memories of the morning commute to work in the city

While listening to music last evening, I reminisced about my morning commute to work in San Francisco years ago.  Some times transient thoughts and memories come into one’s mind.  Before sharing pictures taken this morning by a friend at my request, we write a little about the experiences that are a part of the commute to and from San Francisco on these electric trains.

There is a commuter train system that runs throughout most of the Bay Area and it is called BART (for Bay Area Rapid Transit system).  The commuter trains are powered by electricity and are pretty much run by computers with the train operators being there to open and close the doors at each station and to intervene if emergency stops are necessary.

If you stand at the northern end of the platform at the Embarcadero station, you are just a few yards from the entrance to the metal and concrete tubes that go under the bay so that the trains can travel to and from Oakland (and from there to other points in the East Bay). The tube for westbound trains, that is trains coming into San Francisco is the one to stand by for experiencing an interesting effect.

As a train approaches from a distance, the compressed air in the tube is being pushed ahead and reaches the exit of the tube, which you can be standing near to, in advance of the train by some 15 seconds or more.  One begins to feel the air coming into the station even before one hears the train approach.  At one point, you can actually hear it if you have good hearing.  It is somewhat like a gust of wind that lasts for some seconds. Then the train bursts forth, 10 long cars in length, and begins to slow so that when it stops it occupies the entire length of the station’s concrete platform (which must be nearly 190 or more yards in length as each car is close to 60 feet in length).

A zen moment of sorts.

When you are on the train and it passes through the transbay tube (in either direction), you also get an interesting experience.   The trains reach a maximum speed of about 72 miles per hour for a couple of minutes or so.  (The bay is fairly narrow between San Francisco and Oakland.  It widens both south and north of the city.)  At top speed, you are feeling the train rocketing along the tracks.  (If one is standing during commute hours, this effect is more noticeable.)  You are hearing the loud metallic hiss of the phalanged steel wheels riding on the rails at high speed.  This can actually get fairly loud as the sound is being thrown back at the train from the curved walls of the metal tube.  One sees the flourescent lights that line the tube racing by through the windows of the train.  Then, the computer directs the train to start braking and you feel the train begin to slow and the sound from the rails diminishes noticeably in strength.

Upon exiting the train at Embarcadero station, you make your way up a couple of escalators to reach the street.  Now, on Market Street, you look skyward.  The ego of the individual is squashed.  Office towers of concrete, steel and glass – 30, 40, up to 50 stories tall – tower above you.  Downtown San Francisco is not Manhattan, nor Hong Kong – but it does have an impressive skyline.

One miscellany is that some of the train operators are young women.  And, some are quite attractive in their blue colored uniforms.

San Francisco, for some, is that seaside city of shattered dreams and shattered illusions.

Street level above the Embarcadero station on Market Street (06 August 2014).




The building we see behind the street car is One California Street.


downtown 2


An electric powered city bus.


downtown 3


The view coming up the escalator to street level.  A commuter has already come up one long escalator from the deeper level of the train system below before reaching this point.


downtown 4


Before entering the system, one needs to buy a ticket.  These machines have changed much since the time of my commuting.  Years back, these were much simpler in appearance and did not have so many functions.


downtown 7


Insert your ticket with its magnetic strip here and take it with you as you enter the station. The ticket is returned to you through the horizontal surface above the red gates.  On exiting, one repeats the process and sees the fare deducted from the ticket.


downtown 6


A view of the station before one descends to the platform where the trains come in.

“And if your train’s on time, you can get to work by nine.”  – Bachman Turner Overdrive


downtown 8


This person is not a BART rider, so we do not have pics of the trains.  The four downtown underground stations are actually dual stations where both BART and the local municipal public railway (street cars) each have platforms (on different levels) for commuters.  MUNI is the name of the city’s public transit system.


downtown 5


The entrance to the MUNI part of Embarcadero station.  This is very different from the years when I commuted.  Previously, there were small metal turnstile type gates for access to the MUNI stations.


downtown 9


copyright 2014 –

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