Thursday, August 31, 2006

Some thoughts about commuters using Senior Citizen or Child tickets

This topic came to mind because a friend of mine mentioned that his coworker, an able-bodies 35-40 year old, has no shame whatsoever using a disabled person's or child's ticket on BART!! This coworker of his says he finds that easy to do because station agents don't check or look his way as he enters.

I've seen people around my age with colorful, orange, red...etc. For the longest time, I didn't actually take the time to read on the website or booklet what the different colors meant, and assumed that maybe they had discounted tickets because their relatives work at BART. When I finally did one day (read the booklet since I was out of reading material and was desperate for something to entertain myself), I started noticing that people who shouldn't be using a senior or child ticket, are using it. **Some had a disabled ticket, but I don't want to judge whether they are cheating or not just because I can't see an apparent diability**

Personally, I'd be embarrassed and quite ashamed to whip out a discounted ticket that I am not entitled to. I think most people would feel the same way. But there just are passengers who don't give a **** what people think...they walk through the side doors, they use discounted tickets, they park in handicapped spots without a placard (at least they get a ticket for that). Some people would throw away self-respect and dignity for a little discount.

I know it is impossible for station agents to be looking at colors of tickets even if they do decide to look up and around every once in awhile, but I can't help but think if they did look towards the direction of the ticket gates a bit more, would it help lessen the number of people who illegally use discounted tickets or even the number of people who walk through the side doors?

But this is really a problem with self-respect, dignity and upbringing- there will always be people who will defy the rules to get a little something for themselves. Even if BART station agents always paid attention to what is in front of them, these people will find another way to cheat.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Overboard with onboard entertainment

I know I've discussed this several times before, but today, this train operator took it overboard and beyond the tolerance limit. She's a happy person, I get it...we all get it, but exuding cheerfulness when announcing stations is one thing, but singing at every SF stop is totally another. To me, that is WAY TOO MUCH, especially most of us I bet are not nearly as cheery as she is about heading to a busy day in the office.

From East Bay all the way to SF, she was tolerable. She was happy and constantly told us to sit back or stand back and enjoy the bay, while announcing weather every so often. That is acceptable, though still on the annoying side to me personally.

Things started to get worse once we headed into the Transbay Tube.

She says....hang on we go across the bay by the city to the city by the bay.
At Embarcadero she sings, "Hi ho, Hi ho, it's Embarcadero station we go!" or something similar.
At Montgomery she sings, "Yo ho, Yo ho, it's Montgomery station for me!"
At Powell she sings, "It's a small street after all, it's a small street after all, it's a small street after all, it's POWELL street."

I missed her song at Civic Center because I was smack against the door ready to POP OUT OF THERE! Now I wished I had listened so I can share it here...but if someone out there heard it, please post it in the comments board! I'd like to know how far she went down to the SF stations.

I asked one of my coworkers what she thought of the singing...she thought it was annoying beyond belief too!!

We understand that she is cheerful- nothing wrong with that- but it's just too much to shove the songs and jokes down our throats early in the morning. Oh big deal....just had to rant!

Monday, August 28, 2006

You will not believe me but...

I saw a homeless man standing very close to a Civic Center BART station exit escalator. He was looking down while standing straight and still. As tired as I was Monday morning, it took me a little longer than usual to realize what he was doing. He was peeing into the outside corner of escalator exit. I figured that out after I got to the top of the escalator and saw a moving body of yellowish fluid flowing from the top down. Apparently, the pee waterfall was caused by the overflow from his corner.

I'm used to jumping over pee puddles around the Civic Center station, but never moving fluid on an escalator in motion. There's a first for everything I guess. Nothing surprises me at the CC Bart Station!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Another person under train? What is going on?

After the two suicides (one dead, one injured) on Tuesday, I couldn't believe there was another under-the-track injury today! Did she fall off? Or was this another suicide attempt? I hope people do not make a habit of this. It is traumatic for train operators, a resource and time drain for BART, and a huge inconvenience for all of us passengers.

