Tuesday, December 09, 2008

BART Musings Special Feature-- Interview #2 -- A daily commuter

The 2nd interview features a frequent rider/daily commuter since 2005. The questions simply focus on how he views BART and what he likes/dislikes about it. I'd say his opinions of BART are actually fairly positive but he's just started taking BART since 2005, relatively recent. I'd like to compare his responses to someone who's been taking BART for close to 10 years...the differing opinions would be interesting to read. (Thank you to the interviewee for giving his time!)

BART Musings Special Feature-- Interview #2 -- A daily commuter

1) How often do you take BART? Which stations are your origin and destination?

I ride BART an average of 3-4 days per week round trip between Pleasant Hill and Civic Center station. To and from Civic Center, I transfer and ride the MUNI metro out to the Sunset district.

2) On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most satisfied, how would you rate your BART commute experience? Why?

At this point, I would rate it a 7, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's been awhile since BART has served up any truly awful delays. If you would have asked me back in the Spring of '07 when they were having all of those computer problems and massive delays, I would not have been nearly so generous. Also, when you compare it to the awful lack of reliability and slowness that I experience on the MUNI portion of my commute, it makes BART seem pretty reliable.

3) How do you feel about BART's destinations? How well do the routes serve your needs?

The routes serve my needs reasonably well at this time, it goes most places I need to go and is usually a reasonable alternative to driving into downtown San Francisco or Oakland. One thing I have always thought would be intelligent for BART would be to offer service along the 680 corridor... basically linking Walnut Creek BART with Dublin/Pleasanton BART a stop along the way at Bishop Ranch.

4) How do you feel about BART ticket prices? Why?

I feel that prices are reasonable. It costs me $9.30 round trip from Pleasant Hill to Civic Center and back. Bridge toll alone would cost $4.00, and there is no way I could make it to the far side of the city and back on $5.30 worth of gasoline, even at today's low prices. Nevermind parking costs, wear and tear on the car, and time lost to traffic each way. BART seems a bargain by comparison.

5) How do you handle parking? Do you believe BART should charge for daily parking? How do you feel about BART increasing the parking fees?

I used to use reserved parking, which worked pretty well, and seemed a fair cost for convenience. Once I moved a mile and a half away from the BART station, I started riding a bicycle to and from the station, so parking is a piece of cake. I actually think riding the bike is faster than driving and circling the parking garage is.

I think that charging for reserved parking is a good idea, so long as there are people willing to pay, and there is ample parking still available for those who do not want to pay the premium. I think that a modest daily parking fee is fair, since it is a fee for use of the facility. I don't agree with raising fees much beyond a dollar or two because I think it would tend to discourage more people from taking the train.

6) Do you feel that BART's train interior serve the needs of passengers well? How can it be improved?

They need to finish removing those filthy carpets. It would be nice to see some more racks or open areas where airport-bound travelers could stow their luggage. Also, more grab handles for standing riders, and I really like the idea of adding a third set of doors in the middle to help people enter and exit the trains faster. If I'm making a wish-list, I'd also add a display in each car that tells you the name of the station you are at, and the name of the next station you are approaching.

7) What do you like most about BART? Why?

The thing I like most about the BART system is that it is fairly consistent and reliable (at least it has been lately). I have pretty good assurance that I will get to work on time and home around the same time each day. The thing I like most about riding BART is that it allows me to use otherwise-lost commute time for personal pursuits that I otherwise don't really have the time for. In the morning, I get to read the paper cover-to-cover, in the afternoon I can usually read a good 25-30 pages of a book. In a household full of kids and family obligations and the stress that accompanies that, it is nice to be able to have a solid block of time twice a day to decompress.

8) What do you like the least about BART? Why?

The thing I like the least about BART is the infrequency of service. Nothing is more galling than getting to the bottom of the escalator and seeing that the Bay Point train just left, and the next one won't be there for 10 or 15 minutes. They really ought to be able to provide more frequent service, particularly on the busiest line. This does not seem to be a problem on most other metro systems I've riden on.

9) Do you have commute alternatives? Why do you select BART?

My only real alternative would be to drive myself into the city. I choose BART because it is more attractive than driving. Driving would mean having to pay for gas, bridge toll, battle traffic all the way into and then through the city, then have to pay for daily parking once I arrived. Then, I would have the fun of fighting traffic all the way home. I find driving in traffic to be frustrating and stressful. Given that as my alternative, I'd prefer to have a comfortable train ride each way and deal with the occasional delay or bothersome fellow passenger.

