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?