Burning the Bridge

Burning the BridgeWe’re heading into winter now. It has been darker when I wake up to head into work, and the sun is much lower in the sky. That makes for some interesting photos like this one where the sun makes the bridge seem as though it is burning white hot and melting into the bay beneath it. Or perhaps I’m just imagining it.

Bay Bridge

Bay BridgeAnother photo of my favourite bridge – well, favourite in terms of photographic subject; I don’t think I’d consider it a favourite to drive over. Luckily for me, I don’t do that too often these days, instead racing under the bridge in relative comfort each morning and evening on either the Encinal or the Peralta.

Food, Drink and Inconsiderate Behaviour

Was looking over some photos on Flickr when I came across this one of people eating in an AC Transit bus. So what? Well, the comment under it reads:

Help keep buses clean by saving food and drinks for when you get off.

This reminded me of one of my posts a while back about commuting on BART, and the fact that BART bans food and drink on its trains; a move that means they miss out on the opportunity to have food and drink sold on the platforms. In the UK, where I grew up, most stations have vending machines. Larger ones have cafes and bars. Some trains even have restaurant cars or a service trolley that is wheeled through the train selling food and drinks.

Why is it that so many Americans seem to think that if people are allowed to eat and drink on public transit that it will make it dirty? Do Americans believe that their fellow citizens are that inconsiderate? Are they that inconsiderate?

Perhaps they are… on Friday night, while sitting on one of the benches waiting for my ferry home at the ferry terminal in San Francisco, a couple standing next to the bench lit up cigarettes. In addition to the smoke blowing over me, I also had to contend with the ash that they kept flicking into the wind. To cap it all though, they walk up almost to the gate, then drop their half finished cigarettes on the ground and walk onto the boat. Who did they think would clean up after them? Why do they think that what they did, in plain sight of everybody standing at the gate area, is acceptable behaviour?

Perhaps there should be a hall of shame where people can submit photos of people being inconsiderate.

PS For more of the unusual smoking etiquette posters, visit the Japan Tabacco Manners Graphic Gallery.

BART Pirates

Emergency PlankSeems that BART is now catering to pirates too. Not the modern kind that “steal” music, videos or software, but the more traditional kind that wear eye patches and walk on wooden legs.

In case any of these pirates take over the train and need to get rid of some of the passengers in a hurry, there is an emergency plank that they can be made to walk. The sign on the door shows very clearly where it is located, and which direction victims should be made to walk. Captain Jack Sparrow and his fellow pirates should be very happy that BART took their needs into consideration 🙂

Spare the Commuters Day

Another spare the air day, and another example of how to waste public money. Funding people’s family days out does not seem like a valid use of the limited funds.

The evening ferries to the east bay on previous spare the air days, including yesterday, have been packed full of people returning from a free day trip to the city. The ferry service was running two additional boats to cope with the extra passenger load (most of whom would probably have stayed at home had the service not been free).

If the goal of funding transit is to encourage commuters to use public transit, then there are many better ways of funding them. If the goal is to allow everybody to get out of their houses and travel around the bay area for free, then the current scheme is great, but why do it only on hot weekdays? How about a weekend of free travel so those of us that have to work can have a family day out for free too?

Here’s a few suggestions for how to use the spare the air funds a little better. These come from conversations I’ve had on the ferry on the last few spare the air days with other regular commuters who also believe that the current system is not working.

  • Provide free trips only during the morning commute, ending at 9am or 9:30am. Commuters who use the service will essentially get a half price commute (which will still be cheaper than driving over the bridge to the city).
  • Provide free trips on the morning commute (ending at 9am or 9:30am), but hand out special return trip passes as people get off the boat. That way only those travelling during the commute hours get free rides for the day.
  • Require all ferry riders to show tickets as they get off the boat, but do not collect them. That encourages them to use it another day. For those who are buying single tickets, reduce the price to the same as the commuter pack rate.

Of course, that works well on the ferries but it doesn’t really deal with train or bus services. BART, with its automatic ticket system, could require tickets that would have been valid for the journey, but just not deduct any fare. They could also issue return trip passes valid for the same day, although that might require changes to the ticket system programming (and given how good BART is at updating its software this might be best left alone).

Another thing worth thinking about: by spending the money more wisely, it would be possible to fund more spare the air days in the year. As it is now, most regular commuters I spoke to will be happy that today is the last free transit day this year. Perhaps next year the money will be spent more wisely…

Peralta Returns

Funny thing coincidence; I was talking with a friend yesterday morning on our ferry ride from Alameda to the city about the pending return of Peralta, the larger and faster ferry that was sent away for some pretty serious warranty returns (seems the shipbuilders used the wrong metal for the hull). Today she was there at the dock in Alameda.

Gate E Queuing Paths

Gate E Queuing PathsSeems that there are rules for where you queue for each of the ferries that depart from Gate E in San Francisco. Passengers for the Harbor Bay ferry service, to the Bay Farm island end of Alameda, must queue neatly around the edge of the water. Alameda/Oakland ferry service passengers queue down the access road towards Embarcadero.

