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when a BART line falls in the forest …

By enelson
Thursday, June 5th, 2008 at 11:08 pm in BART, Freeway collapse.

I have to thank David Vartanoff for calling my attention to my neglect of one of the area’s biggest transportation infrastructure disasters since a Mac Arthur Maze ramp went down in flames 13 months ago.

He called my attention to my favorite BART website,, where no fewer than 29 comments had been posted about this little issue.

According to the post by icrew,

Since the fire at South Hayward yard 2 weeks ago, there seems to be a distinct lack of urgency about getting it fixed.

It really comes across as BART just not giving a damn about whether it gets fixed and, if so, when it happens.

icrew also complained about BART’s “BS” press release about “minor service adjustments,” saying that the disruption was far from minor and the line about BART repair people “working round the clock” was wholly overstated.

Before I get to my own nonfeasance, I’ll note that my colleague in Fremont, Matthew Artz, published a story about this continuing problem on Wednesday. I’m embarrassed to say that in my preoccupied haze, I had to learn about this from the BS-artist himself, BART spokesman Linton Johnson.

Johnson, in typical fashion, took ownership of riders’ painful delays and rides:

the passengers have every right to be frustrated about the
service down there. Now that we’ve gotten about 3 weeks of service under our belt, we have a much better grasp of what their complaints are as well as what the real schedule has morphed into with the train time adjustments. We’re meeting early next week to put out a message to all our riders who are affected to let them know the latest on the repairs and what they can do to ease their pain.

As for the round-the-clock stuff, he’s sticking by his story:

As for an end to this craziness, I don’t know what the date will be, but we are indeed truly working 24/7 to get it back up and running. The Hayward Yard was home to 25% of our fleet. For us it’s like trying to get around with a broken leg in a cast. You just can’t maneuver like you used to, and there’s only so fast it can heal until you’re back up and running like you once were.

This sucks for everyone involved – we know and we’re truly sorry.

And, to atone for the earlier happy talk, he promised to put up another notice acknowledging the current grim reality.

As for the sins of the media, or rather, me, Mr. Vartanoff irked me slightly when he brought up icrew’s comparison to the MacArthur Maze debacle:

… when the I-580 bridge went out because of a fire, there was all sorts of coverage in the popular press, updates about when it would be fixed, interest from politicians, etc. With this (which is also inconveniencing tens of thousands of people every day) there’s nothing.

I argued that the BART line wasn’t completely melted down like the maze was. The trains were still moving, albeit slowly, so it’s understandable that it wouldn’t get, say, a whole week’s worth of front-page stories and a visit from the U.S. transportation secretary.

But after reading the BARTrage comments, I see that I’ve been guilty of freeway chauvinism. Now that we’re clamoring for public transit, we (I) need to pay more attention when it gets damaged.

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10 Responses to “when a BART line falls in the forest …”

  1. murphstahoe Says:

    Similarly the only notice of the 14 cars that have been pulled out of Caltrain’s fleet is a note on the Caltrain website. 14 cars? Who cares?

    This has caused Caltrain to run substantial numbers of 4 car trains as opposed to the typical 5 car trains. Last week during a rush hour train coinciding with a Giants game, people were packed as tightly as possible and sitting on the ground in the bike rack section. Boarding has become a nightmare, especially when a wheelchair is boarding because on some trainsets there is now no wheelchair car. The person in the wheelchair must now move to where the bike car boards, and the conductor must load them in via a manual lift. Service delays a plenty.

  2. Reedman Says:

    Florida is dealing with a similar situation presently on I75 south of St. Petersburg. On Wednesday a tanker swerved out the way of an errant pickup and hit a bridge, bursting into flames. FDOT estimates six weeks to replace the bridge – pretty good performance, I think.

  3. Joel Says:


    For those who are interested in the on again, off again BART to Livermore project, there will be a Scoping Meeting for the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report at:
    Robert Livermore Communuity Center, Larkspur Room
    4444 East Avenue, Livermore, CA

    It starts at 6pm and will go on to 9pm. BART will be making presentations of three possible route alignments linking with the Altamont Commuter Express, and will also be taking feedback from the public, and if it’s anything like it was four years ago, it should be interesting. Let’s put our commuter hats on! For more info go to:

    or call: (510) 464-6151

  4. Joel Says:

    the BART Meeting will be next Wednesday, June 18th. Sorry about that. Hope ya’ll can make it.

