BART to the future fleet

April 17, 2014

BART's Fleet of the Future prototype BART's Fleet of the Future prototype BART's Fleet of the Future prototype BART's Fleet of the Future prototype

Today BART launched the first of several workshops with a full-scale prototype of their new train cars. They’re looking for rider feedback before finalizing the design. Most of it seems pretty nifty:

  • Comfortable, easy to clean seats
  • Extra set of doors for faster boarding
  • Bike racks
  • Digital signs and maps

BART says their new trains will be quieter on the inside and have better air conditioning, but these features weren’t part of the demo.

I took the time to voice my concerns about the boarding difficulty that the redesign didn’t address. One BART representative suggested a couple mirrors might solve the problem, which is an interesting alternative I hadn’t considered.

If you’re interested in checking out the prototype and giving feedback, several more workshops are scheduled. If all goes as planned we’ll start seeing these new trains in 2017.

Ugly building in “Silicon Valley” show

April 16, 2014

Mike Judge’s new show “Silicon Valley” satirizes Bay Area tech culture. From Peter Thiel paying kids not to attend college to unconventional social norms to strange business practices, the show has some pretty easy targets to mock.

One of my favorite aspects of the show is the unusual architecture it highlights on the Peninsula. From the Google-inspired “Hooli” campus to the incubator housed in an Eichler, the Bay Area’s architecture has the same experimental quality as everything else here.

Not all experiments are successful. One particularly notable example of bad Peninsula architecture is highlighted in this scene: (click for larger version)

It’s an unusually ugly building on an unusually ugly stretch of El Camino in Palo Alto. Here’s what it looks like on Google Maps:

According to LoopNet this building was constructed in 1961. One can only imagine that drugs were a factor in the decision to attach those garish metal panels to the upper floor of what would otherwise be a tolerably bland building.

But it may not have long for this world — plans are afoot to replace it with a larger office building (PDF warning.)

Handwritten song lyrics taped to pole

April 11, 2014

Hope There's Someone lyrics

I’m not entirely certain what compels someone to write out the lyrics to the 2005 hit Hope There’s Someone by Antony and the Johnsons, then tape the page to a pole in a BART station. Perhaps they were inspired by the recent Avicii version?

In all likelihood we’ll never know. It will remain as one of the unsolved mysteries of our time, just like that wooden box.

Perplexing wood box installed on utility pole

April 1, 2014

Wood box thing

Sometimes in life there’s questions that don’t seem to have concrete answers, like who shot JFK or the career of Shia LaBeouf. Today another such question popped into existence in the form of a perplexing wood box installed on a utility pole at 16th and Guerrero. It’s the kind of thing one wouldn’t notice easily, like a slightly misplaced item you only catch out of the corner of your eye.

Some of the questions I’ve been able to come up with:

  • Who made this?
  • Why?
  • Is it art?
  • Why wood?
  • What does the pattern mean?
  • Why on this pole, of all places?
  • WTF?

If any answers are provided I’ll post updates. Until then, I’ll be scratching my head.

Clarion Alley updates

March 27, 2014

Here’s a few new pieces that caught my eye in the always-changing set of murals in Clarion Alley:

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Clarion Alley

Sign proclaims that spring is over

End Spring

While the weather outside may lead you to believe that spring is just beginning, let’s not be so quick to judge. According to this sign in the Financial District, spring is over.

Deal with it.

Free bed frame, nightmares

March 19, 2014

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Need a bed frame? Want to have terrifying nightmares? This sidewalk bargain is perfect for you!

Collect it now, it’s near 16th and Dolores.

BART station side hatch

March 14, 2014

This morning I arrived at the 16th Mission BART station only to find the entry was blocked by a steel gate! Oh no! How would I get to work?

Turns out a detour through a secret passage was necessary, as documented in the photos below.

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New BART trains don’t address boarding issue

March 8, 2014

The new BART train cars will have lots of improvements over the current ones. But there’s one boarding issue that they didn’t quite tackle.

See what’s missing from their design, as pictured above?

You may have to take a step back, so to speak, in order to notice. Consider how people board BART trains: commuters and other frequent riders wait in a line or small group on the station platform near where the train’s doors stop when it pulls into the station. Generally they let other passengers off first before anyone gets on.

Or at least, they try to. On current BART trains it’s difficult to tell if there’s someone waiting to exit before you get on, because the trains are designed like this:

Now Boarding

As you can see from Todd Lappin’s above photo, there aren’t windows next to the doors. This means you can be standing on the platform, unable to see an exiting passenger before you try to board. Not exactly a well thought out design.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Van Ness Muni Metro Station

As the above photo by Roshan Vyas illustrates, even when Muni Metro’s doors are open you can still see the people inside. You can wait for them to get off before shoving your way on — or not, like certain impolite Muni passengers at rush hour. But either way at least there isn’t a wall at a crucial point in the train car exterior.

BART’s new trains narrow this boarding blind spot, but they don’t eliminate it. Look at all this wasted space:

I understand there needs to be a place for a map and maybe some ads on the trains, but this isn’t the place for it. There shouldn’t be a need to pick between faster boarding and information — both goals are attainable without sacrificing one for the other.

Proof that Mitch Hedberg never rode BART

March 7, 2014

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“An escalator can never break, it can only become stairs. You will never see an escalator out of order sign, just ‘escalator temporarily stairs — sorry for the convenience.’”

– Mitch Hedberg

 
While he may have taken Muni Metro, it’s clear that Hedberg never rode BART.