BART Shuts Down Tube

It’s one of those days commuters dread, since many don’t consider an alternative mode of transportation to and from work. Should they? Eh, I don’t know BART service is pretty reliable with a 95% on-time performance (show me an airline that can do that regularly), so even when there is a minor incident, service usually can be back on schedule within 30 to 60 minutes.

Today…well last night was one of those nights that turned the commute for BART riders into a complete shutdown of the Trans Bay Tube, which connections Oakland and San Francisco. The problem, a fire at an under construction build near the BART right-of-way (area in which the trains operate), which ended up burning a portion of our trackway, including the electronic equipment used to operate our trains. While there are contingency plans in place, sometimes even the best plan doesn’t work.

Reading different sources today and comments by the public, some fault BART for not doing enough. Such as this comment,

I believe BART should have taken a more active part in setting up alternative transportation to the City. Contracting with a private coach service, for instance – even charging us $5-10 to cover costs would have gone a long way toward getting us into SF and removing the frustration and freeway clog. They have once agan alienated their most prized rider- the commuter – who daily pays upwards of $10 to ride their system! Yes, the fire was unforeseen and not BART’s fault but as a member of the community, BART should take more responsibility!

More responsibility? The city bus companies were contacted real early in the process. Messages from BART’s web site went out, many commuters, if they took responsibility would have known BART was going to have issues, which we did all day. No service to downtown San Francisco. I knew by 4am when I got up there was no service, I made the decision to drive into work today. Regardless of the plans put into effect by BART with the other local transportation companies, the demand was just too much.

When BART carries some 375,000 riders a day and there is a major disruption in service no contingency plan is going to be good enough. While I don’t care for the local media, they were at some bus stops and the lines were hours long! When the bus would arrive it would already be near capacity. It’s no wonder many individual were stranded or had to look elsewhere to get to work.

Driving was an option, but it’s the worst traffic I have witnessed since I moved up here. I drove a pretty crappy commute for 2 years from Oakley to SFO Airport and I saw some bad traffic, but nothing like today’s congestion head towards downtown San Francisco. The infrastructure and transportation companies can’t shoulder a complete shut down like BART experienced today.

Thankfully at 3:45pm this afternoon service between West Oakland and Embarcadero was restored, which was probably a relief to many commuters. I know it’s a relief for me when I walk into the office tomorrow and know there will be some form of service. Much like the derail we had last year, I commend all the personnel involved, for getting service restarted in just over 12 hours. That is huge effort in order to service the riders who make BART one of the best systems in America.

Listen Live to BART

It’s amazing that in amateur radio our numbers are dwindling and the hobby is dying. This has been the cry for many year, more than I have directly been involved with and would not be surprised if my father heard similar when he was active back in the early 1980?s. I happen to run across this story, USA TODAY: Ham Radio Operators Concerned About Losing Band on Radio Reference yesterday.

You can read about the details about this bill as the one signed into legislation last month. I did not intend to go in depth into this story though. I was more after the use of Radio Reference. As described by the website itself, “RadioReference.com is the world’s largest radio communications data provider, featuring a complete frequency database, trunked radio system information, and FCC license data. RadioReference is also the largest broadcaster of public safety live audio communications feeds, hosting thousands of live audio broadcasts of Police, Fire, EMS, and other associated communication.”

While I was not surprised to find Bay Area Rapid Transit listed and available to listen to, it’s interesting to send people to this site to get a sense of what I do every day at work. Most of the times it’s routine work, answering a trains call for a route, having a train operator move their train manually or answering some type of patron request. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a listen this morning on the train to work. Makes for interesting listening when you don’t need to answer the calls you are hearing. Take a listen as there is always something going on at BART (Click on the speaker).

System-Wide Heat Wave

For the third consecutive day temperatures in my backyard have exceeded the century mark. Even temperatures over in the city (San Francisco) have been above normal. While this is a nice change for the month of May, it has been hell for BART! I experienced the heat related issues, but not as a patron.

No apology in the world could be accepted for an extremely hot, over crowded car that has very little circulating cool air. To make matters worse toss in a heat related delay. BART spokesman Linton Johnson says equipment is 35 years old and they aren’t getting the money they need to bring it up to date, so expect more delays. And it’s not the official start of summer yet!

The delays this past Thursday were not contained to a specific area or line, but erupted system wide. This was the first 100+ degree day and it definitely reeked havoc with the way side equipment. To make matters worse this FUBAR’d the afternoon commute. I have read a few BART related blogs and sites and many patrons were stuck for extended periods of time, either butt to butt in an over crowded car or waiting on a platform downtown that could not accommodate any other patrons.

While tempers of patrons were hot, things were no cooler in the operations control center, as all hands were on deck attempting to restore order to chaos the heat created. Every train controller on duty was at a workstation playing some part in trying to keep the trains moving. Sometimes movement was not very far or very fast, especially approaching Daly City and unfortunately though all the downtown stations.

These heat related issues were compounded by way side issues from Bay Fair to Fremont due to an electrical substation fire that caused damage and required alternate train controlling in order to patrons between Bay Fair and Fremont.

All in all some of the long timers said they had NEVER seen the system as bad as it was Thursday. And folks, as I said, it is not summer yet. You know temperatures will constantly be in the 90-100 degree range when June, July and August hit. For the patron’s sake, I wish there was an easy fix for all these problems that caused delays but there isn’t. Hopefully I can play my small part in moving trains and keeping train operators updated with information which is passed on to patrons. As for the heat that is completely out of my control.