Again, apologies for the photo – it is a cell phone capture, through a glass panel with the afternoon sun reflecting off of it.

Changing Ends

Well, Monday morning and BART is making up for being incident-free last week by announcing:

There is another train that needs to be ??? and we’re single tracking. What I’m going to do now is I’m going to have to change ends and go back at the other end, pull the … pull it the other way and then eventually we are change ends again then go to SFO so there will be a minor delay for that.

And sure enough, just after making that announcement, he ran through the train to get to the back and drove us back into Colma station (that we had just left). Then, to minimise the delay, another driver got in the front and drove us out again. The original driver walked back through the train, and was back at the controls before we arrived at San Bruno.

Another Week, Another Incident

No LightsHeading home last night on BART, we pull into Glen Park. After a longer than normal delay, the train drops to emergency lighting. Then we get an announcement from the train driver telling us he’s lost power and it should be back in a second. Next it will be back in a couple of minutes. Then we are told that they have an incident at Balboa Park (the station behind us), and power will be back on soon.

Then he announces that he has to power down the train completely. So there we all are, sitting in total darkness on a train in Glen Park station (with the doors closed). Trains on the other side, heading towards Balboa Park, are moving. Finally he announces “Passengers we are just waiting for the word to er power this train back up” – something I’ve never heard on any train before.

Once power is restored, the doors open to allow people who have been waiting on the platform to board, and he makes another announcement: “Due to the problem at Balboa, board this train wherever you’re going.”

The end result of this was that I missed my ferry (it was just casting off as I arrived at the dock), so I had an hour’s wait at the Ferry Building. More on that in subsequent posts.

One final BART related note though, since the end of 2001 BART has had all of its station toilets closed (for security). Judging from the smell of the carriage I was in on Friday night, I’d say some of their passengers are simply using the trains as replacements. I also managed to capture one of the “Number 1 Transit System in America” stickers.

Commute Update & Train Announcements

BART was doing pretty well last week… until Friday evening. It was raining on Friday, as it had been most days last week here in the bay area, but on Friday the rain was causing a 5-10 minute delay on BART according to the indicator board. Just as I was wondering how the rain on Friday could be that different, the train came flying into San Bruno… and overshot the platform by about two thirds of a car!

OK, not a big deal really, but the doors did not open for about 5 minutes, explaining the delays. Eventually, they worked out how to open the doors, even though they were not aligned with the little black sections of the platform, and the ride from there to Powell was normal.

At Powell though we had another delay… this time because somebody had dropped something in front of the train (guess it didn’t overshoot that one). After the announcement that the driver needed to clear whatever it was that had been dropped in front of the train, the lights drop to the emergency lighting. Once power was restored, the doors had some problems closing, then finally we were on our way again. I did make the connection with my ferry, but only just.

Today, while catching up on some blogs, I noticed a link in Annie Mole’s Going Underground blog to a page collecting amusing announcements from the London Underground. I wonder if any of the BART announcements ever contain any of this humour… I’ll have to listen more and see if any are worth reporting! A few of my favourites:

also, I would like to apologise for the delay to your SO CALLED Victoria line service, this was due to … errr the wrong kind of rain!!

Hello this is xxx speaking, I am the captain of your train, and we will be departing shortly, we will be cruising at an altitude of approximately zero feet, and our scheduled arrival time in Morden is 3:15pm. The temperature in Morden is approximately 15 degrees celsius, and Morden is in the same time zone as Mill Hill east, so there’s no need to adjust your watches.

This is Knightsbridge Station… All change here for Mr Fayed’s little corner shop…

[ed. for those not familiar with the area, that little corner store would be Harrods 🙂 ]

Next time, you might find it easier to wait until the doors are open before trying to get on the train.

Ladies and gentlemen we will shortly be arriving at Waterloo, then I think we will carry right on through the channel tunnel and spend the weekend in Paris.

This is a customer announcement, please note that the big slidy things are the doors, the big slidy things are the doors.

Ladies and gentlemen this train has 22 doors on each side, please feel free to use all of them, not just the two in the middle.

[ed. I hope he just meant people to use all the ones on the side facing the platform 😉 ]

Welcome aboard the Flintstones railway, once I get my feet on the floor and start running we should be on our way.

May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking allowed on any part of the Underground. However, if you are smoking a joint it is only fair that you pass it round the rest of the carriage.

Ladies and gentlemen, upon departing the train may I remind you to take your rubbish with you. Despite the fact that you are in something that is metal, fairly round, filthy and smells, this is a tube train and not a bin on wheels.

Please allow the doors to close. Try not to confuse this with ‘Please hold the doors open’. The two are distinct and separate instructions.

[ed. I’ve heard tales of BART trains being taken out of service because somebody held the doors open, thereby breaking them. Don’t know if it is true though.]

Finally, I noticed that my “Sign Out of Order” photo, from the third total BART shutdown, had been picked up by the Daily Irrelevant last week too.