Welcome to my transit blog, where you can read up on transit-related topics ranging from fare evasion to service adjustments. Feel free to start a discussion if you please, just make sure that you keep things clean. All comments are moderated, meaning that I must approve all comments before they can show up on blog posts and web pages. So any comments that I find to be inappropriate or offensive will not be posted on the website. Periodically, I will have ”Focus Posts” and poll questions that deal with specific transit-related topics.
This post was last updated on 05/09/2020.
While the world has prevailed through past massive health crises such as chickenpox, swine flu, & SARS, the current epidemic with the Coronavirus has been taking hold in a way that prior crises have not. Throughout many parts of the globe; venues are closing, events are being cancelled or postponed, & yes – parts of the global transportation sector have been forced to either significantly alter the way things are done – or shut down entirely.
At this time, all blog posts & social media activities have been suspended until further notice. Additionally, the following changes to the site have been enacted:
- The Spring Break 2020 & AirFest 2020 blog posts have been taken down.
- All Transport sections, have been taken offline & will no longer show on the menus.
- Website updates will still occur, but only behind the scenes. My intent is for the next major update to go online once the pandemic has passed.
- The Global Transit Guidebook Forum Facebook Group has been archived until the pandemic has passed, thus the links have been removed from the menus. A replacement group is being worked on, but a link will not be available until a later date.
In the meantime, please be cautious of the abundance of misinformation out in the media – including on social media outlets. Follow only reliable sources & advice. But above all – please, wash your hands! That’s one of the most simplest things we can do to help slow the spread of communicable illnesses such as this.
In my final installment of Transit 101, I will discuss what to do if you happen to leave an item on board a bus or train. I personally know how frustrating it is to realize that you’ve left something on board the bus or train during your journey – as I’ve left my bike on a HART bus & a PSTA bus, each on separate occasions.
Reporting a lost item
If ever that you leave an item on board the bus or train, immediately contact the transit agency’s customer service line & press the option to speak with a live representative. If it is after business hours, call the agency at your first opportunity on the next business day. Please be mindful that while most transit agencies have weekend hours for telephone customer service, not all do.
When speaking to the customer service representative, please provide as much information as possible about the item that you left, as well as the specific trip that you were on. It is very helpful to the representative if you’ve noted the following about your trip so that customer service can communicate the information to the lost & found department in checking if something was turned in or not.
- Date of your transit ride, as well as the approximate time that you exited the bus or train.
- Route number/designation.
- Vehicle number if possible.
- Location where you exited the vehicle at (station name, intersection, or stop ID number).
- For those of us who are a tad more savvy in using transit than others, additional information – such as the run/block number can also help. Some transit agencies will have a special sign behind the windshield that will display the bus or train’s run/block number for dispatch purposes.
In some cases – depending on the agency – you can also report your lost item in person to a station agent, transit ambassador, or transit supervisor. Some agencies also have an online reporting form that you can use.
Checking the status
While most transit agencies have one, unified location for lost & found operations, it may take a few days for the item to be transferred over to the lost & found department – especially if you’re using a larger system like the New York MTA. You can periodically check back in with customer service via phone or physically visit the lost & found department location to see if your item was turned in or not. In some cases, the agency may contact you directly if they find that the item turned in matches your initial description.
Retrieving your item
When it has been confirmed that your item has been turned into the lost & found department, be sure that you take down any specific instructions as to where you can retrieve your item. From there, proceed to the lost & found department location provided. Once there, you will be asked to present your government-issued ID & confirm the item’s description to ensure that it is indeed your item. Once everything has been confirmed, the staff member will hand you back the item.
Keep in mind that each transit agency may have different procedures in respects to how long they can hold items in lost & found. Many agencies tend to have a 60 to 90 day policy, but you should contact the agency directly or check their website for details. Once the holding window has passed, the agency will typically auction or donate the items off. Items in poor condition may be disposed of.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Transit 101 series & have been able to get some helpful tips out of it. For those of you who may still be intimidated about riding public transit, some transit agencies offer complementary travel training programs to help assist first time transit riders.
Such programs will allow the rider to schedule an appointment with the transit agency & have a special transit agency staff member meet with the rider. The rider will then have a chance to learn how the system works, how to read a transit schedule, pay fares, make transfers, & ask the staff member any other questions that he or she may have about the system. Such programs are provided at no added cost to the rider & the transit agency offering the program will generally provide the first ride completely free.
When making your appointment with the transit agency, you will want to have a specific destination in mind – such a place of employment, school/university, or major point of interest (i.e. museums, zoos, etc.).
