At the beginnning of the year I promised reviews of all the BART stations and that morphed into this game writing project. So, instead of going to a new BART station every week I’ve been writing the underlying infrastructure of the game; the ticketing system, the train system itself, and a skeleton of all the stops and train lines.
Now that I have a decent infrastructure I’m ready to bop around town and observe some stations. Last night’s adventure in Balboa Park, I didn’t have a lot of time to explore but I did get an interesting impression of this massive nexus for SF trains. The new glass and steel was in places very lovely while my experience of the station was still one of being in a confusing and rather dangerous labyrinth. The routes for wheelchair users are not clearly marked – at all – debouching at least twice into railyards where my path was unclear and led me to be about 2 inches from passing trains or crossing the tracks right after a train comes around a curve as I went from the station to the tiny mysterious platform where you wait for the inbound J train. Granted that’s in a railyard so not likely the trains would be going fast. But it’s unsafe.
Despite that I kind of enjoyed my wanderings and liked seeing the evening MUNI trains trundle into their little homes! (Huge long sheds for maintenance; I am so curious to see inside them a bit more!)
Balboa Park is the end point and railyard for MUNI as well as being a BART station, with Cameron Beach Yard and Green Light Rail Center for train maintenance. Historically several other train lines had railyards here.
The maze like brutalism of this station has a sort of charm when I consider that it’s in part because it’s a station designed around the needs of trains, not the needs of people. As it’s next to a highway, the surrounding landscape of the station is designed to hold space for trains AND cars, with pedestrian bridges as an afterthought. Like little ants or wheeled beetles we crawl around on the concrete and steel geography, lacking rails, in our unruly swarms. Servitors of the machine! Hail the mighty ones! Temple of the trainyard! etc.
To enhance this station there should be more maps and diagrams, even a lovely metal 3-D model on a little pedestal, for people to understand its structure more intuitively, and more information about the history of the yards and how the trains are maintained. More elevators would also be VERY NICE.
For the surroundings, I am very interested in my next visit to go to Pineapples a few blocks away and get a Dole Whip (non alcoholic) and then visit the park itself where I noticed the playground looked like fun and there was a lively skate park.