Friday, September 28, 2007

Critical Mass - Good or Bad? Stay away tonight!

Maybe I'm not talking to the right people or reading the right sources but I generally never hear anything positive about Critical Mass. And from personal experience, I've found the participants to be a bunch of overly emotional, bike-righteous asses who would risk other people's safety just to push their own agenda. I'm frightened of Critical Mass. While driving, I do not want to be verbally or physically assaulted by them and I certainly don't want to accidentally bump into any of them and get sued or attacked! But they want you to bump into them because they want to have the "go ahead" to yell at you, run their bikes into your car, and throw things at you if you yell back! Now, like I said, my experiences have been limited and I'm sure there are peaceful gatherings too but to me, Critical Mass makes me think less of bicyclists than to want to help them with their agenda.

I mean, what's next? Are they going to ride through BART stations to demand that BART allow bikes during all hours?

Honestly, I think drivers make a lot of accommodations as it is for bike riders. With the cycling craze in Lamorinda, drivers often need to swerve to the opposite lane (risking head on traffic) just to make way for the groups of cyclists who seem to think it is OK to ride in the middle of a single lane road. They think they have the right of way and we need to just stay behind them patiently. It's like, DAMN IT, just stay in your bike lane in a single file OK? Don't chat, don't share water or whatever it is you need to do when you take up the entire street. I don't stop and talk to the driver next me and stop traffic....why should cyclists do it? Seriously, these cycling "enthusiasts" think that just because they wear spandex and ride a fancy bike, they own the streets. Look behind you, 10+ cars are blocked because you and your buddies are in the middle of the single lane road.

Sorry, as you can see, this is a sensitive topic. I deal with a lot of bikers and most experiences, whether with Critical Mass or cycling groups, have not been positive.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BART ridership has definitely gone up

Is it just me or are trains just getting more and more crowded each day? Forget finding a seat, you're lucky if you find a big enough to space to stand in and have a pole to hold on to. I guess it's a good thing that people are turning their backs on cars and adopting mass transit but if this trend continues, I hope BART will increase the # of trains during commute hours even more.

Last fall, I remember that the SFO-bound train from Pittsburgh/Baypoint would have 1 empty seat to 3 standing passengers by the time it arrives in Orinda, leaving at the very least, plenty of places to stand. This fall, by the time the train arrives in Orinda, there are at least 12 standing passengers in each car.

Just an observation. I don't have solid data to back this up and it's really based on my commute hours.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The consequences of not taking BART to SFO

We went on a quick one-night trip to LA and decided that our departure and arrival times shouldn't put us in the thick of traffic going back and forth between SFO and East Bay. We figured driving will save us time since taking BART to SFO from where we live will take 70 - 75 minutes total.

The drive to SFO on Saturday morning was a breeze. Took us 35 minutes total. It totally justified not taking BART.

The way back from SFO to East Bay on Sunday evening, however, was horrendous! It was bumper and bumper from Monster Park (no home game that day as 49ers got ripped part in Pittsburgh) all the way to our destination. Drivers were impatiently cutting each other off, yet going nowhere...we almost got into a couple accidents during our drive. At that point, I certainly wished we had taken BART to and back from SFO.

I'll be traveling again this coming weekend for work and this time, I think I'll be a good girl and deal with BART. It may be 70-75 minutes but at least I'll get to relax during most of the ride.

Oh, by the way, a quick side note. I tried Virgin America for the first time-- the experience was about 100 times better than Southwest Airlines and United Shuttle. I definitely recommend it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Did you know one-third* of men don't wash their hands? (*Correction)

Last night, NBC11 reported a nationwide study on percentage of men and women who wash their hands after they use the bathroom. The study installed hidden cameras in selected public restrooms around the country including stadiums, bus stations, parks, office buildings...etc. The point is not to reveal any identities but to examine personal hygienes in the US.

The result was not surprising but disturbing nonetheless.

33% of men DO NOT wash their hands before exiting the bathroom.

12% of women DO NOT wash their hands before exiting the bathroom.

What a disparity between genders! And my goodness, 33% of men DO NOT wash their hands after they've used the toilets/urinals? That is sickening.

That means 1 out of 3 male hands I shake in business meetings are tainted. That means more likely than not, the safety poles on BART are also contaminated. What about the guy who hands me my latte at Starbucks? The potential is frightening.

People think I'm ridiculous for popping out my bottle of Purell on BART?? I think I am just saving myself from getting sick!

With women, I even think 12% is a bit high for this day and age. But just thinking back to my office restroom encounters, I clearly recall a few times where someone walked straight out of the stall without stopping by the sink.

Be careful whose hands you touch next!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bad morning ride

Maybe Monday brings the worst out of people? This morning's ride was miserable. Not only was the train packed at maximum standing capacity, people were completely rude and obnoxious.

First, we had no room to even stand, some young backpacker (airport bound probably) with a HUMONGOUS backpack and accompanying attachments (to the top and bottom of her 3 feet long backpack) insisted on squeezing in. Not only did SHE not fit, her backpack was blocking the door. As she turned around to fit in, her backpack kept on hitting me over and over. It didn't hurt, or else I would have told her to watch it, but still, it was annoying. Throughout the ride, her backpack not only hit me but at least 4 other passengers around her.

Worse, her phone kept on ringing. Each time it rang, she had to dig in her bag to grab it, and by doing that, she bumps someone else with her backpack.

Separately, people are completely impatient. I am polite enough to step out of the train to let people exit because I don't want to block the doors in any way. However, people literally push me out with their shoulders before I even have a chance to walk out. I already look like I am ready to hop out and make way for them, is it necessary for them to push me out of the way? Would a freakin' half second hurt them that badly? It's like, damn, I am already planning on getting out for you ok? Don't need to push me out!