The following transit agencies that I am aware of, provide complementary travel training programs. If you’re unsure as to whether yours does, please contact them directly.
- Hillsborough Area Regional Transit: 813-254-4278.
- Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority: 727-540-1900.
- Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX): 407-841-5969.
- Jacksonville Transportation Authority: 904-632-5249.
Can I make my transfer on time?
In this episode of Transit 101, I will be briefly discussing how to make transfers. Making transfers from one bus or rail route to another can sometimes be intimidating. However, it’s very important that you know what to do in order to make vital connections possible.
The first type of transfer is a parallel transfer. These are the easiest transfers to make because they do not always involve you having to cross a street – especially if multiple routes (regardless of direction) all serve the same stop at once.
The above photo is of one of several regular Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus stops by which you can easily make a parallel transfer to a variety of routes. This particular stop is #5281 along FL State Road 580 by Summerdale Dr (along the northern perimeter of Westfield Countryside Mall). All of the bus stops that surround the mall allow customers to make a parallel transfer to at least three other bus routes because buses are required to travel in a clockwise pattern in this area.
To make a parallel transfer, simply exit the bus or train at the stop or station, then wait for the next vehicle of your choice to arrive. Please always keep your distance away from the edge of the boarding platform & allow arriving customers to exit the vehicle first before boarding.
In cases where you may need to cross a street or platform to make your parallel transfer, please use extra caution. Follow applicable signage & if needing to cross a street – use a crosswalk if possible.
The second type of transfer is a perpendicular transfer. This is where you would transfer from one service that intersects another. This type of transfer can be challenging because it requires customers to pay closer attention to where they’re going in order to make that transfer happen. In some cases, bus stops & rail platforms might not necessarily line up with each other, so it’s very important to follow applicable signage or use a map to help locate your particular transfer stop.
In the above graphic, I illustrate a fictional city that has many bus lines, as well as a few light rail & subway lines. In this type of scenario, it can be tricky to make a transfer – let’s say between bus route 7 & bus route 9 because the stops don’t necessarily line up as opposed to the transfer between bus route 7 & bus route 36. The reason why some bus stops may not line up as well as others at certain intersections is due to situations by which placing a bus stop could create a very unsafe environment – such as turn lanes, rail lines, trees, & other unmovable obstructions. So in some situations, you may need to walk a bit farther to connect to your next route.
Transferring at a major transfer point
Major transfer points, like a transit center – serving multiple bus &/or rail lines – can bring forth a lot of convenience, but also a lot of confusion for first-time riders. It is very important here to examine station maps & signage to ensure that you are traveling to the correct route. Additionally, construction & other happenings may cause normal boarding locations to change or be skipped by some services. So in the event of such, you will need to be prepared to alter your commute if necessary.
One such example is the construction project at the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) Marion Transit Center in Tampa. Each of the bus bays are being reconstructed due to the bricks and concrete being worn out after many years. This construction has prompted the agency to re-assign bus staging throughout the complex.
When making transfers, please bear in mind that some transit agencies charge a separate “Transfer Fee” to make transfers. You will want to check with your respective transit agency before embarking on your trip. In many cases, transfer fees will not apply if you are using an all-day pass, weekly pass, or monthly pass.
Happy 2020! Our February Showcase photo is here!
For this month’s photo, I held a quarterly contest in the Global Transit Guidebook Forum Facebook Group. Despite there being a few member submissions, my own contribution won out.
So with that being said, we return back to the Tampa Bay region & profile Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) # 1104, which was one of eight buses that the agency acquired from Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT). # 1104 entered revenue service on 10/07/2019 & has been on normal assignment on Routes 60LX or 275LX since. On occasion, it will be assigned to Routes 17, 20X, 24LX, 25LX, or 360LX.
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Pirates, & Beads, & Transit…oh my!
Post was updated on 01/24/2020
Yep, it’s that time again, for the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival! The Parade of the Pirates brings in hundreds of revelers each year, & along with that…tons and tons of roadway closures. So here’s what you need to know if you plan on attending the parade on Saturday, January 25, starting at 2:00pm.Read more
Can’t believe it’s the end of 2019 already!
In what will be my final post for 2019, I’m going to take a few minutes to reflect back on what happened during the course of the year – both personal happenings in the sense of my transit adventures, as well as some local happenings here in the Tampa Bay Region.
