Something I thought couldn't happen on BART happened this morning. Not during my ride, but the ride of a reader who was kind enough to let me share her story with everyone here. A train apparently took the wrong route by missing a turn. Is this human error? Computer glitch? It can't purely be a computer glitch without human data entry...
You've GOT TO READ THIS STORY below. Thanks, C.T. for sharing!
This morning I got on the 8:29 train from Hayward (headed toward Richmond), and all seemed well. I was peacefully reading my newspaper and ignoring the train conductor announcements, when I noticed that we had pulled into the West Oakland station.
Okay, I did get on the right train? The Richmond line does not go to West Oakland. We had been moving kind of slowly, but I didn’t think anything of it. The conductor (is that what they call them?) comes on in a CLEAR voice (unlike the monosyllabic station announcements) and mentions that we missed our turn. We missed our turn? WTF? How do you miss a turn on a train? Apparently, there was a little “computer” glitch that caused the train to head to San Francisco instead of Richmond.
We were detained at West Oakland and turned around. The conductor walked through the train to the other side (you know the snake-like qualities of BART are somewhat amusing) and headed to the other end, so that we could indeed head toward the North Bay. You could hear passengers everywhere whipping out those cell phones calling their bosses to explain their tardiness in advance. Somebody’s job interview DID NOT GO WELL.
Anyway, my usually uneventful 30 minute BART ride, turned in to a 60 minute ride. Thankfully, I didn’t have to transfer.
must suck to have a job where you have to call in just because you're running late.
Okay, this does not sound so weird. I have a similiar "Mass Transit Operator Error Story", except I was riding the Vallejo-SF Ferry one morning about 10 years ago. It was very foggy, near zero visibility on the Bay at 630a. The Captain took a "wrong turn" and we ended up about 1/2 mile West of the Golden Gate Bridge in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! it was the passengers who raised the alarm, after seeing us passing under the GG Bridge, by shouting and hollering at the Captain to turn around. He did and we landed in SF safely, but 40 minutes behind schedule. Now, how could this happen with Radar on board the Ferry? your guess is as good as mine!
Here is another, maybe a bit more entertaining. Two Short Stories both 10 years old or so...
Story #1: While riding the Vallejo Transit Bus from the SF Ferry Terminal back to Vallejo one afternoon, the bus driver got lost and we ended up in the SOMA District near present day PacBell Park. She was visibly upset and several passengers offered to drive the bus back to Vallejo. With a few hugs from the passengers the bus driver was able to drive the bus back to Vallejo without incident. Turns out, she was a new driver (never been to SF before in her life!).
Story #2: While riding the Vallejo Transit Bus from the SF Ferry Terminal back to Vallejo one afternoon, we got within 1 mile of the Vallejo Ferry Terminal, all of a sudden the bus driver stops the bus in the middle of the street. Get's out, says F**** this job! and walks away! it was good we stopped on a not too busy side street! All us passengers (6 of us) were totally dumbfounded. After about 10 minutes, we all just got off the bus and walked to the Ferry Terminal, got in our respective cars, and went our separate ways. I never heard any further about why that happened or what happened to the driver.
Yeah but no doubt the union will protect the operator (computer or train). Who cares how many people are inconvenienced, or how much danger of collision there is, as long as some union member isn't held accountable?
Maybe Gavin the Great can use this to amend the Calif constitution such that no-one can ever be fired no matter what they do ...
Okay, let's clean the story up just a bit. Those who operator trains are Train Operators, not train conductors. Minor detail, I know, but patrons need to be educated in order to be informed riders.
Next, unless the Train Operator specifically said, "we missed a turn" trains don't do that, they get misrouted. As to what can cause a misroute, either human error or a computer error. The system is somewhat redundant, because if the computer misroutes a train, an operator (if they are alert) could catch the misroute. Leaving Lake Merritt there are arrow aspects that show the direction (SF or Richmond) prior to the diverge point.
Operators do load a destination code into their trains, but for misroutes out of Lake Merritt, West Oakland or 12th Street, chances are it is the human factor, but not on the part of the Train Operator.