Woman struck by BART train - Chronicle Staff ReportFriday, August 25, 2006
(08-25) 11:12 PDT DALY CITY -- The Daly City BART station has reopened after being shut down while rescue workers freed a woman from beneath a train this morning.
The woman was rescued around 10:30 a.m. and transported to San Francisco General Hospital. Officials had no information on the extent of her injuries.
The station reopened at 10:54 a.m., spokesman Jim Allison said. However, at 11 a.m., trains headed from Daly City to the East Bay and the Peninsula were experiencing 15-minute delays.
Allison said a train operator reported a person under the train at 9:45 a.m., and power to the electrified third rail was turned off.
The victim initially was reported to be a young girl, but after she was rescued, it turned out that she is a woman in her 30s.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Please always get up for a very pregnant woman!

This morning's ride was more crowded than usual. Needless to say, the seats were long gone and even standing room was in short supply. At Rockridge, a very pregnant woman walks in. All the handicapped seats were taken in the area: 3 were occupied by seniors, 1 by a blind person, and the other two, a young man dressed up as if he's going to an interview trying to not make eye-contact with the pregnant woman and a 30-something woman pretending she didn't see this pregnant woman. I was way back in the end of the cart, uncomfortably standing between 2 men, but hoping one of the two younger seated passengers would stand up for this woman who was loosing her balance.

Out of all the other seated passengers in the train, no one bothered to give up their seat! It was so rude and inconsiderate. How can anyone not know she's pregnant and could really use a seat? What if she falls? I don't want to have any double standards but how could the able-bodied men sitting around her not have the courtesy to get up?? The women should have too!

Anyhow, finally, the train emptied out a bit at 12th Street Oakland and an older woman held an open seat for this pregnant lady.

It was disturbing to me although it doesn't surprise me. I know we live in a society where women demand the same rights and opportunities as men but I consider certain things common courtesy and will raise my future son, if I have one, to honor them. For example, always give up their seat to females, hold the door for females, give up a taxi to a female hailing a cab too....etc.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

No excuse to complain about the 35+ min. delay! Two found under BART trains!

Before I found out exactly what was causing the 35+ minute delays this afternoon, I was absolutely pissed off at BART staff and the poor communication we received at Civic Center on why the "medical emergencies" at Union City and West Oakland were taking that long to fix, and why one announcement says West Oakland is reopened, but another right after contradicts it and says the station will be reopened in a few moments....yet after a "few moments", all trains still remain in holding pattern for 20 minutes longer?

I was in a rush to get home today to bring my dog to the vet before the clinic closes. I was in a mad rush to return home that I actually took a taxi to the Civic Center station instead of waiting for the company shuttle.

Of course I get there and I see the Dublin Pleasanton train being held with doors open. We had no news for 5 minutes, then "medical emergencies" update for 10 minutes, followed by 20 more minutes of contradictory announcements about when the trains will resume. Then, once it finally starts to move, it was stop and go the whole way, while stopping at each station for longer than usual periods of time due to passengers in line trying to crowd in when there is no room.

The train operator warns, "Doors are closing, stay clear of the doors" but people still stand right in the middle, some even go as far as reaching their hands in to pry it open...holding up the train even longer and making my poor dog wait for me at home!

My 30 min ride turned into 65 minutes of misery. I was angry that the ambulances (this is before finding out the real reason) could not just take the sick passenger off the trains and let the rest of the trains move on! I've seen a couple "medical emergencies" in the past on my trains and they were NOT emergencies by any means.

Finally, I get home and barely had enough time to take my dog to the vet. I return from the vet to find out that two different individuals were found under different trains today: one dead at the scene and one uninjured. CRAZY!!!

After reading that, I am not angry anymore, although I must say I was greatly inconvenienced under the special circumstances today. I wonder if the dead victim the result of a suicide attempt? And what compelled the uninjured woman to get on the tracks with a train coming??
Did she fall? I see passengers who don't stay behind the yellow line and love to cut across people lining up in back of it. I do that sometimes when stuck behind a slow-walking person. I can't help it, I like to move fast. I guess if someone I offend decides to push me off, I could easily end up on the tracks too.