All for Transportation Referendum
You may have noticed that I haven’t really talked about the All for Transportation referendum measure that was passed by Hillsborough County voters back in November of 2018. This is because shortly after the elections, two parties filed legal challenges against respective parties – including the county. The filing parties have basically alleged that the measure was passed illegally because how specific elements are structured within the measure violate state law. I’m not a legal expert, so I can’t go into the nitty-gritty details, however many news articles have been published about the saga, so you can search those up and get up to speed that way if you wish.
In short though, the legal cases against the measure are awaiting to be heard by the Florida Supreme Court & will be decided (at last check) February, 2020. I’m really hoping for an outcome that upholds the measure because Hillsborough County needs better transportation – and like…right now!
While the usage & expansion of public transportation isn’t necessarily a silver bullet in combating climate change, it certainly does help when coupled with other changes – such as the overall reduction in use of fossil fuels. During the past year or so, a group called Extinction Rebellion has been advocating for all levels of government across the globe to get their act together on combating climate change – or else, we as a the human race will one day (sooner than later) face mass extinction. It’s truly a scary thought when you think about the impacts that climate change is already having on our planet. However, it’s even more scary to think about how some people out there – including some of our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., don’t even believe that climate change is actually a thing.
New buses for HART & PSTA
During the course of April & May of 2019, both Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) & the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) introduced new buses to their fleets – a combined 19 units (10 for HART & 9 for PSTA). PSTA continues to largely order diesel-electric hybrid Gillig buses (either 35′ or 40′), while HART continues to order CNG Gilligs (40′). While PSTA has already been testing a small fleet of battery electric buses (2 in service, with 4 more on order for late 2020/early 2021), HART hasn’t necessarily made that leap just yet – though there is a push for the agency to begin a pilot project by 2021.
Regardless of propulsion though, the new buses are able to replace aging diesel buses that span as old as 2001 & 2002. PSTA’s oldest fleet is now from 2005, while HART’s oldest fleet dates back to 2006. In the coming years, the hope is for HART to completely replenish its fleet by 2025 so that the oldest bus running is not exceeding 10 years in age. PSTA on the other hand will have a tougher time with any such aim due to its limited resources & the fact that its 2006 bus order was the largest ever for the mid 2000s – totaling 48 buses (though 2 have been retired previously).
For 2019, I had three different opportunities to travel out of town (one of which was out of state). The first trip was to Jacksonville, FL for primarily a family gathering/event, though I also spent some time exploring the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) bus system. This visit actually marked my third visit to River City since August of 2018 & my seventh overall visit to the region (though my first four visits weren’t focused on public transit at all & took place prior to 2005).
During my travels along the JTA system, I was able to experience both the First Coast Flyer Blue & Red Lines (Routes 107 & 109 respectively). The First Coast Flyer is a lightened version of Bus Rapid Transit (similar to HART’s MetroRapid, but with less stops) which first opened up in late 2015 with the Green Line (Route 102). The Blue Line followed in late 2016, then the Red Line in late 2019. The final currently planned corridor – the Orange Line (route number is not known at this time), is slated to open in late 2020.
2019 unfortunately brought upon several incidents across the nation by which transit agency employees were physically assaulted. In the Tampa area alone, one HART bus operator was stabbed & killed while on the job, while another – several months later – was also stabbed, but survived. These such incidents have echoed numerous calls from transit operators & their respective unions to force upon critical changes to their respective transit agencies – such as the installation of plexiglass shields within the operator’s area on board transit buses. These incidents also spurred HART, PSTA, & several other agencies to inform customers about the importance of using their transit systems while exercising due respect to each other & agency staff.
St. Pete Pride
Every year for the past few years now, PSTA has partnered with the St. Pete Pride organization as their official public transportation partner – providing special shuttle service to & from the St. Pete Pride Parade, & even having a specially wrapped bus roll down the parade route! It’s always great to see public transit agencies take part in such great events – especially those that support our wide & diverse communities.
TPA Airport Visits & the All Access Program
Earlier this year, Tampa International Airport introduced its All Access program, which allows non-ticketed patrons to experience the revamped lineup of shops & eateries at the airside concourses. The airport has been undergoing a massive transformation over the past decade, but especially during the course of the past five years, & what better way to allow everyone to experience the full array of what the airport now has to offer than to provide this wonderful program! I’ve been able to execute two such trips to the airport just to have lunch there (my first visit was to Airside C in July, followed by Airside E in December). To learn more about All Access & to book a Saturday reservation, please visit the airport’s website.
