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Old 04-20-2005, 05:23 PM
gotpasswords is offline
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#1 Transit System in America? Bite me!


Someone called the American Public Transportation Association has bestowed the honor of being America's best transit system on BART - the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

I'd hate to see anything worse than this!

On Monday, their central computer (still rumored to be a VAX) crashed, so the trains were operating manually. Track switches were also under manual control, and signals were out, so we crept along, for fear of a train jumping in front of us on the straight mainline track in broad daylight. Eventually, we sneak along, as best as a nine-car train can sneak, and make it to downtown, twenty minutes late.

Nah, that's not enough.

Last night, the train stops between stations on a curve. Normally, we're zipping right along and the curve is banked so you don't get flung sideways. Only thing is, when you're stopped on a curve, you feel like you're going to fall over. We sit sideways like this for a few minutes and the operator announces that there's a disabled train at the next station, and that as soon as some oncoming trains go by, we'll be switched to the opposite track so we can get around the broken train. And sure enough, a train goes by and a few minutes later, the second one comes along. About a minute later, we head off and eventually switch tracks and arrive at the station where another train's parked at the other platform. A huge mob from the other train attempts to get on our train. Eventually, the operator all but threatens to close the doors and slice anyone in half who's trying to squeeze in so we can get going. A couple hundred people remain on the platform, unable to get on the train. The doors eventually close and we lumber off. We switch back to the normal track and arrive at the next station.

With no explanation given, the operator cheerfully announces that THIS train is now out of service. Roughly one thousand people shuffle off the train and stand on the platform. The doors close and after a couple minutes, the "out of service" train takes off, with no apparent difficulties.

Do the math. Two rush-hour "crush load" (standing room only was three stops ago) trains have been taken out of service. Did you Shower to Shower today? Aren't you glad you use Dial? Don't you wish everyone used Dial? One thousand passengers are stranded at one station, and a couple hundred are at the previous station. What happens when the next crush load train comes? If they're lucky, the passengers at the upline station will be able to squish in, leaving no space for us.

Do the math. Normally, the train runs every 15 minutes. Normally the trains are nine cars long. Two trains' worth of passengers are waiting for the next train. Sure enough, the platform sign shows the next train will be in 19 minutes. And it's six cars long. Remember the 200 passengers at the upline platform? There's no way anyone from this platform will be able to fit. Fifteen cars of people will not fit into six. Of course, they'll certainly try. Next train after that will be at least half an hour away. And we're still half an hour's ride away from home.

Three of us on the platform are rolling all of us through our heads. Two of us simultaneously have the same idea: "Wanna share a cab?" We bail and cab it. Twenty minutes and $65 later, we're at the parking lot, getting into our cars.

And, this is the number one, greatest, grandest and bestest transit system in the country?
  #2  
Old 04-20-2005, 05:29 PM
Soapbox Monkey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords
Someone called the American Public Transportation Association has bestowed the honor of being America's best transit system on BART - the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

I'd hate to see anything worse than this!

On Monday, their central computer (still rumored to be a VAX) crashed, so the trains were operating manually. Track switches were also under manual control, and signals were out, so we crept along, for fear of a train jumping in front of us on the straight mainline track in broad daylight. Eventually, we sneak along, as best as a nine-car train can sneak, and make it to downtown, twenty minutes late.

Nah, that's not enough.

Last night, the train stops between stations on a curve. Normally, we're zipping right along and the curve is banked so you don't get flung sideways. Only thing is, when you're stopped on a curve, you feel like you're going to fall over. We sit sideways like this for a few minutes and the operator announces that there's a disabled train at the next station, and that as soon as some oncoming trains go by, we'll be switched to the opposite track so we can get around the broken train. And sure enough, a train goes by and a few minutes later, the second one comes along. About a minute later, we head off and eventually switch tracks and arrive at the station where another train's parked at the other platform. A huge mob from the other train attempts to get on our train. Eventually, the operator all but threatens to close the doors and slice anyone in half who's trying to squeeze in so we can get going. A couple hundred people remain on the platform, unable to get on the train. The doors eventually close and we lumber off. We switch back to the normal track and arrive at the next station.

With no explanation given, the operator cheerfully announces that THIS train is now out of service. Roughly one thousand people shuffle off the train and stand on the platform. The doors close and after a couple minutes, the "out of service" train takes off, with no apparent difficulties.

