Published Friday, February 18, 2005, in the San Mateo Daily Journal
No quick solution for delays
By Dana Yates
Daily Journal Staff
Peninsula BART riders can expect more delays on the 10-mile stretch
between San Bruno, SFO and Millbrae as officials sort out a
frustrating computer problem with its new switching system that
was designed to -- ironically -- move trains faster.
Representatives from the East Coast computer company that installed
the switching system visited the site last week and concluded there
was definitely a problem. Now they've retreated back to the East
Coast -- with $40,000 -- and BART has no idea when they'll be back
to fix the problem, said spokesman Linton Johnson.
The payment is in addition to what BART already spent to install
the system less than two years ago, Johnson said.
BART started using the new system in September when it changed its
scheduling. Since then, the computer glitch involving rail switches
at a complicated maze of tracks near San Francisco International
Airport has delayed trains anywhere between two and 20 minutes.
The San Bruno, SFO and Millbrae stations were opened in June 2003
after years of delays. The switching system at SFO was tested, but
Johnson claims there was no way of foreseeing these "sporadic"
problems that occur up to three times a week.
Now train operators are required to go outside and switch the tracks
manually before continuing on to the stations.
Johnson admits that 20 percent of BART's delays are caused by
problems in the 10 miles of tracks between San Bruno, SFO and
Millbrae. The rest of the delays are caused by problems distributed
throughout the system's remaining 94 miles of tracks.
Part of the problem is how people perceive the delays, Johnson said.
If someone misses a bus by five minutes, that's all they are going
to remember about their experience with BART, Johnson said.
But they'll return because BART has a 94 percent on-time rate,
That number is based on customer arrival time and not train
arrivals, which only pull into the stations on time 88 percent of
the time -- shy of BART's target.
Trains that are running late for any reason will have their number
reassigned to the next approaching train. It's called "rolling
numbers" and it keeps the schedule running as smooth as possible,
BART then speeds up the oncoming train and manages to get most
riders to their destination within five minutes of the scheduled
While that is a better statistic than most airlines, Johnson
admitted there are serious flaws.
"There's no denying there are too many delays for BART customers.
I wouldn't be surprised if they try a different mode of
transportation," Johnson said, adding that he believes they will
return because overall the service is good and traffic congestion
Dana Yates can be reached by e-mail: dana@...
phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106. What do you think of this story?
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[BATN: See also:
SMCo. BART ghost train, signal system snafus snarl service
SMCo. BART "beta test" control software stumbles again
Letter: Regular transit user defends Caltrain vs BART
BART has "strategy" to fix SMCo. train-delaying software bug
SMCo. BART software bug delaying trains by up to 30 min.
Column: Software bug plagues SMCo. BART