Anyhow, after finding out the real reasons of the delays, I've decided to change the tone of my post completely. I guess these are real emergencies under all definitions and perspectives.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Perky Train Operator

Every so often, I ride in a train with an operator who is extra perky and animated. By that I mean he or she will announce "good morning" and "welcome" at every stop, give us a forecast of the week, wish us a relaxing ride, some will even comment on the view or count down the remaining hours left until weekend. Once I even had a train operator who pointed out some 'landmarks' to tourists.

I generally don't have a problem with perkiness over the microphone. It's a pleasant change from train operators who mumble inaudibly each station name. Sometimes it could get a little irritating when they go overboard with the comedic entertainment, I mean, seriously, this is not a Southwest flight, we don't need people to hum us a tune.

Today, one passenger must have been extremely grumpy and not pleased with the way his day started out....he was just overly angered by every comment the train operator made over the microphone. She said, "Good morning everyone! Welcome to BART on this Monday morning." He would yell out, "Shut up!" Later she announces, "Looks like we will have another warm week in the East Bay." He said, "Damn it- just do your job!"

This went on the entire ride to SF!

I don't love the extra commentary but it's nothing that horrible to get so mad and annoyed over. At the worst, I just roll my eyes and keep reading. Why the rude and pissed off comments?

On a side note, school started again it seems as BART parking lots and trains were more crowded than usual. more seats for me I guess.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Part Two - "Follow me, kids!"

Last Friday, I wrote the entry, "Follow me, kids", after I saw a mother, leading her 4 kids through the side handicapped door, without paying fare. The comments and emails have been great-- showing that fare skipping is really a big problem and frankly, the agents need to be a bit more vigilant about enforcing basic rules and actually look UP instead of down for a change.

After that post, I started to look around a lot more carefully at people when entering the ticket gates. I see bikers going straight from the parking lot through the swinging side doors without going back to pay. I see mothers pushing babies in strollers straight through the swinging side doors without going back to pay. I see passengers who walk across the swinging side door without blinking or looking like they've done anything wrong. It is common- way too common- and extremely disturbing that agents don't care or notice!

Although I said something back to the mother with 4 kids last Friday, I didn't say anything to these other folks this week for various reasons. Distance is one, but also, I shouldn't be the one enforcing the rules or putting them to shame!

I must say the same thing again- why are the station agents (in the glass booths) always looking down? what are they looking at? are they reading a magazine? playing crossword puzzles? Must be something very enticing and interesting because when I actually do need assistance and stand right in front of them, it takes them quite a long time to notice that I am standing right there!

Why don't they actually look around them? I bet if they did, within 30 minutes, they would catch a fare skipper!

Most of us are paying a handsome fee to ride BART! Nearly $40 a week, in fact, if I ride daily! Everyone should follow rules, and those who don't, should be told to and fined!

Please, BART management, do something about this!

European Tourists Abound

I love seeing tourists around SF. I'm not being sarcastic- I personally love to travel and appreciate natives who are polite and helpful.

In the past few weeks, I've noticed an abundance of European tourists around the Civic Center Bart Station/ Market&8th. I've also seen tour buses crowding the corner, picking loads and loads of passengers up from that hotel (Ramada I think?) on Market, between 8th and 9th.

The first thing that comes to mind when I see these tourists...why are they staying at this hotel? In this depressed area? I constantly see the tourists' faces when they walk into the many pee puddles around the block or when they get a big whiff of the after-scent of the many homeless folks inhabiting in the area. I see the parents grasping onto their kids whenever a homeless person approaches them. I hear them complaining that there are no places to get breakfast around there except the lone Starbucks. Occasionally, one of them will ask one of us waiting for the company shuttle whether there is anything to see in the area within 30 minutes, before their organized tour begins. Sadly, we have to say "not really, not within this immediate vicinity."

