Fabulous visit to Fruitvale BART station

I set out on a sunny afternoon to Fruitvale BART. The station itself is aboveground, elevated, and kind of beautiful. It has glassed in sides that angle outward on either side of the tracks (there are 2 platforms) And a partial roof that comes out from the sides to shelter the platform, which have another angled …. thing… I can’t describe this, argh! Each platform has one side completely glassed in, and then the on side closer to the train there’s a little angled bit that comes down over the platform, with little bart-train-window shaped windows in it, so that from one platform while there is a train in the station, you look up, and those little windows make it look like a WHOLE OTHER TRAIN is floating in the sky above the real train! And, the entire glass part of the platform shelter looks kind of like a giant glass BART car! Is it just in my imagination or has anyone else noticed this amazingness?

On the ground floor I did have a look at a wall of tiles painted mostly by local schoolchildren.

Then I headed out to the plaza just outside the station entrance. Wow it’s so nice! There are little stands (veggies, fruit, caramel corn/lemonade, fancy shea butter soap, textiles, mostly guatemalan woven stuff) and then a nice plaza with a fountain, lots of seating, lots of places to get delicious food, pastries, ice cream. The library is also right there though the entrance is around the corner. I was hanging out outside eating my delicious cornmeal fried fish & chips (perfect) and just going, OK, why is it so damn nice here?! A family went by with some very excited little kids jumping up and down and i realized as t hey approached why the kids were excited – the dad had a bunny in a little soft hutch carrier. Another guy walked by a while later from the other direction with an african grey parrot in an ornate white iron cage on a handtruck. The parrot was upside down, squawking, and clearly having a blast. (For a while I owned an african grey and so I know what they are like!) People in the burger joint talked with me. Some random other lady conversed with me about hair in the nicest way. Another lady and I had a laugh about the bunny. So i was thinking OK this is also how 24th and Mission could be and even is sometimes but it always has more of an edge. But… but it **could**. Anyway, it also was refreshingly not full of young bankers looking bewildered as they eat a dusty bagel in front of a bored security guard (Montgomery station…. that plaza with the fake checkers behind the mechanics monument…. I’m looking at you).

While I was there a nearby high school must have been on lunch hour because the plaza was cheerfully full of teenagers. Can I just say also I ended up chatting with all sorts of people. A friendly public space. I went shopping for a bit and came back to have ice cream (coconut + mamey) from the shop inside Fruitvale Public Market. I hope that the plaza outside the Richmond station can someday be this pleasant – it has the potential to be.

The library was a nice place to work – I found a quiet corner with rocking chair and free wifi by the window overlooking where the trains pull in. And, after work I looked at the local history and Native American history section, found a book on my list to read too (The Ohlone of Central California: People at the Edge of the World, by Betty Morrow). It was short so I had a quick read through and took notes for my game project. The social justice section was strong in this library as you would expect. There was a nice shelf of cheap books for sale by the elevator up top, then below at the entrance a shelf of equally nice free books and a lot of bulletin boards.

Another little plaza to the.. west? is connected and has mosaic circles in the ground and on a large bench (a sun/moon face) and a beautiful mosaic archway.

Anyway as I wandered around kind of randomly I decided I love this neighborhood. I’ll be back to hang out!

From the southbound platform I looked for the Oscar Grant mural but could only see a half of a face sketched onto a wall across the street. That may not have been it? The station was under construction so I may have just not been able to see the mural. I remember his horrible murder like it was yesterday and did NOT realize that was TEN YEARS AGO. Y’all.

Index to all posts describing my BART station visits

Calle 24 Cultural Crime #9823468

Really hating how the McDonald’s at 24th and Mission blasts classical music all hours of the day. It ruins the beautiful soundscape of both BART plazas which normally have several flavors of latin music going at once.

They’re doing it to discourage “loitering” but this is a public space specifically designed for people to enjoy being in! It’s extremely obnoxious – offensive!

I kind of get doing it at midnight but…. just no!

Visit to Richmond BART station

Today I voyaged to Richmond BART! It was very exciting!

It’s an aboveground platform with a large concourse underneath. Amtrak also comes here! Right next to the BART platform, across a nicely landscaped garden with trees, the California Zephyr pulled up with tremendous clanging and excitement. You get to the Amtrak platform from the concourse level using a separate elevator. (I am already planning wild trips to Truckee, Fresno, and Elko, Nevada.)