New Walt Disney World Buses, Monorail Enhancements, Skyliner Gondola
Speaking of revamps, Walt Disney World in Orlando has been undergoing its own transportation revamp – from introducing new buses (pictured above), to overhauling the appearance of their monorail trains, to opening a new gondola system (the Skyliner). These changes will make it easier & more appealing for park guests to get around the various on-site properties. Additionally, there’s been a lot of speculation that the current aging fleet of monorail trains will be replaced in 2020. Let’s see if that holds true…
And jumping off from Disney now, one change that occurred sometime back in 2017 was Walt Disney World not renewing its contract with TranStar, one of the many charter bus companies that have done business in the metro Orlando region. While it is likely that the loss of the contract heavily contributed to the company’s demise, it also opened the door to HART being able to acquire a few of their 2014-series buses for use in their system. So far, five out of six 40′ Gillig low floor diesel buses have gone into revenue service.
Brightline/Virgin – Tampa stop, or not?
One last thing to note that involves Disney – there’s been a lot of developments regarding the semi-high speed intercity rail line that is gradually materializing here in Florida. Brightline – which is now known as Virgin Rail USA since Virgin head honco Sir Richard Branson announced back in late 2018 that the company would have a large stake in the rail line’s future – is gradually making its way to Orlando International Airport. Stops are already in operation in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, & West Palm Beach – with additional stops planned in South Florida, as well as along the WPB to Orlando leg.
During the course of 2019, it was announced that Tampa could see an extension sooner than later. However, nothing concrete has come out of this, other than the revelation that state interests in previously planned toll lane projects are conflicting with any possibility of an extension towards Tampa. What is concrete though is that Virgin is seriously discussing with Disney in regards to a stop on or near their property to get guests arriving in from Miami an additional option to get to the park. In my personal opinion, I think the Disney stop will most certainly happen, while any segment between Disney & Tampa will be pushed back in favor of bringing trains to Jacksonville & eventually Atlanta, GA & Charlotte, NC. Virgin has also taken over the former XpressWest project that will link Las Vegas to Los Angeles by 2030.
PSTA Food Pantry
In another example of public transit making a difference in our diverse communities, PSTA partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay to deploy a mobile food pantry at the agency’s facility in northern St. Pete. Since many of PSTA’s riders live at or below the poverty line, having access to food pantries often mean the difference between having a meal during the day & not. For the first event in July, riders lined up as early as 6am to get one complimentary box of food – which includes fresh bread, fruits, & veggies. The second event in December was equally a success, & there are plans for another in around March or April of 2020 as a result.
While on the subject of partnerships, PSTA partnered with Greyhound earlier this fall to allow them to use one of their transfer hubs to board & de-board buses. The facility chosen was the Pinellas Park Transit Center, which serves PSTA routes 11, 34, 52, 52LX, 74, & 75. The facility also serves as a Direct Connect stop for participating taxis & ride share companies to fill in the first mile, last mile gap between a customer’s origin & destination points.
In addition to being able to use the facility to load & unload customers, Greyhound is also able to use one of the two customer service windows to serve its customers. Greyhound began staffing the window in December & I’ve seen it busy during the morning just prior to the first couple of AM buses pulling in. Such partnerships allow Greyhound to trim down its inventory of aging facilities that it no longer sees fit to operate, while providing opportunities for its customers to easily interconnect with localized transit options to get them to their final destination.
San Francisco Trip
My second out-of-town trip was by far THE highlight of 2019, being able to visit the San Francisco Bay Area & experience their wide array of transit services! I was able to utilize the BART rail network, as well as the Caltrain Commuter Rail line, the MUNI bus & rail systems, & the AC Transit & SamTrans bus systems. Additionally, I photographed buses in a few other jurisdictions, including Sausalito & San Jose.
Of course, my visit wasn’t entirely about transit. I was also able to spend time with my transit enthusiast friends, as well as family that resided throughout the NorCal region. In the midst of it all, I was reminded of the impact of the devastating wildfires that have been plaguing parts of the state during the past few years. In fact, a few friends & relatives have been directly impacted by the sporadic power shutoffs that were enacted to supposedly help prevent fires from starting due to debris coming in contact with live power lines during high wind events.
Local Bus Adventures
Throughout 2019, I was able to take several leisurely adventures along the HART & PSTA systems – from the gulf coast beaches to the Shoppes of Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel, being able to use transit to get to a variety of destinations allows me to cut down on my car dependence & experience places that I would otherwise miss during a car drive. I think my most memorable leisurely bus ride was taking the Suncoast Beach Trolley to visit my friend & his family in Reddington Beach in November (Black Friday). I really loved that!