That area is really not the best representation of this beautiful city. Granted, all those city buildings and concert halls on Van Ness are just 4 or 5 blocks away and are absolutely gorgeous, but Market/8th is really not the most tourist-friendly area. Why didn't they stay near Fisherman's Wharf? Union Square? Nob Hill? or even the Financial District where they could take the cable car around easily? Why the Civic Center BART Station?

So why ARE they staying there??!! My guess is they probably didn't do extensive research online and was lured by the hotel rate. Or perhaps they had no choice because the organized tour they arrived with has a deal with this particular Ramada.

I wonder what they must think of the city if what they see around them in between the tours, is this depressed, dirty and sometimes threatening scenery. But then again, after seeing the wharf, bridges and other sites in the Bay Area, I think they will become forgiving of their immediate surroundings.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Do I have to shake your hand?

Funny thing happened today on my way to work. During the smooth and ontime BART ride (always appreciate this rarity), I noticed a man suffering from a bad cold or a bad case of allergies. He was sneezing nonstop. He was polite enough to cover his nose up with his hands each time he let out a sneeze.

He got out at Civic Center station, like me, and was a few steps ahead of me on the escalator. During his walk up, he sneezed again. I remember thinking as I moved along the escalator that I'm probably passing his floating germs right now. The point being...his nonstop sneezing made an impression in my mind.

As I got to the company shuttle pick-up, I noticed he was there too. Oh, does he work in my company too? I thought to myself...I guess I've never see him before. An acquaintance of mine walked towards me at that point and said hello to me and also the sneezing man. He then asked me, "Have you met ****? He recently joined the company in the ***** team."

The sneezing man took his hand out as we are introduced. I was thinking, "Oh my gosh, what am I going to do? I don't want to touch his hand. I know his hands have been covered in saliva and mucus the past half an hour!" I tried my best to quickly think of an excuse to tie-up my hands...maybe I can pretend it is stuck in a pocket? Or maybe I can pretend I'm holding a heavy bag and can't move it? Whatever I thought of, I couldn't really act on it within that 1 second of time that I had before it seemed like his handshake was unanswered for way too long.

Alas, I gave in. I couldn't make up a believable excuse fast enough. I shook his hand like any normal person would. I figured this probably happens ALL the time especially at tradeshows and weddings, besides, I have Purell in my bag that I can use afterwards.

I had to refrain myself from popping out my hand sanitizer during the 5-minute shuttle ride since he was in the shuttle too. Once I got to work, I washed my hands thoroughly.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Follow me, kids!

This doesn't surprise me at all. It's very common on BART, but since we have posted a few comments regarding this very problem, thought I should share what I saw today.

At the Civic Center Station, a mom, with 4 kids, were approaching the BART ticketing entrance.

The oldest kid, a boy about 7 or 8, goes directly to the ticket gate and asks, "Mom, how do we get in here?" The woman answers, "No, ***, you get over here, follow me, we're going this way."

She then proceeds to the side handicapped swing door and directs her children to walk that way. All five of them got onto the ticketing platform this way. This took place about 12 feet from the station agent sitting inside the glass window.

Frankly, I was pretty disgusted. It's because of people like that the rest of us have to pay around $8 roundtrip daily to get to work and back.

I said to her loudly, "You forgot to pay." Being at least 8 feet from me, she conveniently ignored me and went on to board her train.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

How safe are we on BART?

A bit of a more serious thought today. Since news of the liquid gel explosive broke, I've been doing a lot of thinking and questioning.

The BART Police were doing random train walk-throughs today with bomb sniffing dogs, causing the trains to pause for at least 3-5 minutes. I was glad to hear that and didn't mind the delay, but is that enough to protect everyone should there be a plot to attack the system? And why does it always take a scare to get everyone (internationally, not just here) back to the level of awareness that we should constantly have? Are we being too reactive? Do we need more "events" to realize terrorism is not a traditional enemy? (**Please, this is not meant to stir a political debate at all. These are just some thoughts and questions that came to mind**)

BART passengers see signs around the station and trains asking us to stay alert and watch out for suspicious packages, but can we count on self-enforcement to keep us from danger? What exactly makes a bag suspicious? What if the source of harm is not actually left unattended but being carried onto the train by a paying passenger?

