Friday, February 23, 2007


Today the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trains were running late, and I missed my flight back to L.A. Aren't late trains a classic precursor to fascist regimes? I think so. But that's not my point. Here's my point:

When I was 16, I spent a summer month at my grandfather's home in Paris, and came to know the Paris Metro pretty well. Yet even before I knew it well, in my first few trips around La Belle Ville, I found very easy to navigate.

Fast forward to 2007, and a day spent traveling around the Bay Area on the BART. I was stunned by the number of mistakes I made getting around. Getting onto the wrong platform (4 times), getting to the right platform but the wrong train (once), getting onto the right train but staying on it too long (twice), almost staying on too long (once), almost getting onto the wrong train (once). All this within seven BART rides.

By the end of the day I, a self-identified smart, analytical, technically astute individual, who has ridden the BART on at least 10 separate ocassions, was straining all my mental faculties to make sure I arrive at Oakland airport before they shut it down for the night.

Did something happen to my aforesaid mental faculties? I don't think so. With my oh-so fashionable disdain of the French I really hate to say it, but I just wish our BART designers would go to Paris to check out the Metro and learn a few things. But in case they won't, here are a few recommendations to get them going:

1. Put signs in plain view at the entrance to each platform, indicating which trains stop at that platform.

2. Put BIG signs along the walls of each platform indicating the name of the station. Signs big enough and illuminated well enough so that they can be seen within the train, so that passengers will know when to get off.

3. Have a nice male, female, or electronic voice, announce the name of the station EVERY time the train stops at a station (not just occasionally, and not too faintly).

4. Consider running more trains even in low traffic times. There's nothing wrong with a few trains running half empty, and on the other hand, waiting half an hour for a train, and then realizing that the line doesn't even run after 7pm, is not very cool.

Luckily I had had reserved a seat on the penultimate flight to L.A. (which I have come to know means the before-last flight), the 9:30 flight. I didn't make it, but I did make the ultimate one, the 10pm, with almost 10 minutes to spare...


At 1:03 PM, Blogger Asa said...

Or Prague, or London, or....

You get the idea. I sympathize.


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