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Archive for the 'rail' Category

Ever ridden on the Washington D.C. Metro?

A deadly train collision Monday has put the spotlight on the Washington, D.C. Metro transit system. In happier days, though, many tourists over the years are likely to have fonder memories of riding the BART-like train system in the nation’s Capitol.

If you have traveled on the Metro system, share your experiences below on what it was like.

For my part, I rode the Metro during a visit to Washington D.C. about nine years ago, and found it a clean and comfortable way to get around town and the neighboring suburbs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Under: BART, rail, Safety | 4 Comments »

End of the line for upgraded BART train service

BART took nearly 36 years to meet its goal for weeknight and weekend service levels: running trains at least every 15 minutes..

Now that upgrade is about to get erased about as as quickly as you can say “recession.” In September, BART will revert back to intervals of train arrivals of up to 20 minutes on weeknights and Saturdays in order to save about $1 million a year. The more frequent service began in January, 2008, during a happier time when ridership was growing.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2009
Under: BART, rail | 8 Comments »

Hold your nose and open your wallet for higher BART fares

BART Board member Joel Keller called it a “hold you nose” kind of vote when his board agreed yesterday to become the latest transit agency to raise fares in the midst of a recession.

The message from the board: Don’t hate us. We hate doing this to you as much you will hate paying for it. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2009
Under: BART, Fare systems, Misc. Transportation, parking, rail | 11 Comments »

Steering BART toward train car of future?

When a family buys a new car, the mom, the dad, and each of the kids typically wants a say on the model, sound system, upholstery and other features.

When BART buys new cars, it’s got some 360,000 daily riders to think about – a mobile village of varying tastes, needs and politics. 

Are you tired of conservative blue seat colors? Are there too few seats for long rides? Not enough space to get in trains in rush hour? Is more space needed for bicycles and wheelchairs? How about televisions on trains? Do the floors and seats smell like overused sleeping bags because they soak up grime and odors? 

The rapid transit system is trying to find out what BART riders really want in the design of the train car of the future. BART is preparing to order up to 700 cars to replace its aging fleet of cars. 

The BART Board gave and got samples of the design concerns Thursday in a special workshop to unveil some alternative conceptual models for the $3.4 billion car order.

Under some options, BART cars would have a third door, fewer seats and more standing room to carry more passengers and unload them faster. This is a big plus for increasing BART’s people-carrying capacity in a growing region, but a potential bummer for travelers who get stuck standing on a long ride from the suburbs.

“We can’t make them stand that long,” said Gail Murray, a BART board member from Walnut Creek. “That’s my bottom line.”

The long distance riders, she said, supply most of BART’s fare revenue money under a fare structure that charges more for longer trips. 

Despite the recession that has cut into BART’s passenger growth this year, some trains still are very crowded during rush hour. The crowding will only worsen in the decades to come as the region’s population increases, BART planners say.

Positioning of seats is another design concern. Most BART seats face forward or back, but positioning more seats to face sideways would open up more standing room to handle more passengers.

To improve comfort for standing passengers, BART proposes to look at installing poles in the center of cars with cushioned pads for people to lean against. This concept is borrowed from London’s subway.

In other thoughts from board members, Murray said she wants to do replace the “staid” blue seat colors for “21st century” colors. Lynette Sweet of San Francisco wants stain resistant, easily cleaned seat and floor material to preserve her dream that BART cars some day may permit drinking beverages from leak-resistant containers.

BART has posted drawings of alternative models at, as well as offering viewers a chance to submit comments.

One BART rider from San Ramon who read my story about the train design called me up to express his priorities.

Quieter cars, clearer public address announcements, and easier to clean seats and floors are on Moises  

Ostrovsky’s list.

“You can hear the public address announcements, but you can’t understand them,” Ostrovsky told me earlier today.

His ideas reflect what many BART riders say in surveys.  In the new trains, train arrival announcements will be automated for the most part, BART officials say, and there may be lighted maps on walls to show train locations and stops. 

So what are your ideas for the train car design? Let us know below, and visit to submit your ideas to the transit agency.



Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2009
Under: BART, Misc. Transportation, Planning, rail, Safety | 6 Comments »

Group seeks to derail BART to Warm Springs project

A lawsuit challenging funding for BART’s planned rail extension to the Warm Springs district in Fremont is the latest friction in a long-running dispute about how to expand public transit in the Bay Area.

 On one side, some transit rebels say expanding BART is the wrong way to go, and wrong thing to do with sales taxes and toll money.

“Too many people have drunk the BART Kool-Aid and become enamored with its technology,” said David Schonbrunn, president of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, a non-profit group. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
Under: BART, connectivity, high-speed rail, rail, technology, tolls | 1 Comment »

Possum not playing; it leaves BART line dead in its track

Service on one of BART’s busiest train lines was disrupted for an hour in Contra Costa County this morning by a possum.

The marsupial paid with its life when it wandered into a track switching mechanism near Concord, burning out the switching motor and halting train service between Concord and Pleasant Hill until repairs were made.

“I’ve been here four and a half years and this is the first time I’ve heard of this happening,” said BART spokesman Jim Allison.

BART created a bus bridge to shuttle passengers past the temporary service blockage.  



Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009
Under: BART, Buses, rail | No Comments »

Texting on train headed toward disaster

Anyone who rides a train to work likely will feel a chill down their spine upon reading today’s news stories about the locomotive engineer in control of a commuter train that crashed into a freight train in a Los Angeles suburb last September, killing 25 people and injuring another 135.

The engineer regularly sent cellphone text messages to train buffs while he ran Metrolink trains, and he sometimes allowed teenage train buffs to ride in the cab, and on one occasion, take control of the train, according to new stories based on the text message transcripts.

Talk about taking risks with riders who trust a public transit carrier to get them to their destination safely. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009
Under: BART, rail, Safety | No Comments »

BART hopes to ride stimulus bill to the Oakland Airport

BART’s plan for a rail link to the Oakland International Airport may get back on track with money from the federal job stimulus bill.

Back in November last year, I reported that the plan for a 3.2-mile-long elevated tramway hit a dead end for lack of funding. BART needed private partners to share in project costs, but failed to attract any allies amid deteriorating economic conditions and sharp declines in airline passengers.

Now President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus bill may come to the rescue of the proposed rail link between BART’s Coliseum station and the airport. BART now pegs the project cost at $529 million, a higher cost than earlier estimates because of inflation. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 13th, 2009
Under: AC Transit, BART, Buses, Caltrain, global warming, rail | 3 Comments »

Less service, higher fees bedevil public transit

Many public transit riders are getting a raw deal these days: less service and higher fares. The Bay Area isn’t immune from the trend, either.

Boards for both County Connection bus system in Contra Costa County and the Wheels bus system in the Livermore Amador Valley area have voted to boost their basic fare from $1.75 to $2, starting in late March. Both agencies also are reducing service. 

The AC Transit board also will consider adopting the two-buck bus fare when it meets 5 p.m. Feb. 25 at AC Transit headquarters, 1600 Franklin Ave., Oakland. Some critics are steamed, saying the fare hike is coming much too soon after AC Transit voters decided last November to boost their parcel tax from $48 to $96 a year to avoid fare increases and service cuts.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009
Under: AC Transit, BART, Buses, Fare systems, rail | 3 Comments »

Lost Rat On BART

Geez Louise, we’re only into February and already it’s been a horrendously awful year for BART. Right off the bat, a BART police officer shoots an unarmed man, captured live on video by passengers and viewed worldwide; then, on Tuesday, two BART trains collide, injuring 11 people. Could it get much worse? Well, yes, actually.

Turns out that Nutmeg, a hapless rat traveling on BART with an apparently distracted mom, was left on the train Jan. 31.

You ask, “DOES THIS MEAN THERE IS A LIVE RAT RUNNING LOOSE ON BART??????” and the answer is, not necessarily. According to the sign posted by the distraught mom visible above, Nutmeg was in a blue and brown striped carrier.

Exactly what happened after that, we don’t know, except that the mom’s 9-year-old son has been crying since Saturday. But then, as the woman who posted this image on TwinkleShots put it, “Hello? You left a rat on a BART seat? This seems unlikely to end well.”

(Image: TwinkleShots.)


Posted on Thursday, February 5th, 2009
Under: BART, light rail, Misc. Transportation, rail | No Comments »