Do the math. Two rush-hour "crush load" (standing room only was three stops ago) trains have been taken out of service. Did you Shower to Shower today? Aren't you glad you use Dial? Don't you wish everyone used Dial? One thousand passengers are stranded at one station, and a couple hundred are at the previous station. What happens when the next crush load train comes? If they're lucky, the passengers at the upline station will be able to squish in, leaving no space for us.

Do the math. Normally, the train runs every 15 minutes. Normally the trains are nine cars long. Two trains' worth of passengers are waiting for the next train. Sure enough, the platform sign shows the next train will be in 19 minutes. And it's six cars long. Remember the 200 passengers at the upline platform? There's no way anyone from this platform will be able to fit. Fifteen cars of people will not fit into six. Of course, they'll certainly try. Next train after that will be at least half an hour away. And we're still half an hour's ride away from home.

Three of us on the platform are rolling all of us through our heads. Two of us simultaneously have the same idea: "Wanna share a cab?" We bail and cab it. Twenty minutes and $65 later, we're at the parking lot, getting into our cars.

And, this is the number one, greatest, grandest and bestest transit system in the country?
Maybe the person keeping score decided to take the golf route. Lowest score wins. I've never had any major issues with SEPTA here in Philly.
  #3  
Old 04-20-2005, 05:30 PM
Soapbox Monkey is offline
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And I'm sorry about quoting your entire post. I've been quoting a lot tonight, so it's a force of habit.
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Old 04-20-2005, 05:30 PM
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Why did 'this train' become out of service? Two guesses. Either a big signaling failure, in which case there should have been more communication. Or....the driver deciding that it was unsafe to attempt to load any train at that station at that time. And from what you describe, I'm with him.
  #5  
Old 04-20-2005, 05:32 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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So they screwed up once. From my experience, BART is an excellent system which actually goes to places where people want to go, like the airport, and gives at least some East Bay commuters the option of avoiding the bridges.
  #6  
Old 04-20-2005, 05:44 PM
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You would prefer MUNI? If there's an on time 43 Masonic you could knock me over with a feather. If an L Taraval shows up in my lifetime I dance a jig. I've instigated a "walk until a 38 Geary shows up" exercise program. I've lost count of how many times my N Judah "turned into" a J Church and turned left at Church, with no warning whatsoever. That one prevents me from reading, lest I end up in Noe Valley. (Fool me once...)

BART is by far the best PT in the Bay Area. (I would pick CalTrain but it's too limited in range).
  #7  
Old 04-20-2005, 06:14 PM
mhendo is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
So they screwed up once.
This was my first reaction. If it happened all the time, i could understand the rant.

Admittedly, i don't live in San Francisco, but my wife is from there and we visit quite frequently, and BART is always great.
  #8  
Old 04-20-2005, 06:21 PM
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I nominate Unitrans .
  #9  
Old 04-20-2005, 06:46 PM
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As someone from New York, I am biased. But I think it's obvious that the best rail system in the world is that Spiderman roller coaster at Six Flags.
  #10  
Old 04-20-2005, 07:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords
Normally, we're zipping right along and the curve is banked so you don't get flung sideways.
<snip>
Normally, the train runs every 15 minutes. Normally the trains are nine cars long.
HAHAHAHAHA. You pampered, pampered bastard. These snippets say it all. It's obvious you've never ridden the "normal" MBTA in Boston. If I make it through an entire day's commute WITHOUT having been jammed up against a wall by the crowd like a criminal being patted down (today and most days), WITHOUT having felt lucky to be in that crowd because because the T has yet again seen fit to send exactly one train every 30 minutes 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. (today and frequently), WITHOUT trying to look through a window that's been sandblasted by filth into translucency (today), WITHOUT some long inexplicable stoppage somewhere along the way (Monday), WITHOUT being told midway through the ride that the train is now express to the end of the line and if you need to get off before that you'll need to switch to the bus (two weeks ago and frequently). WITHOUT missing my stop because the back doors don't work again and there's no way to chisel through the wall to wall people to make my way to the front of the train (last month), WITHOUT having to cope with a driver who a) simply won't respond to direct inquiries (today and every day) and b) has entertained himself most of the ride by unexpectedly slamming on the breaks and starting again tossing the passengers who can't reach the handholds due to the crowd like ragdolls (today and frequnetly). A day like that - well I know that I've witnessed a rare day - a day where the T is performing at it's transcendent peak. A day unlikely to be repeated soon.
  #11  
Old 04-20-2005, 07:44 PM
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I'm with Dooku. Take AC transit for instance. They have very thoughfully put up schedules for the next bus, and they're completely worthless. I can't tell you how many times I've said "Well the next 40 is due in 5 minutes, only to say the same thing 30 minutes later. Or how about the 82 (the most used line) either you see 3 right behind each other, or none.
  #12  
Old 04-20-2005, 08:32 PM
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I'm sure there are worse public transit systems than BART -- I did use Atlanta's MARTA for a long time, after all -- but I want to know how it got to be named Number One? New York's subway system gets a bad rap, but it does exactly what it's supposed to do: 1) get you within a block or two of where you're going, no matter where it is in the city, and 2) add the excitement and fear necessary to make you get the most out of life and aspire to making enough money to be able to afford a car.