While not uncommon misroutes do happen and yes, during commute even moreso a problem with the number of trains that need to go through West Oakland to get to the city.
Finally, "Detained." LOL! What was BART Police at West Oakland when the train arrived. You were not detained, you were delayed while the operator changed ends. Now back to my point.
Hey, T.O.! Thanks for clarifying. It's good to know what happens behind the scenes. But would you agree that misroutes really should not happen, or at least not as much?
Yeah BM, I'll agree misroutes should not happen, but the system is not perfect. You need to remember the system is 30+ years old with mixed technology wayside providing the needed information to the trains.
While the system is highly automated, there is still considerable input from those people who manage the trains downtown. In a perfect world the system would work 100% of the time. Unfortunately that is not the case.
The only thing to do with a misrouted train is to apologize to the patrons on board and get the train moving in the correct direction as quickly as possible.
I definitely understand what you're saying. Is there commitment and emphasis from BART to minimize the incidences of human errors? Do these folks generally take their responsibilities pretty seriously and really focus to ensure fewer errors? I'm sure they do. I guess I just want to hear from BART that they do care, and there are efforts to minimize human errors.
I concur with the above T.O.! As a T.O. myself I think I can speak for most of us in saying that we very much DO care. I know I do! I find it very funny sometimes when I get the "snide" comments about how our job is "so easy and all we do is push buttons all day". I will admit that when things are running smoothly its mostly monitoring and paying attention. But things can go wrong very quickly and we have problems that a lot of times the general public never even knows about and you really do need to know what you are doing. Just my 2 cents worth.
Oh, before I go...too all those weekend passengers and non-commute riders...#1) Please know where you are going! #2) We have literature and maps to familiarize yourselves with the system. Please take the time to so this. All of the Europeans I encounter on BART are AWESOME...they know how to do this well! #3) Please make an attempt to come early or at least be on-time for your train.
I totally understand that BART is not a perfect system and granted when the shit hits the fan communication does breakdown. But just remember that we do everything possible to keep the trains on-time and that a lot of things have to happen smoothly to achieve this. I think, for the most part, we do a really good job in comparison to other transit systems. BART is very unique and is still an excellent engineering feat even for todays standards. Bare with us public we are constantly working for improvement.
I'm REALLY glad that T.O.s are posting their perspective here! And most of us definitely realize that there are really good T.O.s out there because we hear them and see them!
Thanks for posting your perspective. It's important for us to understand how things work on the other end.
I think the daily ridership would be surprised by what some who are involved with transportation do, especially if you get to see how the trains are "controlled" from their central office. It is rather impressive and amazing at the same time. I think that would really put things into perspective for many. As the other TO said, a good day is a good thing, trains run on time, wayside equipment works and life is good. But when things don't go right, that is when people are challenged both in the field and behind the scenes to keep the trains moving and attempt to control the situation, fix the problem and restore service.
... must suck to have a job where you have to call in just because you're running late. ...
Hah! Try working for BART itself. Your pay is docked if you're 1/100 of a second late, even if the trains are all running late (unless you're a manager, then you can stroll in at 10 or 11 a.m.). Though if you have to work a few minutes late, you're expected to eat the time.
Hah! Try working for BART itself. Your pay is docked if you're 1/100 of a second late
It's part of BART's "morale building" program for professional employees!
In my 6 or so years of commuting via BART this happened to me once, last summer. Dublin/Pleasanton line afternoon commute. Just after Bayfair, instead of taking the left turn to Castro Valley, we continued straight to Hayward. Right after the 'missed turn' the TO immediately announced something along the lines of forgetting to hit the button to change the rail or missing the turn, or something, I don't recall specifically. She walked quickly through the train to the other side (unlike the description of the person who sent you their report), moved us back before the turn, quickly walked backed across the train again & we were on our way. As for the passengers in the car I was on, most just laughed it off & clapped when she crossed through the second time & when we got moving in the right direction. I obviously can't speak for passengers in other cars. All in all, it was a rather amusing event, even though it was the end of a long work day. I'm sure the TO's attitude in all of it helped as well (i.e. quickly walking, almost jogging, through the train to get us back to where we needed to be & moving along).
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