San Francisco is #BARTABLE

“I am not a religious man at all,” a passenger on the BART train, Phillip Fitzgerald said. “But, my brother was on his death bed, and I got down on my knees one day and started praying to God and suddenly a week later he was fine, right then and there I believed.”

This comment was followed by a series of questions I had for a complete stranger about why he decides to use the BART system for transportation.

I decided to take a trip on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) during my spring break to see how commuters use this type of public transportation to get to work. To say the least, I had an interesting experience with a variety of different opinions.

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

“Honestly, I take BART because traffic sucks,” Fitzgerald said. “I have been taking BART for 20 years and the trains no longer run on time, I have to leave an hour and a half earlier to get where I need to be, and the people who work for and take BART are no longer friendly.”

With graduation right around the corner, my search in finding a job has become a number one priority. Most graduates are simply worried about just getting hired at a place where they can make the most money. But, there are many other unseen factors, like transportation, in finding the most efficient job after college.

“BART is better then driving to work everyday because you are not putting wear and tear on your car, it is less stressful, there is no traffic, and it is cheaper,” a Station Agent at the Pittsburg/Bay Point stop said. “If you are going all the way to downtown San Francisco, it may take longer because of all the stops the train makes along the way.”

Courtesy: Fare calculator, Bart.gov

Courtesy: Fare calculator, Bart.gov

I paid $13.10 for a round trip ticket. I immediately noticed that people want nothing to do with you and are glued to their electronic devices. In addition, each stop you make a swamp of people get on the train, sometimes leaving people behind because it is too packed.

Courtesy: 2015 Report to Congress, Bart.gov

Courtesy: 2015 Report to Congress, Bart.gov

I saw one man hop on carrying a brief case, so I decided to approach him. His name was Berhaen, and he was an American Practitioner. Berhaen was different for he did not have a car because he had recently moved to the United States from another country.

“Because I am a new guest to this country, using BART helps my friends drop me off at the closest station, so I can get to work,” Berhaen said. “I also use BART because it is more comfortable and fast instead of driving all the way from Pittsburg.”

From Pittsburg to Concord a new group of people came on to the train, where I encountered Phillip, the man who shared his testimony with me in the beginning.  Phillip worked for the City of Berkeley. He was unforgettable because his opinion of BART was only negative, and he shared very personal information with me.

Courtesy: Station List, Bart.gov

Courtesy: Station List, Bart.gov

Following my intense interview with Phillip, I approached a student from San Francisco State and a local business owner.

“I use BART because I save a lot of time on the train and that is important to me because I can get homework or studying done before class,” student Ryan Mal said. “It is faster, but I do not think its cheaper because I would probably save around $15 if I just drove with the car that I have.”

Courtesy: Tickets, Bart.gov

Courtesy: Tickets, Bart.gov

According to www.bart.gov, you will save more than $600 per year, if you have a combined (local, state, federal) tax rate of 40 percent and spend $130 per month on BART fares. BART is also looking into increasing its system capacity by 10 percent. According to the 2015 report to Congress,  they are  seeking a major federal grant through the recently established New Starts Core Capacity program.

Local business owner Jeff Pytel only had positive reviews of BART.

“I sold my car about five years ago and realized that BART is more convenient for me,” Pytel said. “I only live a block from my house and my shop, so walking is better for me because I have had too many issues with parking tickets, and it is honestly a nightmare in the city without a parking spot.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 5.36.06 PM

I finally arrived in San Francisco, where I had some time to sit and reflect on my trip. The three things I concluded were:

  1. All of my interviews admitted that the time you have on BART is more valuable then having access to a car.
  2. BART is not necessarily cheaper, unless you write out the pros and cons to what kind of car you have and the costs of maintaining that car.
  3. To travel on BART, you must be extremely independent because everyone around you has a selfish attitude. Getting to their destination is the number one priority, and they do not care about stepping on people’s toes to get there.

This experience showed me that BART can be a great networking tool. Some of the conversations I had led to personal anecdotes. Needless to say, BART is neither the best option or the worst. As much as I love having the accessibility to a car, I will most likely take BART if I land a job in the city.

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