.O. but she didn't even pick-up....too busy on her cell? I hope not.

Is constant cellphone use allowed for train operators? Is it safe? I can't imagine so. Seems like as all drivers in CA can no longer hold a cellphone while driving starting today, same should apply for transit operators that carry numerous passengers each trip! But then, is hands-free even safer for a BART train operator? Seems like there shouldn't be ANY cellphone chatting, but then again, I don't know exactly how manual or automatic the system is. How much human decision and physical maneuvering is really needed?

Think Bay Area traffic is bad?

Since 93, I've been mostly living in the Bay Area. I'm originally from LA. LA's traffic has always been poor but the past 5 years, I've noticed, each time I visit, that it has been getting worse and completely unavoidable, even at off or odd hours. This past weekend, we visited family in LA again, and it did not matter we were driving at 12pm, 3pm, 9pm, 11pm, or even 1am, we ran into tight congestion on one freeway or another!!!

Bay Area traffic is tight and often poor during commute hours but aside from the more eventful days in the city, traffic is generally tolerable during non-commute hours and when we do run into a jam, it has an "end", unlike in LA, it is just a continuous jam and you are practically moving at 3-5 mph the entire way through.

I read an article recently in LA Times that LA's public transit rail system, Metrolink, is finally gaining ridership due to gas prices and has reached records in June. Good! Glad to finally see people staring to take Metrolink!! Perhaps this will help ease the congestion a tad bit!

Once we got back to the Bay Area, we let out a huge sigh of relief. Traffic here is still much more tolerable then LA where pretty much everywhere we headed, no matter at what hour, we ran into congestion. It was quite a pleasure hitting 24 yesterday en route home.....every so often, we just need a little reminder that we have it pretty darn good here in the Bay Area. But honestly, give me 2 days of driving up here, I'll probably forget all about this bubble of appreciation that I have after a particularly bad weekend of driving in LA.

And BART, as well as CalTrain, ACE, Muni, and all the transit options we have up here, make it a bit more pleasant for us!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What a good kid!

Every so often, you see something that you just don't see enough, but it gives you hope that there is still good out there. Too often you see people in the disabled seats, pretending to be asleep, pretending to be completely engrossed in their Blackberry or Treo, or pretending to have a magazine that just happens to block their view, while a frail elderly woman is having a tough time balancing as the train moves.

I saw a kid in the disabled seat, probably high school age, with a loud iPod blasting, wearing clothes so baggy it's practically slipping off his body. I was too quick to judge. I saw a shaky, frail elderly man walk in, in need of a seat. I didn't think the kid would react and assumed that he would just continue to listen to his music without a care in the world. It's a scene I've seen too many times.

But I was wrong. This kid immediately got up. Not only did he offer his seat, he helped the old man into the seat, and helped position the old man's bags next to his legs. He was polite and genuinely caring.

It was really nice to see. I guess too often I've seen the opposite and I've sort of lost "hope". I get up for anyone who appears to need a seat, or on a few occasions, when I have no seat to give, I help someone find a seat. Probably fewer than 25% of passengers do that, sometimes it seems to be more like 10% of passengers. With the younger generation, I seldom see them do the "right" thing. But I was very happy to be wrong this time. There are still good and responsible kids out there who aren't selfish and genuinely care for the well being of others.

It was great to see!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A message for BART employees who read this blog

I've had the urge to write this post for quite some time, mostly fueled by the growing list rude comments left by BART employees in response to passengers' thoughts.

BART employees, the fact is, we all ride BART because we believe in the system, at least that's the case for me. I think it is a valuable service and Bay Area commuters are quite fortunate to have this option, especially these days with gas prices. In fact, if you somehow could survey my out of town acquaintances, most of them would tell you that my overall impression of BART is quite positive. If you've followed this blog for some time, you'd know that I've complimented SFO route plenty of times!

That said, PLEASE don't take it so personally and get so defensive when passengers say that the system does need some improvements. We, the passengers, pay pretty handsomely daily to ride the system, and we are entitled to complain when there is reason to complain.

Of course blatantly rude bashing is not constructive (although in their defense, these guys have the right to complain too), but over 90% of the comments on BARTMusings actually contain reasonable and thoughtful suggestions for improvements!!

If you just take a step back, read and consider what we have to say, it's not all that out of line. Many of us have traveled often and abroad and know the strengths and weaknesses of a system. Constructive criticisms and suggests are shared by commenters all the time on BARTMusings....I've even dedicated at least 8-10 entries just on realistic ways to improve BART.