A giant mural/sculpture by our old friend, William Mitchell, is in the concourse level. It’s bright greeny-blue and reddish orange, wild and glistening. It is supposed to evoke underwater sea life and also something Aztec, but it also made me think of shell mounds and of a giant lizard. You can get right up to it and feel its smooth, weird shapes.

Long sloping ramps and an elevator in a large distinctive red structure at the station’s east entrance. A bit like the prow of a ship. Orange California Poppies blooming in the sun.

To the east there were several little Mexican/Central American markets. You are not going to find a coffee shop or a latte within a couple miles of here but you can get good groceries. It reminded me of neighborhoods I grew up in, in Detroit.

Downtown is half a mile to the east, an easy scoot or walk. The Civic Center, which includes an auditorium, is big, spacious, deserted looking at 2pm, and very red-bricky; the library is pleasant. I browsed their shelves and found a good collection of Native American history and literature books. (Research for Transitory.) Lots that isn’t in the SFPL system. There is an elevator to the 2nd floor, to get to it, you have to get the nice librarians to let you behind their circulation desk.

And their Seed Lending Library is very good! I took a Cupcake Papaver somniferum poppy packet and some Golden Sweet Pea that has pretty flowers that you can eat. Best use of little card catalogue style drawers… intriguing to open and riffle through. I have some seeds in envelopes that I could bring to donate next time.

seed library drawers

ON the west side of the station there is an interesting nook or two, one with a terraced hanging garden and the other with a bench underneath three big murals of the history of Richmond, On the Right Track by Daniel Galvez and Jos Sances. I liked the murals themselves and underneath each one there was a bas relief sculpture of different trains throughout the region’s history including a Pullman car, one carrying the Bay Hippo, a car carrying a ship or a submarine, a fruit and veggie car, a car with a mariachi band and a jazz band, and finally an Amtrak and a BART car! It’s so adorable! I wish it were lower down so it would be easier for people to see all the details.

Check this out, the west entrance of the station. Looks like a spaceport doesn’t it?

richmond train station

To the west of the station, looked like a public housing project but a pretty nice one. Like, they tried to make it nice to be in. There were places to sit and this is also where you’ll find the convenience store most handy to the train station. There are some small colorful decorations along the walkway down Nevin street, iron railings kind of like the papel picado railings around the 16th and Mission BART stairwells. I didn’t go much further but sat and ate some chips in the sun. There was a big transit center here as well with very good maps showing places you could go on various buses. I was tempted to take the 72 bus to the Richmond Ferry (which in the library, I learned was the former Ellis Landing, built amidst huge Huchiun shellmounds. Next time maybe. Need to go back to that library and also try to make it to the Richmond Plunge and Wildcat Canyon.

ON the trip home I also would have liked to visit El Cerrito but the El Cerrito del Norte elevator is out until April 1. I was warned by several people that there is “nothing” to see in El Cerrito but I have my eye on the Ohlone Greenway and the wildflower park in the middle of it.

Almost forgot the “best” part, the quote on a big old display above the entrance to the BART concourse, sponsored by you know who:

Richmond – home of some of the country’s cleanest fuels, lubricating oils, and juicy steak-making propane.

Richmond, home of the most cringeworthy, tone-deaf, awkwardly phrased and most-containing-food-where-it-shouldn’t-be corporate slogans!

Index to all posts describing my BART station visits

Expedition to Colma BART station

The Daly City DMV turns out to be half a mile’s easy walk from the Colma BART station so I headed on down there (holding my nose) to apply for a REAL ID driver’s license. I took an ancient (original?) copy of my birth certificate, my passport, my social security card, and some tax returns to prove residency — carefully sealed in a folder in a bag tucked in the undercarriage basket of my wheelchair.

Taking the J to Balboa Park station is now kind of fun. At the front of the car, I can see out the front window (in the old style cars) during the lovely part of the trip going around the rivery curves of San Jose Avenue Hello, Islais Creek! Hello, Little Boxes! (I think Malvinia Reynolds is rude and condescending… .people live there! it’s their homes! Chill out! You don’t know what they’re like! I bet they’re nice! So judgey.)

Balboa Park has a nice little convenience store and flower shop tucked between the two BART entrances, by the way!