BART only goes to the places where people allow it, and these are people who don't mind living somewhere where they hear that Ghost Train Wail every fifteen minutes between 6 AM and 2 AM, which means they're stupid people, which means they live in places you don't really want to go to anyway. Everywhere else, it's park-and-ride, or ride-and-try-to-find-some-way-to-get-the-hell-away-from-the-BART-station. I end up just driving everywhere.
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Old 04-20-2005, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by uglybeech
HAHAHAHAHA. You pampered, pampered bastard. These snippets say it all. It's obvious you've never ridden the "normal" MBTA in Boston.
No kidding. I remember the day I first found an MBTA schedule (this was when I was in college, despite having ridden the T all my life). I felt an odd mix of confusion and amusement, like I was reading a treatise by some Enlightenment-era philosopher in which he logically proved the exact sequence in which the leaves should fall from a tree. The MBTA adhering to a schedule? Yeah, right.

But seriously though, isn't having "the best transit system in America" kind of like having "the best lobster in Nebraska"? What level of competition are you up against?
  #14  
Old 04-20-2005, 09:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SolGrundy
BART only goes to the places where people allow it, and these are people who don't mind living somewhere where they hear that Ghost Train Wail every fifteen minutes between 6 AM and 2 AM, which means they're stupid people, which means they live in places you don't really want to go to anyway. Everywhere else, it's park-and-ride, or ride-and-try-to-find-some-way-to-get-the-hell-away-from-the-BART-station. I end up just driving everywhere.
I agree. BART, especially in Oakland and San Francisco, basically goes in a straight line (or two straight lines in Oakland, where it branches off) and misses huge chunks of the cities, which requires you to take a bus/cab if you want to get anywhere interesting (read: not touristy). I've only taken the subway in NYC (and London and Paris, if we can talk about transit outside the U.S.) and found it (them) a million times better than BART - not only do the trains come more often than every 15 minutes, they take you anywhere you want to go in the city (cities). BART sucks by comparison. It's usually easier to drive.
  #15  
Old 04-20-2005, 09:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SolGrundy
BART only goes to the places where people allow it, and these are people who don't mind living somewhere where they hear that Ghost Train Wail every fifteen minutes between 6 AM and 2 AM, which means they're stupid people, which means they live in places you don't really want to go to anyway. Everywhere else, it's park-and-ride, or ride-and-try-to-find-some-way-to-get-the-hell-away-from-the-BART-station. I end up just driving everywhere.

That's a pretty nasty and snarky comment. The BART system is a regional, not a city-grid system. It has stations at major junctions in the cities it services. For the most part, it parallels the established freeway system. Calling people stupid for living in an urban environment through which the transportation system passes is arrogant and ignorant.

My house in Rockridge has tripled in value in 9 years - and I can walk to the BART station. With the price of gas these days, I am very happy not to have to drive everywhere.
  #16  
Old 04-20-2005, 09:55 PM
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Atlanta's MARTA is fine, as long as you stick to North and South rail connections (possibly the Northeast line) and don't need to go east or west or get off downtown at Five Points. But I noticed on my last visit that the system is aging badly. But -- the schedule seemed pretty good.
  #17  
Old 04-21-2005, 12:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uglybeech
WITHOUT missing my stop because the back doors don't work again and there's no way to chisel through the wall to wall people to make my way to the front of the train (last month)
That almost happened to me on one of only four times on the T! I had to get to a hotel and only knew that this was the correct stop. I successfully pushed my way through before the dorrs closed, though a bunch of people were telling me to chill out. Which may have been true, as the next stop, upon looking at the map, seemed like it was still pretty close to my destination. But can't they be bothered to make doors that actually open?
  #18  
Old 04-21-2005, 12:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wonderwench
That's a pretty nasty and snarky comment. The BART system is a regional, not a city-grid system. It has stations at major junctions in the cities it services. For the most part, it parallels the established freeway system. Calling people stupid for living in an urban environment through which the transportation system passes is arrogant and ignorant.

