Wednesday, December 03, 2014

(Updated) Station Agent Ed from Orinda -- A man who's transforming BART's image

If you board at the Orinda Station, I'm sure you know who I am talking about!  His name is Ed, he's a station agent, and he goes above and beyond to help passengers.  You can count on him to get out of the windowed box and say hi, good night, or have a good day, when you pass the turnstiles.  He smiles, he waves and his actions are making a difference, at least for me.

If you've been reading BARTMusings, you'll know that 90% of my posts are focused around negative encounters, with the other 10% being funny or straight-up ridiculous passenger observations.  Well, this one is positive and I want to express my thanks to Ed for caring more than any station agent I've seen in the last 16 years.

My husband and I both take BART, he takes it daily, while I only go into SF 2-3 times a week.  Ed's greetings, no matter how much we dread the ride into SF, make us smile back.  

It is so shocking (and perhaps it shouldn't be) that a station agent voluntarily comes out of the window to interact with passengers.  In the past, I've had to say 'excuse me' at least twice for a station agent to acknowledge me.  Other times, they don't talk back at all to me, nor make any eye contact, and act like I've interrupted them as they let my ticket through.

But Ed, he talks, he smiles, he walks around, he waves, and you know what? He cares!

He told me that he voluntarily comes to the station an hour before his shift starts to prepare for the day and to make sure everything is in order!  And he knows he won't get paid for that time.  Wow...especially after the BART strikes, this genuine action of care from an agent is unfathomable! 

Last week, I took my 6 year old to work with me (since school was out) and Ed introduced himself and showed nothing but enthusiasm and friendliness.  It was my son's 2nd BART experience (not counting the times he was an infant and can't remember) and it was a much more pleasant one starting with Ed's actions.  I've warned him plenty of times about BART-- to not touch anything, to not stare, to get out of people's way, to stand on the right side of the escalator, to not step in yellow puddles, to not talk to drunk homeless people at Montgomery, and all types of rules and warnings.  But all he really needed to think of BART more favorably was a friendly face.

Ed, THANK YOU!  I don't know if this will get you in trouble, hopefully not, but if not, I'd also love to add a photo of you!  I'll ask you in-person tomorrow :)

BART management--- Do you know Ed?  If not, you should!  He's become a very popular face in the Orinda BART station and he alone is changing the damage many other BART employees have caused through the years on the organization's public image!

Do you know another great BART employee??  I'd love to know if there's someone else like Ed out there.  

UPDATE (12/4) I handed a copy of the post to Ed today.  He was so happy and a little emotional.  He was denied a promotion today by BART.  He said this post was exactly what he needed.  Photo of him holding the post proudly.  Keep up the great work, Ed!  BART management-- I hope you'll reconsider his promotion.

Monday, November 17, 2014

BYOS? Bring Your Own Seat on it allowed?

This isn't the first time I've seen it on BART.  It's not a bad idea and there are actually quite a few styles of portable seat options out there.  Would you ever use one?  Would it ever become popular on BART?  People stared at this man, but why? He's comfortable, he's not taking a ton of space, at least no more than a person with a large backpack.  I can't imagine this being the norm on BART but why not?  And what IS the norm on BART anyways??

Your thoughts?

Thursday, October 02, 2014

BART Survival Tips during Conference Season

This is conference season, if you haven't noticed already.  Yes, those people wearing colorful badges around their necks, wandering on Market Street.  They are here, getting in our way, because of Oracle OpenWorld and very soon, Dreamforce.  I still remember how horribly crowded BART was last year during Dreamforce and watching normal people turning into savages, as they pushed their way onto the overcapacity trains.

Since I've witnessed this mass migration to Moscone Center every fall, I thought I'd share some pointers on how you can survive BART and get to your destination during this insane conference season.

#1 Don't get on the train at Powell, Montgomery or Embarcadero.  If you can, walk backwards to Civic Center, if you want to get on a train.

#2 If you are carrying a big backpack, put it on the ground.  If you leave it on, you are taking up extra space.  Trust me, when it gets crowded, people will unleash their rage and push you down.  I saw it happen last year.