Last, but certainly not least, was my trip to Orlando for a family event, followed by spending the remainder of the weekend in Daytona Beach & surrounding areas. This third & final out-of-town trip for 2019 actually marked the fourth time that I made a stop to Daytona to experience the Votran bus system (my previous visits involving the Votran system comprised of two visits in 2015, followed by a visit in 2017), & marked by seventh stop to the area overall (my first visit was with family in 1995. To my knowledge, Votran didn’t even run late night service Monday through Saturday during that time).
What will 2020 bring?
It’s hard to say at the moment what 2020 will bring. One thing is for sure though, the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on whether the All for Transportation measure is valid will no doubt determine where public transit in Hillsborough County will go. There’s also a ton of unknowns regarding the Brightline/Virgin rail line that is being expanded into Orlando. We should both matters further unfold during the first quarter of 2020, & once the determinations are made, I will certainly do my best to break down what’s next for the Tampa Bay region & beyond.
Moving away from this uncertainty though, I do have several large plans for 2020 – including the possibility of another out-of-town trip. I’m not going to divulge any details at this time – & for good reason. However, wherever I do embark on next, it’s definitely going to involve riding a train.
In conclusion, 2019 was a pretty good year for me, even though it wasn’t necessarily a great year for transit in the Tampa Bay region. There’s still a lot to accomplish & we shall see where everything goes from here. Until next time, have a safe & prosperous 2020!
Ready for takeoff!
In this fifth episode of Journeys Afar, I will continue my adventure out to the San Francisco Bay Area. For both my originating & return journeys, I opted for flights that would take me to the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area. I first had the opportunity to traverse DFW Airport back in 2002 & 2003, & during both times there was a lot of construction going on. What is known today as Skylink, was still under construction at the time, & Terminal D was also being built. So thus, I wanted to get a glimpse of what the airport looks like now. I do regret not allotting myself a bit more extra time on my return trip to spend at the airport because otherwise, I would have had time to get photography of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail & Trinity Metro TEXRail (commuter rail) platforms.
I’ll begin this post briefly discussing my departure from TPA Airport, followed by my layover observations at DFW Airport. Later, I’ll go into my arrival at SFO Airport & end with my journey into the heart of the city of San Francisco.
Departing from Tampa
Boarding call for my first flight – American Airlines # 1351 – began at about 11:10am, with the plane (a Boeing 737-800) pushing back from Gate 78 on time at 11:42am. The overall boarding process went without any major issues & I was able to sit comfortably in my window seat (I love window seats on the plane by the way) during the entire flight. I will point out however that the blue bag that I mentioned at the very end of Part 1, I wound up checking that in at the gate counter. The reason was due to it being a full flight & there was no more overhead bin space to fit the bag in. Therefore, I carried my other backpack with me – which was compact enough to fit under the seat in front of me.
For those of you who wish to watch, here’s video footage of my departure from Tampa.
Layover at Dallas-Fort Worth
My flight arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport at 1:25pm Central Time (pretty much on-time). However, I received an alert through the American Airlines smartphone app that my connecting flight to San Francisco (# 2083) was delayed by 30 minutes (the originally scheduled departure time was 2:50pm CT, but it was pushed back to 3:20pm CT). This delay was due to the plane originating from another city before flying into Phoenix, AZ & getting delayed there. While this delay theoretically bought me a bit more time to explore parts of DFW Airport, I still needed to make sure that I arrived at my connecting gate on time.
Here’s the footage of my arrival in Dallas-Fort Worth.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot had changed at DFW Airport since my last pass-through in 2003 – namely the opening of the Skylink automated people mover system. Being that I had some extra time to spend before I needed to be at my connecting gate, I decided that I would go ahead and catch a quick round trip between Terminal C & Terminal A – the former by which both my arriving flight & departing flight were located at.
One of the first things I noticed when I exited the gate area was that there was a 7-11 convenience store in Terminal C. For a moment, you would not think that a convenience store chain would open a store inside a bustling airport – but believe it or not – the need for such a store is there. In fact, the chain recently opened a location inside the Westfield Brandon Mall in Brandon, FL, so seeing this location at DFW Airport doesn’t feel weird at all.
So you’re probably wondering if I have any past photos of DFW Airport from my previous pass-throughs. Unfortunately, I don’t – as my time spent there was with family & I didn’t have a camera on me to snap photos with. That’s okay though, because I took the opportunity to get new photos & should I pass through this airport again in the future, I’ll have those to help expand my overall collection.