Lastly, someone standing next to me kept on yawning in my face. Why don't people cover their mouth anymore?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Crimes on BART premises

Thanks to an anonymous poster who sent this to me. I guess I should consider myself pretty lucky that I've never been a victim of carjacking, beating, or mugging in BART parking lots, but apparently, it's not uncommon.

Generally, my daily BART rides are fairly uneventful where the most notable things are seeing people eat on BART, fight for seats, wear heavy perfumes, skip fares, hold up the escalators, or fumbling baby strollers...etc. One of the few times I actually raise "real" issues such as suspicious activities or crude, offensive verbal harassment within a BART station, it turned into a debate about citizens having the responsibility to report these incidents to BART police otherwise the authorities are not, and cannot be held responsible for these activities, nor can they proactively do anything to stop them because the law doesn't work that way. I still don't think that's right but I've learned a new perspective.

But what about these muggings and beating?? These hot spots for carjackings? Assuming these incidents were properly filed with BART Police, do they try to catch these offenders in action the next time they strike or do the reports just sit in a file cabinet? Is something being done to protect passengers before more crimes take place? Are there more police surveillance in those areas? Is it unreasonable (probably so) to ask BART Police to be more proactive, rather than reactive? Hey, I may be completely wrong here-- perhaps BART Police are already all over those hot spots for crimes and because of their action and presence, passengers are no longer being mugged, beaten, or carjacked. One can hope.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fare skippers

So, those of you who are BART agents, please chime in. I know this observation does not represent every station but I was pretty appalled. Three young men in their teens nonchalantly opened up the disabled entry/exit side door right by the turnstiles, and walked in. The agent seated inside the office was about 6 feet away but was looking down or just didn't care that they were walking through the side and not paying.

An older woman who had just walked through the turnstile confronted them and said, "You need to go back around and pay for a ticket." By this time, the agent did look up but didn't come out to see what this confrontation was about. Then, one of the boys said, "*hit, I know people who work for BART and they say people do this all the time and it's no a big deal."

I had to go run after my shuttle so I didn't catch the end of this. But I hoped the older woman had tapped on the ticket office window, and have the agent force them to exit and pay for a ticket.

This is not the first time I've seen or written about fare skippers. It's pretty common. Is BART doing anything to stop this? I've confronted these violators a couple times but I'm not always in a position to do so. But can't station agents watch more carefully? Or are they too busy to?

Monday, September 10, 2007

what makes me take one seat over another?

This split-second decision making process is quite interesting. Let's just say there are 3 seats open around the same area. None are designated disabled seats. All are aisle seats. What makes you pick one over the other? Something as simple as this actually takes a bit of quick thinking.

Here's what goes through my head in those 2 seconds before I must commit to a seat:

1) Does the seat have transferable stains? Does the floor have transferable stains?
2) Who is sitting next to the empty seat? Does he/she look pleasant to sit next to (or unpleasant)? Basically, if the person looks either disheveled, extremely overweight, heavy scented, rude/obnoxious, ill, unkept..etc., I try to stay away. The weight factor is usually not a huge deal unless coupled with another one of the listed characteristics.

For example, this morning, 2 aisle seats were open. I was quite happy since I felt pretty darn tired this morning and really wished to sit. One had a professionally dressed man sitting next to it, the other had an older woman who not only looked uncomfortably overweight but had just let out a scary, deep cough. Immediately, I chose to sit next to the man.

It's not prejudice for those of you who will immediately point to that. It's just a matter of personal comfort. I'm not saying people who fit those descriptions are not good people- they probably are- but I would just rather stand or not sit next to them on BART because of my own personal reasons such as allergies, being a clean freak, and having a bad day and need my personal space.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Has anyone used MyBART?

I've browsed around a few times but have never officially signed up. I've seen some interesting events that I might actually attend. I am going sign up though and share my experiences on here. Looks like it's doing a lot better than BARTtv.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I feel bad for people who sweat easily

On the ride to SF today, the train temperature was slightly on the warm side. It wasn't on the hot side at all yet, however. There was a man sitting down who was sweating profusely. He had sweat stains all over his dress shirt...on his back, armpits, and chest. He also had sweat dripping like a waterfall from all around his head. His neck was gleaming with wetness as his sweat was collecting around his collar. He leaned back on his seat -- a move I believe was intended to wipe away the sweat around his neck and head, as he moved his head slightly up and down on the seat cushion.

He wiped the dripping sweat off his face every few minutes. It wouldn't stop! Meanwhile, the sweat stains around his shirt were enlarging by the minute! The individual wet spots combined into a huge mass of wetness on his shirt.

He got up at Embarcadero, still sweating. I had been standing the entire time and usually grab a seat after the Embarcadero crowd exits, to rest my feet for 5 more minutes until my stop. But I wasn't about to take his seat! It was probably wet!

I felt bad for the guy. Everyone was looking at him. He even had sweat dripping around his nose. I know there are disorders that cause people to sweat uncontrollably. It was warm in the train but it wasn't bad at all-- everyone else was fine. I even mistakenly wore a sweater today and I felt fine. This poor guy really had a rough start to his morning.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You tell 'em!

While standing today, I saw a perfect example of passengers speaking up and help enforce train rules. A woman in her 20s sat in the handicapped seat and pretended to be sleeping (or not, but she seemed to only be sleeping when we arrive at stations) when an elderly woman with a cane walked in. The train was packed. There wasn't barely any room to stand! It was almost too crowded to find space on a safety pole to grab on to.

The young woman had no intention of getting up whatsoever. Her eyes were opened but she kept her head down. Immediately, a man right around the area tapped her shoulder and said, "Please get up. There's someone disabled who needs to sit down."

The young woman was not happy but obliged. She pouted the rest of the way. I'm just glad someone spoke up immediately!