  5. Linda Christo Says:

    As a 30 year commuter of BART I understand when accidents occur. What frustrates me the most is the slow response to communications to the passengers. Those destination message boards are inaccurate, the announcements over the PA system are not timely. It took me two weeks to finally figure out their schedule and this fire has added 25 minutes to my commute. BART now has signs posted on saw horses to inform passengers about the Richmond train two weeks later. I have avoided commuting on BART for any leisure events until their repairs are complete and rather drive (even though gas is at an all time high) because I don’t have to spend all my time waiting for BART. Prior to the fire, BART was my number one transportation of choice to anywhere it goes. I was not going to write in but if you don’t speed up the repairs, more and more people will start to lose their patience and will start writing in. Thanks.

  6. Hayden Says:

    Related to this, I’ve never been able to figure out the “late train” reports at BART or on the radio. Often, a particular line will be reported as running “X” minutes late. X might be 20 minutes. But on a line that has a frequency of, say, every 10 minutes, this means that pax shouldn’t notice any disruption in service–trains *should* still be showing up every 10 minutes, just the particular train pulling up to the platform every 10 minutes will be 20 minutes late.

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in practice–the “20 minutes late” announcement really seems to mean “there are random delays between certain trains on the line of up to 20 minutes from their scheduled time.” I guess it’s hard to communicate that clearer message, though.

  7. Jennifer Says:

    No one can figure the new delayed schedule for BART. The flashing messages with SF/Daly City train in 3 minutes turned out to be 15 minutes for the past 3 weeks. Today I saw a BART bulletin about the Fremont Line Update and Apology and I say about time. You have to do a better job in communicating to your customers and in a more timely manner.

  8. Clarkkent2 Says:

    On Friday, 6/20/08, during a “20 minute delay” the SF to Fremont was so overloaded with passengers that people were almost suffocating due to the amount of people being loaded on to these 9 car trains. I got on at Montgomery Street and had to get off at Embarcadero because I could hardly move in the aisle. The train operator siad that a Dublin train was coming in 2 minutes and to get on that to go to Fremont via Bayfair or Lake Merritt. I chose Lake Merritt where I was able to get onto the Fremont train that very empty and sit down for the rest of the ride. Itwas actually 30 minutes late with the built in delay becuase of the fiasco called the Hayward Train yard. ( which still looks like nothing is being done) Also, I wish that would run their trians earlier on Saturdays since sometimes I am required to work in SF. They start their trains at 6 am ( I needed to be at work at 6 am today)so I had to be driven to work this mornig and take BART later this afternoon.

  9. Robert Cruickshank Says:

    My experience on BART Friday on the Fremont line was similar to Clarkkent2’s. Hardly any information was given to riders about the situation. The trains moved oh-so-slowly through the Hayward Yard but no work was being done – 24/7 is not truthful, not yesterday. BART has never been good at communicating with its passengers – they treat it like a chore – and it showed on Friday. I can only imagine how Spare the Air riders felt about it on Thursday. Not exactly a great welcome to BART.

    I wonder about the causes of this. Not enough money? Or an arrogant and out-of-touch BART administration? Knowing this state’s transit situation my guess is the former, but I’ve had enough experiences with BART to know it may be the latter. Most transit systems in this state are excellent in communicating to the public, but not BART.

  10. Natalie Munn Says:

    I was late to an event in Berkeley tonight. Got to Fremont BART around 5:40PM. Got to Berkeley around 7 PM. sigh. Should have driven. Have tolerated similar delays off and on (mostly on) to Oakland & Berkeley during the weekday daytime coummute since the Hayward power outage & non 24/7 fix-it job. This trip used to take 45 min.

    My ticket costs the same, my BART parking pass still costs nearly $70 month and my trip time appears to have nearly doubled. Charge ’em the same (or more), give ’em less. Do it as long as you want.

    Spend money to advertise throughout the Bay Area that “more trains are running every 15 minutes”, and try to encourage more people to ride the broken system . . . Why don’t they spend the money on fixing the power outage and get ALL the routes running every 15 min again?!

    And, no it doesn’t still count as 15 min if passengers have to wait 15 min for a train that they will be asked to deboard and transfer from where they will then have to wait 12 more minutes at the transfer location.

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