After taking a moment to glance at the 7-11, I immediately proceeded to locate Gate C15, where my connecting flight to San Francisco would board later. It didn’t take me too long to find it, so once I did, it was time to head upstairs to the Skylink station to take a quick ride to Terminal A & back.
All of the terminals (except Terminal D) are “C” shaped, with Terminal D being more of a “K” shape. The on-site Grand Hyatt hotel is located at Terminal D – which serves as the airport’s international terminal. The Skylink system connects all five terminals together so that passengers aren’t having to exit & then re-enter security (especially in the case of Terminal E, which isn’t connected to the others by a sky bridge). The network utilizes a fleet of Bombardier Innovia 300 automated people mover (APM) trains that comprise of paired sets (2 cars per train).
Knowing that I had only a limited amount of time before I needed to grab a quick bite to eat, then proceed back to Gate C15, I made my trek to Terminal A very short. The good thing is that trains come around in both directions pretty frequently (roughly every 2 to 3 minutes during the day), which is comparable to TPA Airport’s SkyConnect, as well as the Main Terminal to Airside shuttles.
While DFW Airport has a lot of different dining options, knowing time was limited before boarding call began at 2:50pm (CT), I settled on getting a Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal at McDonalds at Terminal C, which was not too far from Gate C15. Once I got my food, I went back to the gate area & consumed my food before boarding began.
Once I was finished with my lunch, I had a brief opportunity to go onto the 3rd-party TransSee website, which allows you to track transit vehicles across a number of US & Canadian transit agencies, & see which buses were running on the Trinity Metro (Fort Worth) DASH circulator – which debuted a few months ago, as well as the midday/PM Molly Trolley, which is another circulator. Both routes connect to specific areas within or near Downtown Fort Worth & offer frequent departures – with the DASH beginning service during the 9am (CT) hour & the Molly starting up around lunch time. Both services operate during the PM & early evening hours, with the DASH running extended night service on weekends. The mainline difference between the DASH & the Molly is that the Molly uses 29′ 2015 Gillig Low Floor replica trolleys, while the DASH is specifically designed to use battery electric buses. The DASH therefore uses 35′ 2019 New Flyer Xcelsior battery electric vehicles (the XE35).
While DART has real-time tracking capabilities, their interface currently does not display vehicle fleet numbers, so there was no point in me doing anything on that end.
With boarding call commencing at 2:50pm (CT), it was once again time for me to prepare to leave. With the ongoing delay, it was projected that I would arrive in San Francisco at about 5:00pm (PT) as opposed to the original scheduled time of 4:30pm (PT). At that point however, I would be happy if I was able to catch my BART connection & still get to downtown San Francisco on time. Knowing that trains depart the SFO Airport station every 15 minutes via the Yellow Line, I knew that there was a possibility of me missing the departures at 4:41pm & 4:58pm respectively, thus the 5:15pm trip would be my “fallback” trip to be able to arrive in downtown on time.
Now, you’re probably wondering, why am I concerned about arriving in downtown San Francisco at a specific time? Well, only because I previously arranged a dinner meetup with both Anthony N. – friend & fellow transit enthusiast/advocate, as well as one of my cousins who resides in the Bay Area. I wanted to make sure that I was able to arrive at the San Francisco Ferry Building for dinner no later than 7:00pm (PT).
Here’s the footage of my departure from Dallas-Fort Worth.
Arrival in San Francisco
Here’s the footage of my arrival in San Francisco.
My flight touched down at San Francisco International Airport at about 4:55pm Pacific Time. As soon as I got off the plane, I proceeded to the baggage claim in Terminal 2, where Anthony was already waiting for me. It took me only a few minutes to walk from the gate area to the baggage claim, but like all flights – it takes a while for the bags to come off the plane and onto the baggage carousel, so this was no different.
Once I arrived at the baggage claim, I greeted Anthony & waited for the baggage carousel to begin operation. Once I was able to claim my checked baggage, we immediately proceeded to the in-house BART station. Like Dallas & Tampa, SFO Airport also has an automated people mover system, which is called the SkyTrain. The SkyTrain connects all three domestic terminals, the international terminal, the rental car center, the two parking garages for the international terminal & the in-house BART station that is located in parking garage G (international terminal parking). Because time was of the essence however, we opted just to walk through Terminal 3 to the BART station, instead of waiting for the AirTrain.
While walking through Terminal 3, I couldn’t help but notice how kinda dated parts of the ticketing area looked, even though the terminal went through a major overhaul almost a decade before. Despite this, both Terminals 2 & 3 looked pretty impressive overall. I didn’t have the chance to explore the other terminals due to the lack of time, nor did I take too many photos within the complex.
