Tsunami. Derail. Power Issues. Oh My!

In the years leading up to my employment by BART, here in the bay area I can only remember a single event that delayed an extensive period of time. I had just got off work at SFO airport and was on the train headed to Bay Point about 6am in the morning. To be honest, I am not even sure what caused the problem (I believe I recall it was a software issue, but I can’t be sure). I remember having the train sit at the platform at Daly City until service was restarted.

Now being employed by BART, I see delays from the “other side of the tracks” so to speak. For the most part service is very good (in terms of on-time) through out the bay area. Of course you read some of the unofficial BART web sites and you would think the employees are overpaid, the system is archaic and unreliable and the trains themselves are never long enough, run on a poor schedule and always dirty for the amount of money people pay for a BART ticket.

The past two days have been a real challenge, not only for commuters today and people wanting to off board or catch a train between Pleasant Hill and Pittsburg/Bay Point. Yesterday a train derailed departing Concord Station. This incident caused delays and no one was injury. The trackway was shut down and train service was terminated at Pleasant Hill (Check out the images on Claycord.com!).

I do believe maintenance crews are to commended for all of their work through the evening and in to the early morning to get the trains usable for morning operations. While the derailment did cause delays and inconvenience patrons between Pleasant Hill and Bay Point, it paled in comparison to the power issues experienced downtown San Francisco this morning.Delays were rather extensive, “when an insulator protecting the third rail between the Montgomery and Embarcadero stations in San Francisco failed at 5 a.m., forcing BART to single-track trains through the transbay tube,” spokesman Linton Johnson said. The track was put back in service by 6:30am, but”police activity at the West Oakland station” compounded the delays further. This made for a very long morning commute, not only for patrons, but for employees.

Thankfully I work with some amazing people in my department and while it would seem like chaos to the casual observer there is actually some method to the madness in order to get trains where they need to go and establish some sort of service in order to get patrons to their intended destinations. It was about 10:30 or so when things finally settled down and the system back on time and trains were running to schedule.

These days are few and far between, but couple this with the “tsunami watch” we were on Friday and the events the past couple of days, I can understand why some patrons could be frustrated. Personally, many riders don’t know the full story and will only know what they read in the media. BART continues to maintain a high standard of safety and rules on-time over 93% of the time every month.

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.