Week of Commuting


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.

5 thoughts on “Week of Commuting

  1. Why are you glad about the no food policy? What are you afraid would happen if food and drink was allowed? Other places I’ve lived manage to have train services that are cleaner than the average BART train, and still allow morning commuters to have a coffee or a yoghurt on their way into the office, or folks heading home from work to grab a sandwich or snack for their journey.

  2. To be honest John, I am also glad there is no food or drink. I could handle the drink maybe but I don’t want to smell all sorts of foods which I may or maynot like, and can’t escape from the smells. (I quit seeing movies at the Metreon for the same reason. I can handle the smell of popcorn but the nacho’s and some of the other food got to me.) I also don’t want to watch people eat. Third, I think that place is full of germs and to grab on to the handles and then stuff food in your mouth it totally gross.

    Maybe if there was plenty of room in bart so everyone could spread out it would be different. But as it is when I get on at the Lake Merrit Station, it is standing room only. I also once sat in a seat which was totally soaked from someone spilling their drink and had to get off at the next stop and go home and change looking like I peed my pants…

    I am okay with Bart for the most part, the only thing I hate seeing is people puting on their makeup. It is not quite as bad as seeing them put it on when they are driving but just about. When I see that I think that they really don’t have any respect for themselves or the people around them…do it at home in the bathroom like the rest of your bathroom things.

    I also feel for you as I took a temp contracting job at Genentech in South San Francsico and after driving, taking bart then a shuttle….I was happy when it ended as I had 2 more hours of the day to enjoy. Next, they offered me a another job in San Bruno and I turned it down because of the commute.

  3. It is funny, but I don’t remember even noticing the smell of the food in other places I’ve been where they allow, and in some cases even sell, food on the train. In all the places outside the US where I’ve lived, or visted and used trains, food was allowed, and I don’t recall the smell ever being that noticeable even. Perhaps it is down to better ventilation; perhaps it was just a difference in culture that resulted in people choosing less aromatic snack foods (mostly sandwiches, pastries, chips, chocolate etc). I can see how some foods might be unpleasant for those sitting nearby though (durian fruit was the first thing that came to mind for some reason).

    As for spilling drinks, well it can always happen, especially on a moving vehicle, but a lot of that is down to people being careful. It does also help if the colour of the seat covers makes it obvious when they are wet. The ferry I take, where they serve drinks, moves much more than BART and yet they don’t seem to have problems with spilt drinks.

    The fact that so many of the equivalent train systems in other places have in-station vendors, and that they have even linked their electronic payment system to those vendors, must mean that they are worthwhile for the service operator. Currently, BART struggles with its limited budget, and the only things they can do are increase the fares and charge for parking ($5/day at West Oakland now, assuming you can even get a space in the pathetically undersized parking lot). Having even the rent coming in from vendors in the stations might actually leave them with some money for improvements, without commuters having to pay more for tickets & parking (the ones who would buy the coffee in the station probably buy it already when they get off the train).

  4. Pingback: blueDonkey.org » Blog Archive » Food, Drink and Inconsiderate Behaviour

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