BART and CalTrain… sitting in a tree… H… A… T… (pause)… I… N… G…

Summary: after waiting for over 20 minutes for BART, it arrived with too tight a margin to transfer to CalTrain. So I had to wait an hour and a half more.

Flying back to San Francisco from Vancouver one Tuesday night in August, I’d planned to take public transit to get back to my place in Sunnyvale. Two reasons: it makes me feel like a responsible citizen (er, responsible permanent resident holding a green card); and I’m cheap.

My flight was scheduled to come at 8:17 PM, and the next CalTrain from Millbrae was scheduled for 8:49 PM… pretty close call, since you have to take BART to get the CalTrain. I was a bit worried, so I upgraded my Alaska flight to first class for about $60, figuring I could carry on my luggage and sit near the front of the plane, hastening my exit.

Sure enough, I sat in row two, and had no trouble getting overhead space for my huge bag. The plane came in early, just after 8 PM, so I zipped off and took the blue AirTrain to the BART. I was at the BART station by 8:19, which I thought was pretty good… had nearly a half hour to get to CalTrain.

But the BART display sign said the next train was due in 22 minutes. What?! That would be 8:41. That seemed like it would cut things pretty close. I found a schedule and it claimed this BART would arrive at the CalTrain station at 8:47 PM. That gave me two minutes to exit BART, cross over the tracks (yes, you have to go up a flight of stairs and down another to get to the southbound CalTrain), buy a CalTrain ticket and board the train. It seemed pretty tight, but I figured they must know what they are doing… why would they hold off BART until 8:41 if people couldn’t make it to the CalTrain, after all?!

OK, I’m sure you can see where this is going.

I sat there, doing nothing for over 20 minutes, waiting for BART. It finally arrived around 8:41, as it was supposed to. I got on. And waited. And waited and waited and waited. What seemed to be forever turned out to be only about three minutes, since I noted the BART left at 8:44. Which I thought was pretty inconsiderate, since we kinda needed to be at the Millbrae station for the 8:49 train, and after all, that’s where EVERYONE on the BART was going… the Millbrae stop is the end of the line, so pretty much everyone was transferring to a train.

As soon as those BART doors opened, I booked it. I ran as hard as I can with luggage… I ran to the exit, jammed in my BART card, ran up the stairs, whipped out my ticket as fast as I could out the CalTrain ticket machine (which of course took a good 10-20 seconds longer than it should have due to credit issues and Murphy’s Law), ran down the stairs… just in time to see several other people just touching the doors as they closed on the southbound train (some of whom I later confirmed did not even stop to buy a CalTrain ticket because they knew it would be so close).

Yes, that’s right. After sitting around for more than twenty minutes, I ran as fast as I could (given my luggage burden) and still did not make the train.

Next train at 10:24. Yes, a good 95 minutes later. It ended up taking me much longer to get from SFO to my home than from YVR (Vancouver airport) to SFO. I repeat: I spent more time TAKING THE TRAIN than the plane.

I was obviously very annoyed by this. The infrequency of the BART and CalTrain and the closeness of the schedule would imply to a reasonable person that they would mesh and that CalTrain would “wait” if there was a delay in BART. But no. If I had known, I would have taken a cab from the airport to the CalTrain.

And thus, no good deed (in this case, taking public transit) goes unpunished.

2 thoughts on “BART and CalTrain… sitting in a tree… H… A… T… (pause)… I… N… G…

  1. Yep, the “system” is broken & need to be fixed.

    Hey Richard, Ajith & me from HHN will try catch you on one of your shows in the Bay. I was working with Symantec in LA for sometime, now am looking for opps back in the Valley.

    Keep up the Good Work!

  2. Glad I’m not the only person this crap has happened to. I was pissed, throwing my stuff all over the Cal Train platform. I calmed down after 10-15 minutes but man… I was pissed.

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