Friday, February 27, 2009

Yet another very frustrated passenger looking for some sign of improvement

I received this email from a passenger who has every reason to be fed-up. Not only did he have a bike stolen twice at the North Berkeley station, he brings up some other complaints that would make all of us question why we pay up to $12 or whatever the max is now, for a 3rd-class ride. I'd like to know how many bikes are stolen each year at BART stations. If the figure is high, what has BART done to prevent bike thefts?

Anyhow, take a look at the email below. Thanks for writing-- know that you are not alone! We feel for you! We want to see change too.


For the second time in a year, my bike was stolen at North Berkeley BART Station. Actually, the first time they only took my rear tire, but regardless, I was stranded at the damn BART station trying to get home. It is obvious from a quick scan, and confirmed by the BART police officer to whom I made a report, that a bike or two probably gets stolen every week, if not every day. This is completely inexcusable. I had stopped riding to N Berkeley because I decided I needed the safety of the bike cage at the downtown station, which has in fact proven to be a nice (if terribly inconvenient) solution. This was the first day in a good long while that I parked at N Berkeley, but apparently one day is all it takes. And it was a used, beater-bike, totally locked up.... I don't get it. They must have had a nice set of tools. What about a couple of cameras installed so we can at least get a glimpse of the thief in action? What about a little more security that encourages the bench-sleepers and others who seem to camp outside the station to move along? Only a small fraction of commuters lives within walking distance of a BART station, and they should be doing everything they can to encourage people to NOT drive... I find their total lack of interest in encouraging and protecting bicyclists (and everyone else, for that matter) really frustrating. And of course I can't bring the bike on the train with me (nor do I really want to) because you are not allowed to during commute hours. It's like they are trying to drive away business. The police officer I spoke to was refreshingly candid when he said that BART is one of the most expensive commuter systems in the country and provides the lowest level of safety and service he has ever seen. As someone who sinks well over $1000/year in fares into the stupid system, I'm pretty pissed off.

Since I'm in a venting mood, I have to also say that I am really annoyed at the laissez-faire attitude that the station agents take with fare jumpers. While waiting for the officer to arrive to the N Berkeley Station, about ten minutes, I saw at least 5 people just waltz into or out of the station through the emergency gate. These were not BART employees. There was no obvious reason why they should be allowed to just avoid the fare. Three of them were clearly of the homeless set. Is it any wonder that so many BART cars appear to be the personal bathrooms for various people? I am all for allowing the occasional pass for someone who needs to get somewhere and cannot afford it, but that seems to me to require some sort of permission slip, and presumably that would be the exception, not the rule. I find myself feeling much the chump for paying my round-trip fare every day when many dozens of people don't feel the need to bother. The same thing happens in the Downtown Berkeley station where they have the bike cage. I have seen scores of people coming in and out of the supposedly closed north entrance to the station, which is supposed to only be an emergency exit. There are signs saying alarms will ring, cameras are watching, etc, etc, but people come in and out of there with impunity. I think it is an offense to all of the paying riders for BART to essentially ignore these things. They can't protect our stuff, they can't enforce the basic rules... hell, they can't even protect us!

The broken-window theory of neighborhood blight is a well established phenomenon... That's where junky yards, broken windows, vacant houses, etc, tend to attract crime, which leads to more blight. It's like trash on the side of the highway leading to more trash being thrown there. You have to take care of these things or you get snowballed by worse and worse problems. When you consider how often BART is delayed or otherwise has other service problems, these other annoyances and dangers become even more frustrating. I think these are all pointing to the same fundamental problem... BART needs a major attitude adjustment. If I park my bike of BART property, I expect some security in exchange. If their system is insecure, fix it! I did my part (locked, crappy bike, left it and returned in daylight hours... what more can I do?); it seems like they should be liable. And if I pay to get on and off the train, then everyone else should too, unless they have a really good reason. And if people are pissing in the cars or otherwise making the commute really unpleasant, they should be taken to task for it. What are the cameras in the cars good for anyway? And open the stupid bathrooms in the stations please! Good grief. We're all much more likely to die from diseases contracted from people crapping on the train than we are from some terrorist threat.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

5 days and counting

My 5 months maternity leave is coming to an end. On Monday, March 2nd, I will be back to the daily grind and commuting via BART. I look forward to sharing some new experiences, opinions and interesting observations with you again here.

BARTing with the little one

Today, I finally decided to take my now 4 months old to the city via BART. We've been bringing him everywhere by car but I've hesitated on the BART experience for all sorts of reasons. First, if you've read previous posts, you know that I cannot ride BART without drenching Purell on my hands immediately after. So naturally, I didn't want to expose my newborn to a germs nest just yet. Secondly, I just wasn't sure if there would be room to fit a stroller on the train, especially when crowded. I've seen strollers causing parents and surrounding passengers problems on trains. Then there is the elevator issue-- elevator conditions are always an unknown-- they are either out of order, dirty, or too crowded. Finally, I just wasn't sure how my 4 months old would react to the loud squeaking of the train movements.

I have to say BARTing to the city with an infant isn't bad at all and certainly beats Saturday traffic across the bridge. We found enough space on the train both ways to position the stroller. We actually didn't have to deal with elevator or escalator issues because we were able to take apart the stroller and use the stairs. The little guy was calm throughout the ride. And as for germs...sure, sneezes and coughs were all around us as were shoes on the seats, but a bath as soon as we got home fixed that. All in all, the experience was fairly easy and we got to the city much faster than we would have sitting through traffic on 80.

Will we take the little one to the city by BART again? Definitely!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

BART Collision Photo

Sure, we frequently experience delays but we seldom get to see the cause of our delay. This evening, two trains collided, causing 10-15 minute delays (which we've learned through the years really mean 15-20 minutes).

The photo looks like it's straight out of the movie set. Hope passengers were safe although Michael Cabanatuan of SF Chronicle reports that 9 passengers were injured. The last thing BART needs right now is another lawsuit and more bad PR.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Wi-Fi coming to BART! But it'll cost you.

Finally, BART is embracing Wi-Fi access, which I know many commuters have long been hoping for. However, as Rachel Gordon of SF Chronicle reports subscribers will be charged about $30 a month, $9 a day, $6 for two hours and $300 for a year's subscription.

With all the powerful networks and capabilities mobile devices are equipped with these days, I personally no longer see the need to use Wi-Fi on BART. I answer work emails and compose work documents on my Treo, and now the iPhone. Sure, I'll have to wait to pass the Transbay tube and other underground areas for an email to send, but the delay is relatively harmless.

So, would you pay for Wi-Fi on BART? Please vote and let us know!