10) How many years have you taken BART? Do you feel like it has improved or gotten worse in general? Why? Please consider all elements from customer service, ticket pricing, train schedule/routes, on-time ratio, train operator performance, station condition, to train interior...etc.

I have riden BART daily since 2005. I have riden it intermittently since the 1980's. I'd say that overall, BART has gotten quite a bit worse, but I don't really blame BART for that. I have far more unpleasant rides today than I recall having in the distant past. BART 20 years ago was essentially the same from an operational standpoint, but it was much less crowded, and there seemed to be far fewer rude, disgusting, or frightening fellow passengers. I can't really blame BART for that, I think that is more of a symptom of society in general.


Anonymous said...

Agree that BART needs a direct route from Walnut Creek to Dublin/Pleasanton. Won't happen though.

Anonymous said...

"rude, disgusting, or frightening fellow passengers" is what is mentioned. Far fewer? I say he should try riding the Richmond Line after 9pm, seems that everyone on the train is part of the "baggy-pants crowd" who universally are rude, disgusting, and frighten fellow passengers.

Anonymous said...

$9.30 a day does NOT seem very reasonable unless you are making enough to easily afford it or have someone subsidize your commute. Comparing the cost of BART to other means of commuting is a false argument since BART is supposed to be PUBLIC transit system which usually means it is supported by public funds and that it is affordable for most people to use regularly in the interest of lessening car traffic, pollution, etc. However, BART is rapidly pricing itself out of the broader purposes it was designed for even though just about everyone in the Bay Area pays for BART over and above daily fares through various taxes whether they use BART or not. BART needs to find ways to keep the fare costs down.

Anonymous said...

Anon #3...AMEN to that!

Anonymous said...

How is $9.30 for a round-trip not a bargain? That works out to about 20 cents a mile. 20 cents a mile is NOTHING. The only way you could travel cheaper than that is by walking or riding your own bike to work. You sure couldn't do that in a car. I think that Anon #3's argument is bogus.

Anonymous said...

The interviewee is right that there are alot more scummy people and bums and homies on the train now than there was in the 1980s. Where do all these pepole come from?

Anonymous said...

Where do you think public funds come from? They come from fares, gas tax, sales tax, bridge tolls, property tax, and various other pots of public money. You pay either way. If you are going to subsidize BART or any public transit more than at present, where does the money come from?

It's refreshing to hear someone say that BART is cheaper than driving and includes wear and tear on the auto.

Charging for parking is quite appropriate. People have to pay to take the bus to BART so there's no reason for drivers not to pay for parking.

As for #6: Having the destination on each car is a great idea since the PA system is not always reliable and sometimes the station TDS is not always right. I realize it adds capital cost to the vehicle and an assoociated cost for maintenance. It would be a nice amenity to consider for the new vehicles. Management might argue that it would be a disincentive for T/Os to make stop announcements.

Anonymous said...

BART may be less expensive than driving, but that's really not the point. If you think it's a bargain, great, but it probably isn't for many. Yes, additional funding must come from somewhere if fares are to be reined in. And perhaps the public as a whole should pay a slightly greater share thus spreading the cost. Whatever the fiscal solution, BART is a type of public service that reflects certain policy decisions as Anon 3 noted. Allowing rates to escalate beyond affordability would seem to undermine some of those broader goals of public transit. That's the point.

Anonymous said...

What does Anonymous 8:37 am advocate? Free BART? $1.00 flat rate fares?

I remember the horrible riff-raff that innundated the trains on those free ride Spare The Air days a couple years back. It made the trains unbearable for the regular commuters.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:28 - Are you saying that high fares are necessary and/or desirable in order to keep the riff-raff out? In reality it seems that much of the riff-raff doesn't care if fares are high or low since they will just jump the fare gate. This is actually a police/security issue where BART is also known to have problems since they do not maintain a visible presence that will actually enforce the rules and thus establish an acceptable BART environment. The riff-raff that breaks the rules does it because they can, but if you just don't like that class of people that's another story. Remember BART is supposed to be PUBLIC transportation. However, making everyone pay high fares is not the solution to a police/security problem.