What's causing the BART delays?

May 16, 2008 5:39:40 PM PDT
When temperatures heat up on days like this, commuters are encouraged to take public transportation like BART.

BART reps are calling what happened Thursday an extraordinary event.

Having one or two delays on a hot day they say happens. But having multiple failures is very rare, and they blamed it all on the heat.

On Thursday afternoon in the middle of a heat wave, BART operators had to manually crank the switches to move tracks throughout the Bay Area, and the mechanism inside stopped working.

"If we get rid of these switches and replace them with stuff that can stand up to the heat, then we wouldn't have as many of these delays we had yesterday and possibly tonight," said BART spokesperson Linton Johnson.

Johnson says once the temperature soared, the delays went into overdrive. Commuters had to wait on hot platforms for more than a half hour, and then pack into crowded trains.

He says the system could fail again if it gets hot enough.

"If we could replace all 500 switches, we'd be reducing our incidents, delay incidents dramatically when the heat comes," said Johnson.

It would cost $12 million. Money BART says the governor cut from the budget.

"I think it needs to be a priority for the citizens to be able to get to where they need to go and I'm sure something can be done perhaps," said San Leandro resident Janet Hanson.

Many switches are 35 years old. And even though some, at several of the newer stations are not, the technology inside is the same.

The delays are also caused by boxes overheating. They control the speed and location of the trains.

"It slows down the whole system so when this train stops, the train behind it stops, the train behind it stops and creates a ripple effect," said Johnson.

"It's annoying it really is. I don't know what they're going to do about it," said Berkeley resident Donald Dixon.

Some commuters were delayed by an hour on Thursday.

"It was kind of frustrating a little bit but I understand the heat and everything, we just put up with it," said San Ramon resident Charles Gonzalez.

BART admits that even if they had enough money to replace the switches, it's not considered a top priority.

So it might not get done this year or next.


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