Riding the BART back to SFO

26 January 2007
Categories: Transportation

I like the BART, even if the grungy upholstered seats do creep me out a little. There are several details to aid passengers that show that some good thought was put into it…

  • Computer-generated voices tell not only what kind of train is boarding, but also how long the wait will be until the next several trains arrive.
  • The voice is female for platform 1 (southbound) and male for platform 2 (northbound)—so once you’ve heard one announcement, for every one thereafter you instantly know as the announcement begins whether the info will be pertinent for your direction of travel.
  • Tactile warning strip along the edge of the platform, for the benefit of the visually impaired, changes colour and pattern (parallel bumps rather than diagonal, like the difference between the stars on 48- and 50-star flags) at the places where the doors of the train will be—and some of these have additional washboard strips further in from the edge, but only in the places where a 2-car train, the minimal length, will stop. That way those 4 door locations are always guaranteed to have a door.

Oddly, there are a number of things here that you don’t see on the CTA:

  • Prominent signs for fire extinguishers
  • Posted explanations for how to manually override the doors
  • A station sign showing the location of the emergency third rail cut-off

I’m sure all these things exist on the CTA (well, not sure about the extinguishers, but the door overrides and power cut-offs definitely do), but attention is not called to them—it would only serve as an invitation to tamper with them. Don’t know how many times I’ve seen some jerk pull the (unmarked) red ball to get off just a few seconds sooner than everyone else, or to make up for (nearly) missing their stop. Yet in San Francisco, knowledge of these items is boldly promulgated, and the public is trusted to use that information appropriately. Go figure.

Later, aboard the plane, I got to wondering… Why should the overwing doors not be used in the event of a water landing? And, if the bag dangling from the oxygen mask does not inflate, what’s it there for?

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