BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit): A Rider's Guide

Dear East Bay Transplants,

Welcome to your new home! I'm sure you're bringing a wealth of experience and unique knowledge that will enhance our already highly educated populace. Famous for our mild weather, liberal ideals, "winningest" NBA team, and abundant fresh and natural food, thousands aspire to live here, and you've made it. Time to celebrate!

Feeling good?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, dear reader, but I feel it's my duty to inform you of the necessary evil you will soon encounter. This bacteria-filled behemoth will frustrate you. It may even make you sick. And, in rare instances, you might be killed whilst riding. Ladies and gentlemen, time to strap in (oh wait, there are no seat belts!) and get comfortable. Meet BART.

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Born in 1972, Bay Area Rapid Transit, aka BART, shuttles nearly 500,000 people across 107 miles of track each day. Like me, most riders have a love-hate relationship with the thing, evidenced by the sighs of annoyance emitted each time the train inexplicably stops mid-ride (OFTEN). The most common causes for delay seem to be "medical" emergencies (aka suicide attempts), police activity, stopped trains, and "equipment problems".

It can be incredibly frustrating to be waylaid by BART delays, especially when you're already running late (like I often am). While you will never win the war, below are some tips to help you win a few battles.

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Rule #1: Abstain from Perfume/Cologne

I know you love the cologne you purchased. Combined with your very unique pheromones and body chemistry, it smells amazing on you. However, would you like to be trapped in a crowded car, suffocating beneath a cloud of someone else's perfume? I've been there, and trust me, you don't want to be. Nausea often ensues, and I'm forced to breathe through my mouth. So, follow the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (and don't wear your perfume!). Bring a travel size bottle and spritz a bit on that lovely frame while you walk to your final destination.

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Rule #2: Leave Early

I'm a regular rider and average 10 BART trips per week. Trust me when I say - nay, implore you to - leave early. At least four of my 10 weekly rides are delayed in some way. This is NOT an exaggeration - the images below were snapped just hours apart.

If you are relying on BART to get you to your destination on time, don't. Give yourself a buffer of 30 minutes or more, and be sure to check BART's website, bart.gov, before you depart.

Rule #3: Bring Small Bills

(Or simply, bring cash.)

You will, dear rider, one day need to add "exit fare" to your ticket. This occurs when the initial deposit on your ticket is not sufficient for your destination. Exit fare can only be paid in cash. While an understanding BART agent may take pity on you and let you leave through the emergency gate, I wouldn't count on it. Bring a few bucks to feed the exit fare machine in case you're a bit short on the way out.

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Rule #4: Remove Your Backpack

Nearly every BART train has a sign advising riders to remove their backpack in crowded cars. Though not as packed as Tokyo's trains, BART trains get crowded during commute hours. They can also fill up with passengers heading to and from Warriors', Giants', and A's games. Removing your backpack will not only give your back a rest, it'll make for a more comfortable ride for everyone around you.

Bonus Rule: Give Up Your Seat

Always give up or offer your seat to those who may need it: elderly riders, the disabled, and pregnant women. Not only is it the right thing to do, it's the law.

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Rule #5: Wear Your Headphones

Don't like hearing the conversations of others? Want to catch up on the latest Game of Thrones episode? Whatever your thing, it behooves you to bring headphones. Even if you have nothing to listen to or watch, headphones can provide a sometimes necessary defense against especially persistent postulant paramours. They can also be a sonic savior from the reprehensible ruffians who insist on blasting bombastic beats from their smart phones. No one wants to hear your music, man.

Rule #6: Step Off

Another crowded train tip: If you are near the door, deboard when the train stops. You can stand almost flush with the side of the train so those waiting to board know you are hopping back on. Stepping off is exceedingly courteous to those who need to deboard. No need to do this if the train is relatively empty, though.

Rule #7: Be Ready to Deboard

Similarly, being ready to get off is being considerate to the person sitting beside you if you're in an interior (window) seat. You can either directly tell them that the next stop is yours, conspicuously gather your belongings, or stand as you approach your stop.

TL;DR

  • Don't wear perfume or cologne - apply it after you deboard
  • Give yourself extra time - BART is plagued by daily delays
  • Bring cash for exit fare
  • Take off your backpack when the train is crowded
  • Bring headphones if you want to listen to music - spare your neighbor's ears
  • Deboard to let others off the train when it's crowded
  • Let your seatmate know you're ready to get off

And ask me if you have any questions!

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