I'm not sure how much more BART can do to protect passengers. They could install detectors at the entrance, but can they detect explosives? Don't think so. Or, BART Police (with trained canines) can stand by the entrance to randomly inspect passengers, but that could lead to a whole new debate about privacy infringement and racial profiling in this politically charged SF Bay Area.

I don't expect there to be any new initiatives to protect BART passengers beyond what is already being done because the politics make everything reactive around here.

I am not fearful on BART and have not felt unsafe as a passneger (well, not due to terrorism at least, but have definitely felt unsafe due to homeless and drunks). These are just some thoughts on my mind.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Got bumped by a bike today

Are people supposed to carry their bike up on the escalator? I thought they were supposed to use the stairs or the elevator. It seems awfully crowded and dangerous to have a bike on a packed up-escalator!

Granted, the woman, extremely thin and frail-looking, was doing her best to carry the bike at shoulder-level to avoid bumping into crowds. I kept my distance from her the best I could...about 3 escalator steps behind her. I was getting nervous watching her because I could tell her arms were getting tired and the bike was swinging back and forth as her arms started to lower.

Suddenly, she took a step down on the escalator to help keep her balance, but the bike swung backwards anyways and she ended up right in front of me. One of her bike tires hit my face as a result. I was expecting it to happen....I knew at some point she would not be able to keep the bike above her shoulders. There were passengers riding the escalator behind me, so I couldn't take more steps back to protect myself.

It didn't hurt much. I was more concerned with the tires being dirty than hurting my face. She was so apologetic and having such a tough time with her bike that I felt too sorry for her to yell at her!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Rough start to my morning

Mondays are always tough, but today it was more difficult than usual for me to get out of bed. I pounded the snooze button more times than I could keep track of during my sleepy state and suddenly, it was very late! I had just a few minutes to get ready, drive, park and get on the train. I jammed my usual 20 minute routine (darn good for a female) into half the amount of time and rushed to the BART station.

As soon as I got there, my neck started feeling uncomfortable. It seemed like my collar is unusually high and making my neck a little tight and itchy. I looked down, and realized that I wore my long-sleeve top backwards! I was trying to convince myself that I could get away with it because by then, I didn't have a place to swap back to front. It was pretty obvious that the shirt was on backwards with the fabric jammed and gathered at the neck, the label printed right there, and the stitching of the label tag clearly visible right under my eyes.

As I got up to the platform, I saw that the train was 9 minutes late. Well, I figured if I'm going to miss my shuttle pick-up anyways, I might as well take a chance, go to the BART station restroom and make my outfit a little more comfortable, during this extra wait time that BART has given me.

I don't like public restrooms but I do use them when necessary. The only other BART restroom I've tried was Lafayette and it was quite clean for a public restroom, a B+ in my rating system. I thought Lafayette and Orinda are pretty similar cities, I'm sure the Orinda restroom is just as clean. So, I took a chance and walked in. Oh boy....I found puddles of bright yellow urine splattered everywhere and the room smelled like smoke and pee. I guess since no one follows the "No Food or Drinks" sign BART posts, why would people follow the "No Smoking" sign! Horrible combination of odors. Unlike the Lafayette public restroom, the Orinda one warrants a D+ at best in my rating system.

Thank goodness I didn't have to use the facilities, I just needed a place to fix my shirt. I had a large computer bag filled with folders and a purse. I had no space anywhere to place the bags down! The sink had ashes all over, and there was no way I would let my bags touch the ground! So with no place to settle my bags, it took me awhile to get my shirt to the ride side while holding 2 bags (1 heavy!). During this juggling of shirt and bags, I stepped into a puddle of urine. I had a pair of superflat sandals that gave me only 1/2 a centimeter of protection between the ground and my feet. I had to wipe off the ashes on the sink so I could wash my feet, and then, I poured the rest of my Purell onto them. Thank goodness, I had the foresight to roll up my jeans before I walked in, a trick I learned because of my experiences at the Civic Center Station.

