One thing that I, as a former Washingtonian (as in DC), couldn’t help but notice when I arrived in the Bay Area in March of last year was how much the BART system resembles the capitol’s Metro system.
The cars appeared identical, although I learned later that there were some important differences. The tracks, although a different gauge, use the same side-rail system to bring power to the cars. And what really made me homesick were the farecard machines, which became the butt of many Metro jokes when introduced in the mid-1970s.
What also struck me were the system maps, with their fat, brightly-colored lines connecting the system’s five outer points.
Then came the surprise difference: Waiting for a train at Embarcadero, I fully expected to see the same bright colors on signs designating the trains.
Instead, there was “Pittsburg/Bay Point,” “Dublin/Pleasanton” and other places I’d never heard of. I wanted the Red Line, and had to go back to a map to translate that after missing a Richmond train because I didn’t realize that it was the line designated red.
This bit of navigational confusion is something people at BART have been aware of for a while, but the idea of elevating the colors to their highest and best use has yet to catch on.
During Thursday’s proposal for improved service on the San Francisco International Airport extension, however, I noticed that “Yellow Line” had crept into official parlance.
Now that BART officials have negotiated full custody and child support from San Mateo County’s SamTrans system, they’ve devised a scheme to double service that SamTrans had rolled back and at the same time run trains directly from Richmond to Millbrae.
And they’re calling it the Red Line.
“The Yellow Line will always go to the airport under this plan,” said BART spokesman Linton Johnson, who teaches us all how to refer to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. “Then from Monday to Friday, from start of service until 7 p.m. and on weekends and holidays, the Red Line will go to Millbrae.”
And there are more details, such as “Red Line” trains starting at 4 a.m. so those Silicon Valley commuters could hook up with Caltrain quickly at Millbrae and still get to work by 8 a.m.
The new BART plan is much easier to understand when you color-code it. The Red Line and Yellow Line aren’t defined by their starting points or ending points, they’re means to an end. All we have to do now is wrap them in their respective colors, or at least put a red or yellow dot in the front window.
Photo of Washington Metro Red Line train from www.search.com.