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July 30, 2008 > Back On Track

Back On Track

BART restores full-speed service to Fremont line

By Aditya Anand

The story of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) began by taking a page out of Jules Verne's novel: the idea of connecting the East Bay to San Francisco through an underwater tube. This vision became a reality in the 1970s when the first BART train cars rolled along 70 miles of newly laid tracks. Today, almost thirty years after its inception, the rail service's story is no longer one of future technology, but one of resilience.

On May 10, a series of electrical fires erupted at BART's Hayward train maintenance yard leading to physical damage of integral equipment. The Hayward control tower which allocated the movement of trains was damaged, leading to a loss of automatic control over the Fremont line south of Hayward station. This resulted in a reduction of the normal two-line service to Fremont down to one line. The Fremont-Richmond train stopped and reversed at Bay Fair Station for the past two months, creating numerous delays for passengers.

Natalie Munn of Fremont was concerned with BART delays. "My ticket cost the same, my BART parking pass still costs nearly $70 a month, and my trip time appears to have nearly doubled." Because of fewer trains, and slower service, she experienced almost 30 minute delays. Myan Do, a Fremont resident and student at UC Berkeley, also took the Fremont-Richmond line daily to get to class. Delays forced her to miss class on one occasion because the once 45-minute train took an hour and a half to reach Berkeley.

To eliminate delays, BART maintenance crews have been working 24 hours daily to repair damaged equipment. As of July 14, BART was proud to announce that full-speed service was restored to the Fremont line, and trains would no longer stop at Bay Fair. BART Chief Engineer Don Allen apologized for delays and reminded passengers that there is still "a lot more work to get the Hayward Yard fully operational." Tom Blalock, BART Board Vice President stated, "I'm grateful the daily delays some riders experienced are finally over."

This is not the first time BART has suffered from damages to the rail system. In 2005, an electronic "collector's shoe" fell off a train in San Leandro which resulted in closing the station for an hour. The next year, a substation that powered the BART's electrical third rail near South Hayward caught fire. Fremont, Union City, and South Hayward stations were shut down and AC Transit buses were used to shuttle riders to each city, while firefighters quickly extinguished the flames. Although this year's fire at the Hayward yard was more extensive than previous incidents, the ability of BART personnel to respond swiftly and efficiently has not diminished. As a testament to their efforts, BART service has, as of last week, been restored to the schedule created on January 1, 2008, one month ahead of expectations.

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