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BART SFO ridership 37% less than expected so far

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  • 7/8 San Mateo Journal
    Published Tuesday, July 8, 2003, in the San Mateo Daily Journal Travelers slowly getting used to Millbrae station By Dana Yates Daily Journal Staff Two weeks
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 8 4:17 PM
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      Published Tuesday, July 8, 2003, in the San Mateo Daily Journal

      Travelers slowly getting used to Millbrae station

      By Dana Yates
      Daily Journal Staff

      Two weeks after the BART extension in Millbrae held its grand
      opening, growing crowds of commuters and airport travelers are
      sorting through confusing signs to find their way to their next
      destination.

      The Millbrae station is the largest hub on the BART line and the size
      alone leaves some visitors lost and confused. But regular commuters
      have been quick to catch on.

      "It's definitely something you have to get used to," said San
      Francisco International Airport traveler Dana Lee. "There are a few
      more gates to get through from the train platform."

      The Millbrae station opened June 22 and connects South Bay commuters
      via CalTrain to BART. Fliers can then catch BART to SFO. Although the
      grand opening of the station was hyped up for more than a year, the
      number of riders is lower than expected.

      BART officials were expecting to see 38,000 riders a day on the
      entire line by this time but are only at 24,000 people. About 2,600
      people start their journey from Millbrae every day, said BART
      spokesman Mike Healey.

      Both BART and CalTrain have no way of knowing for sure how many
      people are making transfers from the train to BART. However, they do
      know that an average of 1,060 people take both BART and CalTrain each
      day. Millbrae is the only station that connects the two, said
      CalTrain spokeswoman Jayme Maltbie.

      Those commuters are making an easy transition and only have a few
      standard complaints, said Millbrae station employee Kevin Anderson.
      People arriving from BART and transferring to CalTrain must go up and
      over the tracks to get to southbound trains -- a path that confuses
      some and frustrates others, Anderson said.

      Commuters seems to be taking the changes in stride and adapting well
      despite a few quirks in schedules, signs and ticketing.

      "It's been pretty good. I've been riding it since day one and it
      saves me 10 to 15 minutes each day," said Redwood City resident
      George Kucera.

      Kucera commutes to work in San Francisco everyday by CalTrain and
      BART. Although it costs him twice as much, he does not have to take
      Muni buses in San Francisco.

      The only thing that could be improved is the schedule, Kucera said.
      At 4:25 p.m. both BART and southbound CalTrain arrive at their
      platforms but the train doesn't always wait for transferring
      passengers. Kucera has missed the train by mere seconds before.
      However, another train arrives 20 minutes later.

      Infrequent travelers making transfers to and from the Millbrae
      Station are having a harder time adapting.

      Lee was returning from a two-week business trip to Taiwan that
      started the day BART opened. The SFO BART station, located in the
      international terminal, was the first thing he noticed when he came
      home. Just steps from the gates, Lee found it convenient but began to
      feel frustrated once he arrived in Millbrae.

      BART trains don't have luggage racks, Lee said. He was also
      disappointed by the lack of signs directing him to the train
      platform, and the gates that aren't big enough for some luggage.

      Lee travels to Taiwan four to five times a year and thinks it was
      easier when there was shuttle service to the airport. The CalTrain
      shuttle would leave from the old Millbrae station and correspond with
      the train schedule. Currently, BART and CalTrain are trying to
      coordinate their schedules, but if one is running late the other one
      won't wait.

      Schedules might be harder to fix than signs. Some new signs have been
      added to elevators where people continue to press the wrong button.

      Despite the minor flaws the station is connecting the Bay Area in
      ways we haven't seen before. Yesterday, Nate Ota of Berkeley was
      returning from Colorado by plane, train and automobile. Ota took BART
      from the airport to Millbrae and then a train to Burlingame where his
      car was parked at a friend's house. He often takes BART to San
      Francisco and said he was happy with the trip. Ota said he will
      probably leave his car at home next time and take BART directly to
      the airport.


      Dana Yates can be reached by e-mail: dana@... or by
      phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106. What do you think of this story? Send
      a letter to the editor: letters@...
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