The problem that began Wednesday when 50 BART cars were jolted out of service due to a voltage spike near the end of the Pittsburg/Bay Point line will not be solved quickly, BART is assuring us, and Friday morning's commute began with delayed trains and shorter, overcrowded trains due to the cars that remain out of commission. As ABC 7, the Chronicle, and pretty much everyone is reporting, there are 20-minute delays in the East Bay-bound direction, but the biggest headache may be for passengers who use the Pittsburg/Bay Point station who all have use a bus bridge and begin their commute at North Concord/Martinez not to mention every single person commuting from the East Bay who thought BART trains couldn't get any more crowded than they've already been lately.
And, yes, the voltage spike, which is damaging a critical part of the propulsion system on BART cars, is similar to the one that was occurring between West Oakland and the Transbay Tube a few weeks ago which took a total of 80 cars out of service. The big problem is that the agency still hasn't identified what causing the spikes, and as of Thursday they were flying in outside experts to help. Some at BART speculate that the problem may relate to some third-rail insulator "cleaning" that occurred back in August, as the Chron reports, on elevated track near West Oakland.
Communications head Alicia Trost says that despite their not yet being able to identify the source of the trouble, "There’s no safety risk or concern for any of the passengers." This graphic from March 17, which stresses that BART has more of its fleet in service than most of the nation's transit agencies (87%), shows exactly how many cars are out right now: 85.
Also, BART announced that there will be late-night single-tracking this weekend between South Hayward and Fremont, causing 35- to 40-minute delays after 10 p.m. due to "important electrical work."
It's been a big week for BART news, with Tuesday's video of that first of the new fleet of cars heading west on a truck for testing. But Wednesday's voltage issue and the ensuing chaos it caused ended up making national headlines after BART's official Twitter account began responding with some unexpected candor to commuters about the woes it's facing vis a vis its aging infrastructure. Wired took up the topic of the Twitter strategy and found that it was the work of a single 27-year-old communications employee, Taylor Huckaby, who made the unilateral decision Wednesday evening to begin telling it like it is while he was in charge of managing the Twitter account. He's only worked for BART for a year, and he didn't get any higher-ups' approval for what he did, but it looks like it's not getting him fired his boss actually praised him for making a conversation out of what was a stream of "pretty much abuse."
@shakatron BART was built to transport far fewer people, and much of our system has reached the end of its useful life. This is our reality.— SFBART (@SFBART) March 17, 2016
@lisabari To illustrate this point - the number of people who exit at 19th street in Oakland has doubled in less than a decade.— SFBART (@SFBART) March 17, 2016
Huckaby says he got fed up with coming into work and wondering why they couldn't just be frank with the public about just how seriously fucked the system is. "We would go 'Oh my god, look at all these people that are saying XYZ terrible things about BART. If only they knew, if only they knew.'" (To be fair, a year ago, around the time Huckaby was barely getting oriented, BART was being frank about how deep and extensive their track maintenance problems were, admitting that 80 percent of the tracks had outlived their useful life well over a decade ago, though that does not relate directly to this electrical issue.)
He has a point, though, that a government agency that resorts to platitudes and "anodyne responses" only looks less competent than one that owns up to its failures.
Per the Times:
Mr. Huckaby, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public transit administration at San Jose State University, worked as an undergraduate as the new-media director for the re-election campaign of Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
But he said he lost his faith in the conservative cause after an argument with his supervisors in the campaign over a tax cut made him question his political orientation. He became a registered Democrat and grew to be passionate about infrastructure spending.
You can expect this voltage problem, and BART delays to dominate the news for a bit, given that BART employees are talking parts on damaged cars that could take 22 weeks to order, and you can expect a lot of looks like this, from commuters.
Right Now: Long line of people getting on bus headed to Concord/Martinez Bart station pic.twitter.com/KnRXPA36Ye— Janet O (@JanetONews) March 18, 2016