Goal: The Civic Center Station
Wednesday was my first full day in San Francisco and I was on my own. My friends were all at work (as I knew they’d be) but I was empowered by two guidebooks and the BART train schedule. My hotel was a few blocks from the BART: Colma Station. It was a bright sunny day (little did I know at the time how rare that would be!) and I was determined to conquer the BART.
The walkway to Colma Station had been pointed out to me when I was picked up at SFO Airport the night before. It was down the hill and across the street. At night, it could easily be seen as a wide passage between two lit buildings. During the day, it was not so well lit although easily visible. The path to the station was lined with trees. The stairs were bordered by tall trees and overhung with bright orange flowers.
One of the first things to surprise me was that the pedestrian crossing buttons at the street corners actually work. They don’t always work here but San Francisco is a pedestrian’s city. The lights provide enough time for a normally-abled person to make it across the street. They flash when the time is running out (the downtown street crossing lights even countdown time before it becomes dangerous to cross the street).
As I entered the Colma Station, I noticed the smell immediately. A lot of the San Francisco I visited smelled of urine because of the large homeless population attracted to the temperate climate. Signs to the left and right pointed to machines to buy tickets for the BART and MUNI. Ahead of me were stairs that I later learned led to short-term parking. An attendant sat in a glass cage with sign prominently displayed: Attendant has no cash.
I had no idea how much to spend for the train. How much would it cost to travel San Francisco for 6 days? The signs indicated that cards were reloadable so I put in $20. Surely that would keep me busy for at least a day!
Colma Station is pretty close to the end of the line. There were train platforms on either side. One side led into the city; the other led towards SFO. My goal was downtown.
The trains of San Francisco are loud! Why didn’t anyone warn me? Doesn’t anyone measure those things with decibabl meters? Aren’t there noise laws?
How would I know which station to get off? The station signs aren’t easy to see unless you already know what you’re looking for. (Another thing I learned as I explored San Francisco was that San Francisco is not easy to navigate unless you already know what you’re looking for.) Some of the trains have conductors who announce the stops. Some of the trains have conductors who speak loudly enough for passengers to hear the stop announcements. If you ask someone who looks like a native (look for a long scarf), the natives are kind to visitors and will answer questions and provide guidance. questions.
By following the stops outlined on the train schedule, I was able to disembark at the Civic Center station. Time to start exploring!