Monday, December 7, 2015

Blues for a BART trainride

North Oakland from the window of the Richmond train

BART is synonymous with Bay area living 
pour un Flaneur comme moi

I began residence here at my brother's place in Contra Costa the next county over. One of his assurances to me was that after what turned out to be a rather circuitous bus-ride through the hills around Appian way in Pinole I would reach the BART station at El Cerrito del Norte and be instantly connected to San Francisco or Berkeley. And I was and it was modus for my initial investigation of places along its spine. Oddly I used to use a City Lights postcard map of SF with cable car stops indicated to get around the City. In those days you could actually rely on cable cars to get around town particularly in January the month I arrived.
BART was almost always a reasonably uncrowded relaxing ride in those days the menace and encumbrance of bicycles was non-existent as they were banned in those halcyon days.
Then within a few weeks I piled down into the Embarcadero station and couldn't help but notice a smell of  unwholesome smoke. It was coming from the Trans-bay tube I was later to learn and the train I caught running in the East-bound passed by the train that had caught fire in the other tube.
Unbeknownst to us the passengers from that train were evacuating onto tunnel walk-ways in a completely fraught scenario.
There was no Transbay BARt service for the following six months. I moved to Berkeley and became familiar with frequent F Bus rides which were mostly fun in those days. As Jack Kerouac observed the best view of San Francisco is from the F Train crossing the Bay Bridge. We had to settle for the same from a bus after the automobile-oil monopolists eliminated trains on the bridge.

I moved for a year to San Francisco while still working in Berkeley and certainly rode BART quite a bit. In 1984 I began to work at a bookstore in North Beach and began taking BART daily for four or five days a week. Since then sometimes I don't ride it for long periods but generally speaking I am rather an old BART hand, adapting even as the intrusive bikes and over-crowded over population had dramatically changed the experience, not to mention a creeping police-statism on BART as elsewhere.
I enjoy the actual experience of trains in general and the BART variety particularly when its a quiet time of day. I have even twice taken the train all the way out to Pittsburg just to enjoy the ride and largely charming scenery along it especially as one passes mount Diablo and vicinity. And my current Clipper card gets me a rather felicitous rate of fare.
So gratitude and woe as with almost everything in this world.

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