As we made our way through the passageway connecting Terminal 3 & the BART station, I was kinda surprised how lightly used it was. I’m sure it sees a lot more people during certain times of the year, but that day it was nearly empty!
Upon arrival at the SFO Airport BART station, the time read 5:35pm (PT), which meant the train that was due to depart for downtown San Francisco, & then terminating in Pittsburg, at 5:41pm (PT) was due to arrive soon. Despite being so pressed for time in order to make it to this trip, everything was going smoothly. Because Anthony gave me his spare Clipper Card, which is the regional tap-&-go fare payment system – & the only method of fare payment accepted for BART, I did’t have to worry about purchasing a new card, which in-turn saved me the minutes that could have otherwise cost us this departure.
Taking the BART Yellow Line
At about 5:37pm, a 9-car “oldie” railcar pulled into Track 3 of the station. These railcars comprise of the original individual cars that were manufactured during the 1970s, when the BART system first opened, as well as cars that were manufactured during the late 1980s & mid 1990s. The original trainsets are known as the “A” & “B” cars, with the “A” cars featuring sloped cab ends, while cars manufactured in the 80s & 90s are known as the “C” cars.
The “A” & “B” cars were both manufactured by Rhor Industries, which was later absorbed into what is today United Technologies Corp. The “C” cars meanwhile were done in two sets by two different manufacturers. The “C1” batch was manufactured by globally renowned railway vehicle manufacturer Alstom, while the “C2” batch was built by Morrison–Knudsen, which did a lot of building & rebuilding work for the New York City subway system fleet during the 80s & 90s.
While I was hoping to catch one of the new next generation Bombardier trains to downtown San Francisco, the “B” car we boarded had to do, because staying behind for a new train would cause us to be late for dinner. Because of this, I will save discussing further about the next generation trains for a future episode.
Here’s a glimpse into my ride along the BART Yellow Line.
As the train made its way through South San Francisco, everything was going pretty well. Our train was not at all crowded for the time being, but Anthony informed me that because it was still the height of rush hour, that the train would begin to crowd up once we got to the Daly City station – which was the terminating points for the Green & Blue Lines.
And Anthony was right! Once the train arrived at the Daly City station, tons of customers began to board. It was the same thing as we traveled up the corridor closer to downtown. It would not be too long before it was standing room only on board the train.
At about the point by which the train pulled into the Glen Park station, the train’s operator announced that we’d be experiencing a delay due to a disabled train at the Embarcadero station. This was not a good sign – as we might not make it to downtown by 6:40pm (PT). I quickly texted my cousin to inform him that we’d be running a bit behind due to the delay – & did so before I lost signal in the tunnel.
This brings up the mainline downside of BART. While it was originally conceived to connect multiple regions throughout the Bay Area, it relies too heavily on a single trunk line with only 2 tracks – especially through San Francisco. So thus, when delays occur due to a disabled train or other incident, the delays quickly spread to the entire network with no other metro style rail options available. At least in New York, if one set of lines went down (let’s say the 1/2/3 trunk line at 42nd St), you’d at least have an opportunity in most cases to shift over to the A/C/E or N/Q/R/W trunks.
From Glen Park to about 24th St/Mission, it was stop-go traffic, as crews were working diligently to get the disabled train pulled from service. In case the situation was not resolved in time, Anthony was ready to execute his backup plan to have us exit at the Civic Center station & head upstairs to take a MUNI Metro (light rail) train to Embarcadero.
Once we passed 24th St/Mission, the train was completely stopped & held in place for about a good 5 minutes before the conductor came back on the intercom to give us an update. It was going to be just a bit longer for the disabled train to be moved out of service & service patterns to be restored. The conductor continued to give us updates roughly every 3 to 4 minutes until the situation had cleared & we’d be moving again. It was about 6:20pm when our train began to resume normal movement & despite the delay, we’d be able to make it to the Embarcadero station without executing the backup plan.
Dinner at the Ferry Building
After exiting the Embarcadero station, I notified my cousin that we had arrived in downtown & were heading to the Ferry Building. It turned out that he was running a bit behind schedule as well & would meet us at the building. For the moment being, Anthony & I needed to walk a few blocks up Market St to get to the building. As we were making our way there, we spotted one of the MUNI (San Francisco Municipal Railway) hybrid electric-diesel buses, # 8893, parked on the side, ready to head onto its next run. Shortly thereafter, electric trolleybus # 5781 passed by. Both buses are New Flyer Xcelsior models – the XDE40 & XT40 respectively. The former fleet range from 2013 to the present, while the trolleybuses range from 2014 onward to replace the aging Electric Transit (Skoda) & New Flyer models that had been on the road since the late 90s.