#3 Even if there is no room on the train, walk as far in as possible.  Those who stand near the doors will be shoved and pushed in as people from Montgomery and Embarcadero attempt to get on the trains.

#4 Chew strong flavored gum.  People around you will be grateful, but you're also masking unwanted scents around you.  It works.  I depend on my extra strong Ice Breakers during a crowded ride home.

#5 People will push when trains get that crowded.  Stand with you feet apart to brace yourself.

#6 Get used to being touched.  You'll be intimately close with the passengers around you.  Wear a coat if it's not too hot to protect yourself just a little bit.  

#7 Don't be an idiot.  Put away, no, actually HIDE your conference chotchkies.  You're asking to be a target. 

#8 If you're riding with a buddy who was also at the conference, please just be quiet.  The rest of us don't want to hear which sessions you attended and who you got to meet.  When there isn't enough air for everyone to breath inside the train, don't take up extra by talking, please.

#9 It still makes a difference walking to the very first or very last train. Might still be crowded but at least your chances getting on are a bit higher in those two.

#10 I've not tried this one yet but this year I just might if the conditions are as bad as last year's.  If you can afford to, offer someone who has a seat $20 (or whatever amount) to let you sit down.  WHY NOT??  At least you'll have a bit of personal space (although on a very dirty chair).  

Oh, and a message to Marc Benioff.  BART is always more crowded during Dreamforce than Oracle OpenWorld-- you definitely win the attendance rivalry.  BART commuters FEEL it...literally.

If the Giants can advance to NLCS, the trains will be un-humanly crowded, but I won't complain about that!  Let's Go Giants!  #ORANGEOCTOBER

Friday, August 29, 2014

Have you tried the new BART Watch App?? Does that mean more delays due to 'police activities?'

I immediately downloaded the new BART Watch app because I wasn't confident that BART (or its vendor) could make an app that was easy enough to use even in offline situations.  I have to applaud them, however, for finally realizing that publicly announcing a suspicious character using the train-wide intercom to speak with the operator, is not exactly the smartest nor safest way to report crime.

I was searching for a crime to report via the app yesterday but didn't see anything that would warrant police attention. (Side note: I almost reported a drunken homeless man in Montgomery Station masturbating as a crime but decided not to get myself involved with that)

Have any of you tried it yet?  I also question whether this will mean more stopped/delayed trains due to 'police activities'?  What is the vetting process here?  Will every crime reported by checked out?

The app does appear to be very easy to use, which is great.  Safety is important but if numerous fake reports cause constant delays, I will be so annoyed.

Monday, July 28, 2014

BART's new 'stretching out' on street ban is GREAT! Let me tell you why!

BART police is now banning sleeping, stretching out at the Powell Station during the day and I think it's quite a smart move.  No, it's not because I can't stand the smell of homeless and their wastes, really, it's not that!  The reason I think the ban is needed is because of safety.  There are different types of safety violations when you have a homeless person sleeping at every corner, or sometimes, just in the middle of the street or walkway.

Safety violation #1: I've seen homeless people sleep at the top of stairs and escalators, causing people to trip at the top of the escalators because suddenly, 2 rows of people need to hop over a homeless man wrapped in a thick blanket.  He left 5 inches of clearance for everyone to somehow squeeze through.  And homeless at the top of the stairs is not much better although you do have more time to walk over them at your own pace, versus an escalator.

Safety violation #2: The human waste problem at any of the downtown stations is getting out of hand.  Flowing urine greets me daily, and there's now more feces than 6 months ago too.  The homeless sleeps in one spot and then turns to the nearest corner (sometimes not) to relief themselves.  It's unhealthy.

Safety violation #3: The weather has been too nice and the laying out issue has magnified because of it.  They are warm, happy, topless, and high.  There's also shopping carts everywhere along with plastic bags full of things.  It's like walking through an obstacle course.  You step on something, you get yelled at, viciously.

