How to survive the daily commute: Silicon Valley

lauraevemcleod / June 25, 2017

I currently live in the Bay Area, so this means I use BART a lot. To help you stand or sit coolly alongside the other 60,000 commuters daily, I put together a few notes and observations to help you settle into your Silicon Valley grind.

BART map
via BART

I always found BART rather weird to navigate but its really quite simple because its small and the lines are clearly marked with the destination. Nevertheless, here are some pointers you might find to be helpful.

Headphones? Who needs ’em

The BART is loud. Really really loud, i.e. 100 decibels in certain areas of the system. BART’s not alone; I recall the Victoria Line suffering similar issues. However BART’s high-pitched banshee wail is pretty idiosyncratic.

I have therefore found that attempting to listen to any kind of playlist on BART a little troublesome because that wail just cuts right through most things and prevents it really from being a particularly enjoyable and uninterrupted audio experience.

So take a set of headphones with you, but I’ve certainly found my listening hours decrease on this commute.

Also you really do need to keep an ear out for important announcements on BART. Drivers announce changes and delays, and these can be regular in the morning. So take a break from your Spotify bubble and enjoy being connected to your travel updates.

Use the platform markers

There are black rectangular markers on the platform floor, which point out where the doors will be. Use these, they’re handy. Especially because some cars only have 6 cars compared to ten, so aim for the middle and you’ll get yourself on a train much quicker.

Wait in line to get onboard

I find this fact so polite, I really do. BART riders form lines where the black platform markers sit, so there’s an orderly queue for boarding the train doors. This is BART etiquette. Make sure you follow suit by picking a line and wait at the end of it.

Clipper cards come from Walgreens

A lot of stations don’t carry Clipper cards. You can pick these up and top them up at places like Walgreens. You can also start an online account and track your balance, top-up and get receipts from there. You don’t need a Clipper to ride BART, but if you want to ride the ferry or buses you’ll need one. For example, if you want to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausolito and get the ferry back then you’ll need a Clipper card so it’s best to get hold of one if you can and then you’re set for all occasions.

You can recharge paper cards

You don’t have to get a new paper BART ticket every time your balance runs out. You can recharge a paper ticket as long as the balance is under $19.

Check the timetable

If you’re used to living somewhere live London, Paris, New York or Berlin you’ll be fairly spoiled by the fact you largely can live life without a timetable because of the frequency of trains. BART does not work like this. Apart from the morning weekday commute, trains can be 10-15 minutes apart sometimes. Especially coming into the city from places like Downtown Berkeley or Rockridge. Its always best to check when the trains leave.

Rush hour is a real thing

BART in the morning can get real busy. I’ve often found leaving between 8am and 8:30am can result in me arriving in Oakland at the same time as leaving at 8:40am. So, work allowing, it might be better to let the city rush take place before you board. It can be quicker.

Bay Area Rides Together

This might be my favourite thing about BART, and possibly one of my favourite advertising campaigns in recent months. I think this concept of everyone being welcome and riding as a community is adorable and powerful in equal measure. I really feel this on my morning commute.

Bay Area Rides Together
via BART

Hope you enjoy riding BART with your Bay Area neighbours as much as I do. Have fun!

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