Well, I did it and I made it onto the train in time. I guess Orinda doesn't keep up as well as Lafayette station. I don't even want to imagine what the Civic Center station restroom is like and hopefully I will never have to find out!

Friday, August 04, 2006

why crowd next to me on an empty train?

On a fairly empty Concord bound train this afternoon, I thought I would have the luxury of getting two seats to myself. As we approached Embarcadero from Civic Center, the train still had many empty seats, and I thought I would be free to stretch my tired arms and sit comfortably across 2 seats. But, a larger, very hairy and totally sweating older man walked in, and decided to take the seat next to me even though the train was about 40% empty.

Why oh why did he have to choose this seat?? I smelled him immediately: his sweat, his hair, his unwashed clothes (smelled like a dirty closet) and his breath! I was miserable and wanted to get up to change a seat. But I realized that it would really be a huge production for him to have to stand up, grab his things and move aside for me, and if he didn't do that and instead just expected me to walk over him, it would be extremely unpleasant for my body to have to touch his. So, I decided to just suck it up for 25 minutes.

It wasn't easy. He coughed a lot, his sweaty left arms touched my dry and clean right arm several times, and worst of all, I caught him violently scratching his big wart on his face.

Finally, I was at my station. And I was right, it did take him a long long time to allow me to exit my seat. I almost missed the door.

Glad the weekend is here!

A public conversation

There was actually a brief entertainment program on BART today. The train operator apparently did not know his microphone was on and was chatting up with a friend. The conversation was a little embarrassing for the train operator since details of his love life was divulged to the rest of us. I felt a little guilty listening (post-publish comment: I didn't feel THAT guilty...more awkwards than guilty) but had no choice since it was broadcasted throughout the train.

Here's the conversation- probably not the exact words but close.

Train Operator (TO): Hey, where've you been?
Friend (F): You know, just around.
TO: Where you heading?
F: Got a job interview in the city. Whatevers. What have you been up to?
TO: Nothing much.
F: You still dating that guy? What's his name, ****?
TO: No, we went out a couple times and he never called me back.
F: Didn't go too well?

That was it. Maybe he realized that his mike was on, or his friend had to run, but the conversation ended there, leaving us to wonder why his date never returned his call and how things are going now.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What do you think of BART's "thank you" banner ads?

If you ride BART daily, I'm sure you've noticed the "thank you" BART ads around the trains. One of them says (can't remember the exact words), "Thank you, sleeping behind your sunglasses riders," and another says, "Thank you, first ride of your life riders." I think there are a couple others, although I can't remember them ride now.

I think they are a bit corny but not close to being as bad as the SF Giants' "It's your Giants" radio and TV ads (side note: speaking of the Giants, depressing 9 straight losses. I hope we release Benitez to make a statement, waste the millions who cares, just rid the cancer). I know that BART is trying to express appreciation with humor, but I remember thinking these two ads that I've seen do not actually directly relate to me and frankly, slightly lame.

BART should have ads that thank those of us who know to walk on the left and stand on the right, those of us who have tickets ready in hand BEFORE we approach the gate, those of us who actually make a point to get up for seniors and handicapped, those of us who ride BART the next day despite horrible delays the day before, those of us who recycle newspaper in the proper bin instead of leaving them on the train, those who pay daily for parking, and those of us who write/comment about BART!! :)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Debris on track causing 30+ minutes delay

I was stuck in another long delay today. As soon as I approached that BART station, I knew it was bad news since a train was held there with the doors wide open.

Apparently, the delay was caused by debris on one of the tracks between Rockridge and Lafayette, thus trains were operating on one track only. I didn't think it would take that long, but a 15 minutes delay announcement turned into 30.

How long does it take to remove debris? Why does it take over 30 minutes? I'm sure there is a lot more work involved than I'm thinking of. Is it more than just getting a crew there to remove the coverboard or whatever it was out of the track and get the trains running normally again?

Needless to say, I was not in a chipper mood once I arrived at Civic Center station. I barely made the very last shuttle pick-up. However, I did see an adorable little pug being walked by his owner on the street today which cheered me up!!