My house in Rockridge has tripled in value in 9 years - and I can walk to the BART station. With the price of gas these days, I am very happy not to have to drive everywhere.
A "nasty and snarky comment" about BART, in a Pit thread about BART. Well, I never!

If your house in Rockridge is so valuable, how come you ain't just paying for gas instead of having to sit in the dried remains of somebody else's vomit on a BART train? It parallels the established freeway system anyway (well, except for Marin County and any of the peninsula south of the airport, but let's not split hairs), so it's not as if you're any better off than you would've been driving.
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Old 04-21-2005, 02:16 AM
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Huh. I would have nominated the transit system run by the MTA. Between the subway, the various boroughs' bus systems, the Staten Island railway, the Long Island railroad, the Long Island bus system, and the Metro North railroad, and the MTA's connections to the PATH system, you can get from almost anywhere in the immediate north, east, and west of the city to pretty much anywhere else using mostly public transit. Within the city itself, you can get more or less anywhere fairly quickly using only public transit, and you can get an unlimited MetroCard for $24 / week that gives you unlimited trips on all subway trains and the local busses. If you don't want to do the unlimited card, it's only $2.00 for any ride no matter how far as long as you don't leave the system, with free transfers at all subway stations and between busses and subways. Best transit system I know of. And every time I hear the New Yorkers complain about it, I think to myself how spoiled they are. I would murder several of our tourists if it meant I could get a well-run public transit system like that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords
On Monday, their central computer (still rumored to be a VAX) crashed, so the trains were operating manually. Track switches were also under manual control
Just FYI, all of the MTA's subway lines are under manual control. I think maybe BART needs a better system of manual overrides. If the MTA can manage with their volume, you'd think that BART could figure a way.
Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords
Do the math. Normally, the train runs every 15 minutes.
Also, during rush, many trains (in Manhattan, at least -- most familiar to me) are 2 - 4 minutes apart. Definitely think BART needs a better manual switching system and schedule. I would expect that the best transit system in the world could manage a little computer failure more gracefully than that.
Quote:
And, this is the number one, greatest, grandest and bestest transit system in the country?
I'm gonna agree with you and say no.
  #20  
Old 04-21-2005, 10:49 AM
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I've really come to appreciate Dallas' DART(Dallas Area Rapid Transit). They're huge, bloated, slow, and ridiculously expensive but given the huge sprawl of the metroplex they do a damn good job. They have good online presence including trip planners and if you don't mind taking the time and transferring often they will get you pretty much anywhere you need to be. I rode the bus to school and back for a couple years and they were almost always on time and there were good numbers of busses per route. From where I was living at the time you could walk a few blocks to where other routes joined up then you could get busses every three minutes or so. They partner with Ft. Worth's T system via a commuter train and you can buy "Zone" passes which get you on any rail(we have a few light rails now and the plan is to expand it) or bus in the zone or you can get an all-zone pass which gets you on busses or trains in both Dallas and Ft. Worth.

Dallas has one of the lowest population densities of any metropolitan area in the US. You can literally drive highway speed(60 mph) for an hour nonstop and still be in the metroplex. A transit authority which tries to service any metro area as spread out as this one has a Herculean task. DART has done a fairly good job on a nearly impossible task.

Enjoy,
Steven
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Old 04-21-2005, 11:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GorillaMan
Why did 'this train' become out of service? Two guesses. Either a big signaling failure, in which case there should have been more communication. Or....the driver deciding that it was unsafe to attempt to load any train at that station at that time. And from what you describe, I'm with him.
In NY they always threaten to take the train out of service if some knuckleheads are trying to stuff into the last car and refusing to let the doors close. They've also followed up on that threat many times over the years by actually doing it.
  #22  
Old 04-21-2005, 11:56 AM
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Quote:
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In NY they always threaten to take the train out of service if some knuckleheads are trying to stuff into the last car and refusing to let the doors close. They've also followed up on that threat many times over the years by actually doing it.
BART's OK. Of course you can't get to fuckin' 34th & Lawton on BART. That's what MUNI's for!
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Old 04-21-2005, 01:30 PM
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I was equally dubious when Denver's RTD was named #1 a few years ago. I think they just kinda pass it around, so every city can go around putting up "We're #1!" banners everywhere for a few years.
  #24  
Old 04-21-2005, 04:31 PM
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The only satisfaction I can derive from thinking about the CTA while reading this thread is that there's not a snowball's chance in hell that it will ever be ranked the #1 transit system in the country.



