Friday, December 15, 2006

Escape from The People Mover

Transporting oneself from Civic Center to the San Francisco Airport...

...has become easy and inexpensive thanks to the new BART line that extends past Daly City to Millbrae and the airport.

Of course, the new line is a disaster in terms of ridership because the urban planners somehow didn't bother wondering if people would change their commuting habits, even though the northern Peninsula was already being well served by the buses of SamTrans and the commuter trains of CalTrain...

...not to mention Highways 101 and 280.

The original plan was to have BART stop a couple of miles to the west of the airport and then have people transported by "people movers" to the actual terminals, but after enough uproar the plans were changed so that the BART train actually pulls into a station just off the new International Terminal.

The traveler is then supposed to take the AirTrain people mover to the other terminals for domestic travel.

However, you should not, and I repeat NOT, take the billion-dollar AirTrain because getting from one of its stations to the actual terminal usually involves elevators, stairs, escalators and a ridiculous trip to the basement garage.

Instead, if you're going to Terminal 3, which houses United and American Airlines, continue walking gaily forward and follow the signage down various corridors until you finish the short trip.

If you are going to Terminal 1, the following are instructions for a fifteen-minute walk that will get you there without undue hardship.

First, walk diagonally past all the empty ticket counters in the useless, multi-biillion dollar International Terminal, which opened sometime around 2001 when foreign tourists decided the United States wasn't looking all that attractive as a destination anymore.

The terminal was never necessary in the first place because there aren't enough runways to expand capacity, and the ecologically minded Bay Area was never going to fall in line with Mayor Willie Brown, Jr.'s egregious plans to fill in a section of San Francisco Bay for a few new runways. His point man on the landfill project, by the way, was his legislative hatchet man with the hippy-dippy name Stuart Sunshine.

The saddest aspect is that the recent incarnation of San Francisco International Airport was just about a perfect little airport, with its three contiguous terminals along an arc and easy driving entrances and exits. Now it's an overbuilt, overdesigned mess that is a monument to graft.

"Mo" Bernstein was the Airport Commission President for decades but he died in 1991, when the post was filled by one of the more unsavory characters in San Francisco, Larry Mazzola, whose multigenerational family dynasty gains its power from the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union which he leads. That's the same union that was recently charged by the federal government for fraud after they siphoned off millions of dollars of pension money to their casino operation at Konocti Harbor in Clear Lake. It's also the same union that is trying to tear down its neighboring Civic Center Hotel on Market Street because it despises poor people and wants to put up luxury condos in place of the SRO hotel.

But enough nattering about San Francisco's casual corruption, you need to know the secret path to Terminal 1. Cross the empty terminal diagonally until you're following a back corridor with a San Francisco MOMA store.

When you smell the burnt coffee at the Emporio Rulli cafe, hang a left.

Look for the signage that directs you to "Domestic Terminals."

Take a long escalator ride... a lonely corridor...

...until you hit Peet's Coffee, which means you're finally in Terminal 1...

...which is almost as empty as the International Terminal.

There is signage on the walls that the AirTrain people mover station "is Getting Closer!" in 2007...

...probably after another billion dollars of public funds have gone down a very corrupt drain.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your report, Michael.

I waited for years with great anticipation for BART to the airport to be completed - but I've had enough bad experiences that I don't take it any more. It seems to be designed to make the trip as confusing, inefficient and difficult as possible.

Air travel is stupid and exhausting enough nowadays that BART's ineptitude is the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Here are some suggestions to increase BART ridership to the airport.

1. Run trains more frequently.

2. Stop gouging the riders with the high fares to the airport.

3. Run all the trains to the airport rather than stopping half at Daly City or wherever. And I think some go first to Milbrae and others first to the airport - what's the sense of that? It's a tiny loop.

4. Run the AirTrain in one direction only and more frrequently.

5. Coordinate the AirTrains with the BART trains so you don't have to wait twice.

cubbie said...

last night, i was in the airport, lost and confused, waiting to pick up my mom from the airport, and i called my partner, and my partner said, "wait! civic center blog says how to get to where you are going. let me look it up." so thank you, civic center blog for knowing where i was going, and how it is insane there.