So, please don't be so rude and leave comments like:

Passengers don't know what they're talking about, you're always wrong....
Whatever, you say what you want to say, just keep paying my paychecks....
If you don't want to ride BART, ride the bus...
You think we have nothing better to do?
You're lucky we haven't hiked up fares even more.....

BARTMusings is a forum for everyone, from riders, non-riders, first-timers, to employees, to share their thoughts and observations regarding BART. Many have said that whenever they leave a comment on, the comment is not acknowledged. So, they need a website like this to voice their opinions. And I'm pleased to say that most commenters on BARTMusings leave well thought-out, constructive comments, instead of just plainly bad-mouth the system in foul language.

So, BART employees, just know that we ride because we believe in the system but we also want to see certain improvements made after more than 25 years in operation. It's nothing personal. We pay $6 - $12.50 a day to ride BART. Don't bash us with such comments just because we ask you to better the system.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Special coffee mug to trump no beverage rule? Not going to work!

Did you read this article??? BART actually believes people will run out to buy these special mugs to drink their coffees and teas on the trains? They must not ride BART enough if they honestly think that. People bring in drinks of all types, in all containers. I've even seen a normal mug (open top) being brought in and then spilled everywhere. Most bring in paper cups from Starbucks or Peet's. Plenty bring in soda cans or plastic bottles. Once I saw someone pouring a pot of coffee into a Dixie cup.

If BART wants to seriously enforce the no beverage/no food policy, then by all means, suck it up, ASSIGN ONE PATROLLER IN EVERY TRAIN FOR A FEW WEEKS IN A ROW JUST TO TICKET VIOLATORS!!! People are not going to change their habits unless they pay a price and they certainly will not be changing the "cup" they drink from. If BART actually thinks they will make more money from selling these special mugs, I think they do not know their passengers well enough.

People need to just learn to either get up 10 minutes earlier and have your coffee early, or just wait until you get to your destination. There are plenty of Starbucks, Peet's, Seattle's Best really can't wait until then to get your caffeine fix? Then, eat caffeine pills on the train then!

I've personally seen coffee spilled on trains too many times-- "magic" cup or not, the coffee will spill one way or another. Please, BART, spend your time brainstorming on other ideas to improve the system!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Spare the Air brings out all sorts of interesting people

With BART free until noon today, we had the pleasure of seeing many different types of people on the train today.

Let me name a few examples for you:

-Kids who are out of school and just looking for a place to hangout
-First time BART riders with several maps and brochures in hand and ask everyone around them if this train goes to SF
-Lots of moms with strollers. Cute but also take up a lot of space during commute peak times
-Large groups of senior citizens. They must be taking a field trip together from the same senior homes. All have fanny packs, cameras on hand
-New riders/day trippers who started their picnics early while on BART
- New riders who can't even tell which side of the platform is the side they need and holds the door open while they find out

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Help a fellow commuter find a stolen on!

The post below is from BART commuter Jeff A. His motorcycle got stolen in the N. Concord BART station. Please help if you have any information at all!!! How rigorous is the policing around the parking lots???

Full dress Harley STOLEN from N. Concord BART Station

During the daytime on Wednesday, June 11th, my dark blue full dress Harley (faring, saddlebags, trunk) was stolen from the motorcycle parking adjacent to the pedestrian walkway about 200’ ft from the Station Agent’s booth. One or more people may have been involved. Apparently, another Harley was stolen the same day from the PH station. If you think you saw anything or anyone around the motorcycles, please call BART Police Officer R. Barrera #418. Thanks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

New riders shock

With gas prices still on the rise, we all have seen and felt the increased BART ridership. My father in-law is not a new rider per se, but for someone who typically drives across the Bay Bridge, he's been taking BART instead on occasions. He shared something interesting with me yesterday. He said, "Good thing I read your blog, I now see what you're talking about, all the weird and rude people on BART."

Wow, I thought, I'm glad Bartmusings is good for prevents new rider shock. Well, good! Happy to hear that. He then told me what he saw....

He saw a man with ear plugs (normal) who just started clipping his finger nails while on the train (abnormal). With clippings flying everywhere, he didn't care who was watching or what people were thinking, and instead patted away his nail clippings off his legs so they are flying off in all directions. Serious lack of manners, but I'm not shocked or surprised one bit...I've seen that on BART several times..people clipping their finger nails. No toe nails yet, thank goodness!

This man, after he shoo'd away his nail clippings, then started singing very loudly in the train (abnormal but we've all seen it). Yet another slightly shocking behavior to new BART riders but those of us who ride daily, we've seen our share of "performers" on BART who just don't care that they are emitting noise, making a fool of themselves, or being a bit scary and bizarre.