Once Anthony & I arrived at the Ferry Building, we went inside to take a brief look around, as well as walk up to the waterfront. Inside the main corridor of the building, I noticed a classic split-flap display showing the various ferry departures. These types of signs are commonplace in many public transport facilities worldwide, though some have been recently replaced by LED boards or LCD TV screens. The split-flap displays inside the main hall of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal in fact, were recently replaced with LCD panels.
After strolling for about 4 minutes, we went over to one of the in-house restaurants – Gott’s Roadside. Anthony specifically recommended Gott’s for its delicious burgers & shakes, & I simply could not resist! In addition, my cousin had dined there before as well, so it was a win-win for all of us!
Heading to my hotel
After spending about an hour conversing with Anthony & my cousin, as well as consuming our dinner dishes, it was time for us to part ways. It was getting close to 8:00pm (PT) & I needed to make sure that I didn’t miss the check-in window at my hotel, which that window closed at 9:00pm (PT). Since I still had my bags with me & no longer felt like hopping on a transit route to the hotel I was staying at, I decided to hail an Uber. Now, I’ve used Uber several times as part of the Direct Connect partnership with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), but this would be the first time I would use the app outside of Pinellas County.
Once I summoned my Uber ride, it took about 10 minutes for the driver to arrive at my location. The ride itself took about 7 minutes & the driver was very friendly. Upon arrival at my destination, I quickly checked into the hotel & proceeded upstairs to my room on the 2nd floor.
The overall atmosphere of Hotel North Beach was reminiscent of my stay at the Morningside Inn in New York City back in 2017. Both establishments are housed in older buildings with separate common area bathrooms that can be utilized by any of the hotel guests.
By comparison, the lobby area of Hotel North Beach was much more spacious than Morningside, but in terms of the “budget” room that I had at both establishments, the features were nearly the same (small closet, dresser, ambient lighting). Morningside had LCD flat screen TVs in every room, where North Beach did not (North Beach had traditional mid 2000s tube TVs). My room at North Beach also had an in-room sink & desk whereas my room at Morningside did not.
The nice thing about Hotel North Beach was that it was right next door to a donut shop & bakery, so I wouldn’t have to go too far for breakfast the next morning – especially being that I would be transit fanning for the entire day with Anthony & some of his friends. The hotel is also situated nearby several bus lines, so it was really easy to get to & from the hotel via transit.
It’s the holidays!
It’s almost that time again – time to gather with family and friends for Christmas and New Year’s. As with many holidays, many transit agencies operate reduced schedules on both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, with some smaller transit agencies not operating at all.
Note: A generalized overview has been provided for the initial post, as opposed to specific transit agency listings. Specific transit agency listings will be added into this post beginning on Saturday, 12/14/2019.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Most transit agencies will operate normal weekday-level service on Christmas Eve. However, some agencies may have announced exceptions – such as early end of service. Please check with your respective transit agency for the latest information.
Wednesday, December 25, 2019
Most transit agencies will either operate on a Sunday-level schedule or not operate at all on Christmas Day. Some agencies will operate special holiday schedules. Please check with your respective transit agency for the latest information.
New Year’s Eve
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Most transit agencies will operate normal weekday-level service on Christmas Eve. To accommodate NYE festivities, some agencies will operate modified/extended services. Other agencies may opt to end service early. Please visit the respective agency’s website for schedules.
New Year’s Day
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
Most transit agencies will either operate on a Sunday-level schedule or not operate at all on New Year’s Day. Some agencies will operate special holiday schedules. Please check with your respective transit agency for the latest information.
Family, Shopping, and Attractions
Thanksgiving is almost here, meaning that you can spend some quality time with family and enjoy a hearty meal. It also means that the shopping hubbub that Black Friday often brings to our various retail establishments. And on top of that, the Thanksgiving weekend is often jammed packed full of specials and savings at local attractions.
But what does this all mean for you, the transit rider? It means that you’ll need to plan accordingly to get from A to B, because many transit agencies will operate limited to no service on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 28, 2018. Thus, you’ll want to pay close attention to the listing below to see if your area’s transit agency will be operating that day.
This year, I’ve been able to gather information on a wider array o transit agencies within the US. Please keep in mind that this list is NOT INCLUSIVE of all transit agencies within the US, so if you do not see your respective agency here, please contact them directly.