Bay Area Trip 1997

Friday, April 4:

I rode Metrolink from Chatsworth to Burbank Airport station

I arrived at San Jose Airport around 9:30 am. I looked around for, and find the VTA (Santa Clara County local bus) stop for a shuttle to take me to the light rail station. The first VTA bus that pulls up to the stop is going to Santa Clara, in the opposite direction. A few minutes later, a smaller bus, marked "Free Light Rail Shuttle" pulls up. (it's about 20 minutes late according to the printed schedule). I, along with one or two other passengers boarded the shuttle and rode to the Metro/Airport light rail station.

At the light rail station, I paid $2.20 for a pass good for an entire day's travel on VTA. One of the passenger s who also rode from the airport said thathe was from Salt Lake City (where a similar light-rail system is being planned)and that he was taking a look at the VTA light rail "to see what it's like".

After checking in at my hotel, I boarded light rail again for the trip to the Caltrain station at Tamien.

Although there are automated ticket machines at Tamien Caltrain station,they didn't offer the reduced offpeak fares ($1 lower than regular fare) available on the train I would be riding, so I purchased tickets on the train. Caltrain took about an hour and a half to get to San Francisco. The ride quality seemed to be a small bit "bumpier" than Metrolink, especially through Santa Clara county. . .

The Caltrain finally arrived at 4th/Townsend, just outside of Downtown San Francisco. While waiting for a bus to take me to Downtown San Francisco,I walked over to the nearby light-rail construction. . .

In about 15 minutes or so, a Muni #15 bus (standing-room only diesel artic)arrived, and I rode it to Market St. While riding, I noticed that, although there didn't seem to be as much graffiti as in years past, a couple of the windows looked like they had been shot at with a pellet gun.

I got off the #15 at Market Street, which is choked with cars and people. I originally wanted to ride one of the Market Street #F-line streetcars, but after waiting over 15 minutes for one, I decided to ride the Muni Metro instead. Using my transfer, I boarded the Muni Metro #J (one of the old Boeings) and ride to Market/Dolores, where I stopped for lunch. While eating, Isaw plenty of F-line streetcars and shiny, silvery new Breda streetcars pass by.

Later, I boarded one of the new streetcars on the #J line; it had a nicer,smoother ride than those old Boeings! Perhaps the #J line is the most scenic of any of Muni's streetcars, especially the part through Dolores Park where it uses its own right-of-way. The "new" rail along San Jose Ave is fun to ride also. I rode to the end of the line (the Balboa Park BART station) and prepared to board BART . . .

Arriving BART trains in underground stations do create a noticeable breeze,much stronger than the LA Metro subway . . .The BART trip to Walnut Creek was uneventful (I had planned to ride out to the new Pittsburg station, but did not).

At Walnut Creek BART, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the local transit information center had been moved from across the street to inside the BART station itself.

I'd never been to the San Ramon Valley, so I boarded County Connection #121.After traveling through suburban Walnut Creek, #121 traveled via the narrow, rural roads of Alamo and Danville. Although the bus was quite full(almost a full seated load) on leaving Walnut Creek, there was little, if any off/on activity over most of its route. Most people alighted in San Ramon;the bus was still about half-full by the time I left it at the Bishop Ranch Business Park.

(The bus traveled on overpasses above I-680 from time to time; I-680 looked extremely crowded northbound, even the HOV lane was at a near standstill).

The Bishop Ranch Business Park had just completed a new "transit center". This was a typical multi-bus stop (called an "exchange" north of the border, or so I am told) with fancy glass windbreaks (hard to see through) and restrooms(closed during off-hours, although bus drivers have keys and *might* let a passenger use them during breaks). The transit center still needed some finishing touches, such as a news rack.

My original plan was to transfer to one of the BART Express buses for a trip to Dublin/Pleasanton, or back to Walnut Creek. But a quick glance at the BART Express Bus schedule indicated that another BART express bus would not be due for some time, and the aforementioned freeway traffic would probably make it even later. So, I reluctantly rode #121 back to Walnut Creek (by that time it was starting to get dark, and was fully dark by the time we returned to the BART station). Again, I was pleasantly surprised to note that the bus was rather full, although not quite as full as on the earlier trip.

I caught BART to MacArthur Station, then transferred across the platform(the other train was waiting there) to a Fremont train. The Fremont train was pretty full leaving MacArthur, but slowly emptied out along the East Bay. . .

At Fremont, I discovered that, with the exception of the VTA bus to San Jose,all connecting local bus service stops running around 7-8 p.m. My VTA #180 wasn't due for about an hour or so. . . # 180 arrived around 9:12 p.m, and about 10-12 passengers (including myself) boarded. This trip was run by one of VTA's newest buses (the Gilligs), with (comparatively rare) cushioned seats! "Oooh, this bus is comfortable! Like a Greyhound!" some passengers squealed. . .

We traveled along I-680, Milpitas local streets and I-880 (no traffic congestion this time of night!) and arrived in Downtown San Jose. I transferred to the Light Rail and noticed a very full (standing room only)southbound light rail vehicle, which surprised me again! Eventually, I boarded a northbound light rail car (which also had a few other passengers,although not as many as the southbound trip) and completed my trip.

Saturday, April 5:

The next day, a friend and I rode light rail to Downtown, where we boarded VTA #68 to Gilroy. The trip was interesting, with lots of rural areas, farms and two-lane roads between South San Jose and Morgan Hill/Gilroy. #68is one of VTA's more productive routes, and this trip was no exception,even in the most rural portions of the route.

We alighted #68 in Gilroy, and, after lunch, rode #17, a one-way loop linking residential portions of Gilroy with downtown, and the new "outlet" shopping center. #17 even drove into a Walmart par king lot to pick up and discharge passengers near the main door. (This route used short 30-foot buses, and had generally decent ridership for a route of this size and type). As we traveled,we noticed a small bus marked "County Express" somewhere along t he route; was this the San Benito County bus service?

We returned to San Jose via #68 and the Light Rail (we transferred at Santa Clara). On the light rail, we got to see a wheelchair user board via the wayside lift (seemed to be a slower process than the on-board lifts used at San Diego) and discovered that Virginia Station is the only VTA light rail station without a connection to any other transit . . .

All in all, a fun trip.

(When I returned to Burbank Airport on Apr 6, I rode Amtrak back to Chatsworth, since Metrolink doesn't run on Sunday. . .cost about the same as Metrolink would($4.50), another pleasant surprise. . .)

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