Safety violation #4: Well, this would just be the folks who are mentally ill and scream at you as you walk by them.  They lay out, they people watch, they comment on what you wear, what you look like, and sometimes even what they want to do to you.  It's verbal assault.  

I'm not against the homeless taking shelter at the stations.  I enjoy the energy and positivity of some homeless performers-- it's very refreshing and it's such a healthy attitude to have.  I take time to listen, drop a dollar, and say hi.  But the stretching out ban targets another type and I think it's a step in the right direction for our safety!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Welcomed back by the smell of urine at Montgomery

I've been on maternity leave for about 4 months and returned to work this week. One of the best things about being on leave is that I have not touched or smelled BART the entire time.  So far, BART has been fairly on time with no medical emergencies, train door issues, technical problems, etc, and even the trains have been kept fairly clean!  Well, that is until I stepped out of the train and onto the steps of the Montgomery station.

POOF!  The overpowering scent of urine welcomed me back to work! I read on SFGate that the city is cutting back on water use, therefore, decreasing street cleaning efforts in early mornings.  I am feeling (I mean, smelling) the impact of that policy but heck, we need to conserve water right??  Suddenly it seemed very very real-- I am back to the grind and back to holding my breath for 30 seconds until I get into my building!  Thank goodness I work just steps away from the station!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

On the rise? Jumping onto the BART tracks

According to SF Weekly, there are about 100 attempted suicides related to BART tracks each year.  On Tuesday, March 11th, there was another one-- this time at Balboa Park station where someone jumped in and  was stuck under the train.  This caused massive delays systemwide, trapping many commuters on the platforms and preventing more from even entering the stations.  It took my husband more than 90 minutes to get home.  On top of this BART mess, there was also a big fire at Mission Bay/SOMA, causing traffic jams, MUNI delays, etc.  It was definitely one of the worst commuting days in the Bay Area and a great evening to stay late at work or go dine in a nice SF restaurant somewhere instead of heading home!

I don't have the numbers handy but it seems like so far this year, there have been more frequent suicide attempts.  This sounds awful but aren't there more effective ways to take your own life?  Or we people all motivated by House of Cards, watching how Frank Underwood got rid of his Zoe Barnes problem?

When I'm caught in a delay and I hear that it's a suicide attempt, I am a bit more understanding but know that I won't be getting home for a long time.  When I hear that it's due to a broken door (caused by selfish passengers who hold the door opens as they close automatically), I am not so understanding and I get pissed.  When I hear it's a medical emergency, which usually isn't a real emergency, but it causes at least a 20 minute delay because they have to treat the patient INSIDE the train, I am annoyed.
Whatever the cause of delay is...rain, train track problems, earlier back-up....BART generally is off schedule during prime commute hours.  Sometimes by a couple minutes and sometimes by 8+ minutes. We are more or less used to it and don't expect on time arrival consistently.  But if you want to know why BART riders are so miserable and grumpy and anti-social?  That's why.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Responses I get when I ask for a seat...while VERY pregnant

Pregnancy is certainly not an excuse for the long hiatus I've taken from updating this blog.  But nevertheless, I am 9 months pregnant now and ready to not be anymore.

I really didn't start showing until past 7 months and felt fine standing even in the most crowded conditions.  However, the last 4 weeks have been tougher and there really isn't a doubt that sitting is safer than bumping left and right on a brake-happy train.

I find it easier to ask on behalf of other people in need of a seat than for myself.  It's a little different for me, not sure why.  I try to avoid it if I feel physically strong for the day but there are times when I feel completely worn out and in need of resting my numb legs after a long day.

You'd be surprised the type of responses I get.  Here are a few examples for your amusement, and mind you, mostly from men:

1) You're pregnant? You don't look big enough to be?
2) Don't cover yourself with a jacket, how am I supposed to know you're pregnant?
3) Yeah, yeah, just take it, I'm getting off at the next stop anyways
4) Sigh...ugh....let me finish up an email

To be fair 90% of the time, there is someone who voluntarily offers his/her seat.  And they do it very willingly and politely.