Except possibly #1 for the number of sexual assaults and homicides on it's property.
  #25  
Old 04-21-2005, 07:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sublight
No kidding. I remember the day I first found an MBTA schedule (this was when I was in college, despite having ridden the T all my life). I felt an odd mix of confusion and amusement, like I was reading a treatise by some Enlightenment-era philosopher in which he logically proved the exact sequence in which the leaves should fall from a tree. The MBTA adhering to a schedule? Yeah, right.
God almighty the T has a schedule? There should be a picture of it in the dictionary right next to the word "quixotic."
  #26  
Old 04-21-2005, 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Bambi Hassenpfeffer
Just FYI, all of the MTA's subway lines are under manual control.
They certainly are not. The signal relays and switches are all automatic. When a switching room caught fire a few months ago, they had to use manual signalling (i.e. some guys in the tunnels with flashlights) to control distance between trains, and this temporarily crippled one of the main lines.

However, I'm also a big fan of MTA transit - considering the huge number of people they have to deal with, they do a pretty good job. But most importantly, the subways in New York RUN ALL NIGHT.

I just don't see the point of a transit system that closes before the bars do - it practically forces people to drive drunk to get home. Boston, I'm looking at you.

mischievous
  #27  
Old 04-21-2005, 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by MinniePurl
I was equally dubious when Denver's RTD was named #1 a few years ago. I think they just kinda pass it around, so every city can go around putting up "We're #1!" banners everywhere for a few years.
RTD is very good, as long as you want to go from Popular Point A to Popular Point B. If you want to go from Parker and Iliff to Arapahoe and Potomac, well you're fucked.

And light rail will be no better. "Let's follow the freeways," they say. Ignoring the fact that there is no real rush hour to downtown in this town. Rush hour is in from every direction and out from every direction decided only by where the highways meet because there are NO direct through routes on ANY street in this metropolis. People drive from Random Point A to Random Point B. Light rail thinks people will take the train from Random Point A to Popular Point A to Popular Point B to Popular Point C to Random Point B. Don't get me started.

As a nice RTD gentleman told me once, just after I'd gotten off the full fleet of busses getting to the DTC only seconds after he'd waved on the empty fleet of busses leaving the DTC, "The busses have to run on time."
  #28  
Old 04-21-2005, 11:23 PM
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After living in the city and having to depend on Muni, and now living in the East Bay and trying AC Transit for a couple of years, I'd say BART is the best in the Bay Area... But I think it's a real stretch to say best in the country....

When I used to use BART to commute from the city every day, I got to watch various people smoke crack, smoke cigarettes, throw up and do cartwheels the length of the cars... (Not at the same time, obviously!) Doing a commute out of SF every morning was a treat!

Best thing about BART now is parking at West Oakland and being at Embarcadero in 7 minutes...

But I'm not going to give it an award for that...
  #29  
Old 04-22-2005, 06:27 PM
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The BART and the Golden Gate Bridge were the only things I found impressive about San Francisco. I was amazed at how clean and modern the carriages and stations were. Much better than where I live.
  #30  
Old 04-22-2005, 07:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SolGrundy
New York's subway system gets a bad rap, but it does exactly what it's supposed to do: 1) get you within a block or two of where you're going, no matter where it is in the city,
I agree with this. The New York subway system is enormously useful in ways BART can't compare. Then again they were built for slightly different purposes - BART is a longish-range distribution hub network for a very spread out, mostly suburban area, designed to feed into other forms of mass transit, like the assorted bus lines. A reasonable idea to my mind - the Bay Area isn't the boroughs and building anywhere near as comprehensive a subway system as NYC's for the entire SF region would likely have been impossible, both logistically and cost-wise.

I do remember coming to the Bay Area from NYC nearly thirty years ago at a tender age and being awed by the quiet, clean, modern feel of BART compared to NYC's.

Quote:
BART only goes to the places where people allow it, and these are people who don't mind living somewhere where they hear that Ghost Train Wail every fifteen minutes between 6 AM and 2 AM, which means they're stupid people, which means they live in places you don't really want to go to anyway.
I live in El Cerrito a few blocks from the tracks and almost never notice the trains anymore. I rather like my place, really ( admittedly a little of that is situational ).

I don't feel particularly stupid either.

But then maybe self-assesment isn't my greatest strength .

- Tamerlane
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