New riders, welcome to our BART world where you experience something new and shocking every week, and nothing will surprise you after a few years of commuting via BART!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Anyone else feeling his pain? Complaints from a frequent Fremont line rider

I got this email from a very frustrated Fremont line commuter. I feel for him....BART often minimizes the negative impact for PR purposes (what else can they do?) This rider's total commute time has increased almost 3 fold and he actually found out the truth behind when Hayward power station will be fixed...hint: MUCH longer than the publicly stated 6 weeks!

You've got to read his email.....(Thanks again for sending!) Speak up if you are just as frustrated! BART needs to know!


I am a frequent commuter on the Fremont Line. Since BART "blew up their power station" in the Hayward Yard, their PR people say it only causes a 10-15 minute delay and will be fixed in 6 weeks. Well, I have a beef with that. Read on, my friend...
If you take the 423a, 438a, 453a, or 508a, you will not need to transfer at Bayfair to get to Fremont. But, you still crawl at a snails pace (literally!) once past Bayfair. But, if you take the 523a or any train thereafter, you WILL have to transfer at Bayfair, takes about 10 min of waiting, then more snails pacing on to Fremont.
The delays are not 10-15 minutes, they are on average 30-40 minutes. This time includes standing and waiting at the Fremont Station, then having to board an SF train, as there are no Richmond trains going to Richmond (just to Fremont). Then the train literally crawls (I can get out and walk faster) from Fremont to Bayfair, then we all have to get out and "transfer" to a Richmond train, this entails waiting 20-30 minutes on the Bayfair platform.
This "problem" has increased my commute, round-trip on BART by 47 minutes, NOT the 10-15 min the BART PR people say.
Oh, yes, from Bayfair on South, you can no longer depend on the message signs or the
voice notification. The times they announce are completely off. Useless is more like it.
Here are the stats:
Then, to make matter worse, I spoke with one of their Electricians who happened to be on my train one morning, he said that it will take a few months, NOT 6 weeks! to repair the burnt out electrical station (not sure what to call it, but you can see it all blackened as you pass through the Hayward Yard).
I really hope they fire the numbskull who short circuited everything.
Do you know of other BART riders who are upset like me?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How young is too young to ride on BART alone?

I saw a young boy today, no older than 8 perhaps, riding BART alone today. He was already on the train by the time I got on in Orinda, and by the time I got off at Civic Center, he was just getting ready to pack up and leave. He caught a lot of attention not just because of his age, but he was playing a portable video game of some type the entire time with volume blasting! He did not have a headset but then again, he is so young and riding alone, would his parents actually teach him to use a headset in public out of politeness? Probably not.

The entire ride we all could here..."beep beep", "bang bang", "boom", and all sorts of electronic sounds and tunes as he's intensely playing his shooting game on the portable screen.

I have a nephew who is 8, and this little boy is smaller than him! To me, I just think it's so dangerous for such a young kid to be riding on BART alone! Where are his parents?

Isn't there a rule on BART against this?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Blindness in question

Bizarre situation this morning. Saw a young man walking in with a blind walking stick (apologies in advance for not knowing the proper term for it). Generally, when you see a blind passenger, you dash up from any seat you're sitting in. I was standing today but I noticed people were not getting up for him. Then, I had a good look at him. He looked like he can see! His eyes were focused, he knew where to look for potential seats and spaces, he also took next steps without hesitation. Meanwhile, he was swinging around his stick from left to right very quickly, suddenly points at a seat by the door with the stick, at eye-level to the passenger seated, and says, "Can I take this seat?" He was looking right at her when he spoke.

I don't know what to think. I'm sure he needed the walking stick for one reason or another but in all ways possible, he looked like he could see, and see well.

Once he was seated, he went to sleep. So I wasn't really able to examine him some more.

Monday, June 02, 2008

What's with all the broken doors?

At different hours of the day through the last few weeks, I've been encountering more and more broken train doors that remain shut. They have these stickers that are marked broken, but you can't really seen them from the outside, hence, most people just wait lamely for it to open as other passengers have already boarded the train through other doors, and suddenly, these people realize the doors are broken and have to dash like mad for one of the doors nearby. Sometimes they make it, sometimes they don't.

Once I even saw 3 doors in a row that were broken, making the passengers in line dash quite a few yards down just to find a way into the train.

Not to mention the pain this causes on the way out of the trains too. Despite crowded conditions, you need to say "excuse me", "excuse me", "coming through", as you push yourself through the aisles from train to train to find a door that actually works!

What are these doors broken and left unfixed? Or are doors being fixed daily but new ones break just as quickly?

All I know is...I've seen an increase in broken and unopened doors!