I awoke one morning and trudged to the train. I had gone early a few days that week for some meetings at the crack of dawn, then had a work at home day. Thursday September 17, 2015 was the first time I went to work at my normal time. I plan my commute to catch a train that turns around at the Concord station so I can get a seat. Standing for 50 minutes in an overcrowded train is not my idea of fun, and half the time no amount of cologne can mask the damage done.
I arrived 5 minutes before my train and see the train signs omits the arrival of that train. That’s odd. Well there are often problems. The train was full so I waited for the next one, 15 minutes later and yes, trains that leave Pittsburg after 8am generally have a few seats, but I was annoyed. I waited close to 30 minutes longer than I should have.
Guess what? The same thing happened the next day. Being confused, I posted about this on Facebook and a friend mentioned that BART had really screwed up the schedule. By now you know I’m a shy wall flower, so I found BART’s twitter address and said “hey what’s up?” Maybe not in those exact words, but I was polite. I was a satisfied BART rider after all.
BART, in their infinite wisdom let me know what they had done even though I might have to wait 5 more minutes (just 5 more minutes! No inconvenience there!). And they were adding cars to the trains I was waiting for. Well paint my lips red and call me Jezebel! Here’s what wonderful present BART gave to the riders of at the Concord Station.
- Eliminate (at least) 3, 10 car trains (the ones I take) that start in Concord, empty.
- Make all the remaining trains 10 car trains.
- Make sure that the time between trains in Concord between 7am and 8am is always 15 minutes instead of 8.
In case you missed it let me do the math for you:
- Bart eliminates at least 30 empty cars, to add 3 – 6 non-empty cars. That’s -80% at best. Each car has just under 100 seats, so we see 2700 seats being eliminated in Concord and replaced with roughly 250 seats (larger trains add seats, but also add riders). Tough to be exact since BART changed the schedule and I don’t have an old record. But this is close.
- Bart increases the time between trains to add waits and overcrowds platforms and trains. People wait for the next train and the platform becomes more and more crowded.
And they were surprised I wasn’t thrilled. In fact I was pissed. But here’s why I am very pissed. VERY, VERY as a matter of fact. Here’s why:
All the trains eliminated from the Concord Station now turn around in Pleasant Hill. And Pleasant Hill is a misnomer. The station is Pleasant Hill adjacent, but it really is located in Walnut Creek. A few things to consider. Concord is the largest city in Contra Costa County with a population of over 120k. Walnut Creek has half as many residents at 60k. Walnut Creek is one of the more affluent cities with per capita income over almost 50k, while Concord lags at just over 30k. Do we see some social-economic pandering going on? It is tough to miss if you open your eyes.
Now I’m not saying BART didn’t have an overcrowding problem in Walnut Creek, they do. But to solve it by just moving the problem to Concord, is both short sighted and irresponsible. Could they not have found a better way than reducing the open seats in Concord by more than 2500? I have to estimate as the schedules have changed and I didn’t take a measurement to what was about to happen in advance.
The worst part is that they KNEW they were dumping the problem on Concord. Tough words? Really? Let me give you another pertinent fact.
When BART shut down lengths of track for a period of time they start announcing it MONTHS in advance. When they shut down exits at busy stations, they station people there telling people in advance. When they change fares or charge for parking they have a blitz at the station with people and collaterals.
What did they do at Concord? Absolutely nothing. No announcements. No signage. No people answering questions. They hid their disrespect from the patrons. If we didn’t notice the change in the arriving trains we might not have ever noticed. Yes, there is a small blurb on their webpage. It wasn’t on the news. It wasn’t on flyers. It wasn’t in the major news organizations. They may have just as well wrote on the inside of the stall at the Concord KFC. It was not communicated.
So, children here is your lesson in socio-economic bullshit. Make the wealthier people happy and shit on the lower socio economic classes. I’m guessing that the BART Directors didn’t think we’d notice. Or they believed we wouldn’t do anything.
In the past I looked at taking BART as a perk of a job. It was a solid, relatively easy way to commute. Now? It really isn’t much better than sitting in the backlog of the bay bridge. Way to piss off our customers BART. I am steamed. I know most of the other people I now stand on a crowded platform with are not happy.
I tweet the BART account most days (@SFBART) to let them see, feel and ultimately ignore my dissatisfaction. I have also, as you see, posted this for perpetuity on my blog. This is my public record of displeasure. I may not have my numbers exact, but I am very sure my commute is longer, less comfortable and unhappy. That much is crystal clear fact.
In closing, let me congratulate you BART. You have taken a loyal, satisfied 30 year customer and shown such disrespect, you may never get a kind word from me again. And I hadn’t even started complaining about the mess you’ve made in the Embarcadero station. Closing exits and not fixing the escalators quickly enough has made it a safety concern. Are you waiting for a death to really do anything effective? Why yes, I will be critical from here on out.