Last week was my experimental week of commuting from my home in Alameda to the new Devicescape office in San Bruno. The morning route consists of taking the Alameda-Oakland ferry from Alameda to the Ferry Building in San Francisco. From there, I cross the road and drop down into Embarcadero BART station and catch a Millbrae/SFO train to San Bruno (the station in the Tanforan shopping mall). Finally, I catch the shuttle bus up to Cherry Avenue, or I can walk it in about 20 minutes. The evening is basically the reverse of that route.
Opinions? Well, the ferry service is great. The only things missing from it are free Wi-Fi access (which is available on the other Alameda ferry service) and espresso coffee drinks (they do have regular coffee though, and a full range of other drinks including cocktails for those return trips after a long day!).
The BART segment is less impressive though. BART is noisy (making it difficult to listen to my growing podcast collection), and unpleasant, even for a subway train service. The no food/drink policy might save them some cleaning, but it is losing them an important revenue source and making the journey less pleasant for commuters. Other subway train services around the world not only allow food and drink, but sell it at the stations. Vendors pay for space in the stations, even on the platforms. Vending machines, selling food and drinks, are also common sights on other subway systems. Imagine even 1% of all those latte drinks that get consumed each day; it might even allow them to invest more in the service.
Finally, when the bay area finally gets its act together and has the TransLink system running, these cards could be used pay for newspapers, drinks and snacks from the station vendors, providing another source of revenue for the operators (the service fee for handling the transaction). London’s Oyster and Tokyo’s Suica cards already provide these services and more. When will the supposed heart of the high-tech world catch up?
And we won’t even talk about how badly they handled the bomb scare incident on Wednesday, suffice to say that I sat at Embarcadero for almost an hour because they had closed a station that was not even part of my route. Seems that in addition to handling the station evacuation badly, it appears that they have no plans in place for operating service over a partial system. When a key station like West Oakland is shut down, they should still be able to run services over the two disconnected portions of the system.