One of my favorite things about above ground train lines is when they go past people’s back yards. You look past the entry of their intimacy gradient and right into the dreams of the private park of their family castle. Clotheslines with washing hung out, little chairs set out in hopeful groupings, shacks that might be garden sheds or someone might be living in there, kids’ toys scattered around. Just as you start turning to Daly City there are some sweet back yards that will make you love all of humanity. There was also some interesting graffiti. Following along on the map, I mark down any nifty looking bits of a neighborhood, with cafes or restaurants or parks for future visits.

The Daly City station is surrounded by parking lots and is airy and beautiful with a view of the ocean. I look forward to exploring it.

On the way to Colma, you go underground a couple of times, through open canyon-like cuts with interesting concrete textures on the sides – I kept expecting to see vines trailing down or some swallow nests. But no, just concrete. There are nice views of the west side of San Bruno Mountain with its lights and cell towers. I thought about how to put it into my game (in the time travel to the past, probably.) When the Spanish of the Rivera y Moncada party (including Padre Francisco Palóu) arrived from the south, they camped near here and met the Urebure people (among many others).

Diarist Palou recorded visits by friendly villagers, probably the Urebure people from their bay shore village of Siplichiquin, on December 3: About two in the afternoon twenty-four heathen came to visit us from villages other than the preceding, although they speak the same language and use many of the same words as those of Monterey. They brought us their present of large tamales, more than a span across and correspondingly thick, kneaded of a dough made of very black wild seeds, resembling tar … I returned their gift with strings of beads, and the captain did the same. (from Milikin’s book)

Urebure is sometimes listed as a place name or the name of the group of people who lived in this area. I have been doing a fair bit of reading about the Ohlone aka Costanoans aka Yelamu depending on who’s naming them (in San Francisco itself, the people were the Ramaytush but they apparently hung out with the Huchiun or Chochenyo folks from the East Bay and the Miwok from the north).

San Bruno mountain itself has an Ohlone “prayer circle” somewhere (I think on the Bay side). And, here’s some info on its geology. I’d like to take a drive through its canyon road and see what I can access from a wheelchair when the weather is nicer.

OK, so, more about that later. Back to Colma.

Colma station itself opens out into a large railyard. There are bright blue buildings kind of clustered around the rows of tracks. The station itself is half underground, half exposed, like Balboa Park. There are these things like holographic rainbow reflector panels – maybe simply meant to light the underground parts of the station? Or maybe an old art project? I couldn’t figure it out. Ingress showed them as a portal called “Arcoiris”, rainbow, with mention of a descriptive plaque which I couldn’t find on the lower platform. The elevator has 2 glass sides (doors opening either direction), making the ride entertaining. Bonus: it doesn’t smell like pee! The concourse level is also the street level, and has a giant metal things hanging from the high ceiling that looks like dirty chainmail, if shrimp wore chainmail. Poking around led me to discover this is called “Leonardo’s Dream“.

Goldstein’s sculpture, a series of eight spiral shapes called “Leonardo’s Dream,” is one of the biggest pieces of public art commissioned in the Bay Area in many years. He said its hundreds of blue and green aluminum panels will be blown by the wind coming off the ocean a few miles away.

“I looked at a Leonardo drawing called ‘Deluge’ and thought it was a wonderful image for a place with all this movement,” Goldstein said. “I’m hoping that as you rush off the train in a minute or 30 seconds, you might somehow be soothed and uplifted.”

Apologies to the artist but 20 years later it did not uplift. I thought of fly swatters, I thought of gnat-speckled grease-smoked screen doors in an old diner without air conditioning where they’ve been cooking hamburgers, I thought of bug zappers and ashtrays. Someone needs to hose that sucker off. Totally crusty.

But I tried to appreciate it. Old dudes hanging around the station gawked at me as I tried to take photos of the swoopy screen doors high over head. There was one guy with an enormous reclining powerchair with a huge wagon nicely attached at the back but he didn’t return my nod (that disabled people nod… you know!) so I didn’t ask him about it as I would have liked to.

The Colma station looks to have been designed for much greater ridership than they actually see. People definitely want to get to the airport on BART but I think this station didn’t become the intermodal commuter hub it was meant to be. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever known someone to use Colma as a jumping off point to park from the Peninsula and come to SF, for that, Millbrae seems more popular.

Coming out of Colma station there is a bridge leading to a huge parking garage and then if you pass that, another pedestrian bridge across the tracks with a magnificent view of the trains, the railyard, and the huge bright blue buildings.

colma bart

There is an interesting cluster of businesses including a gym, Los Metates taqueria, a Cybele’s Pizza (pizza + brazilian food; intriguing!), Keith’s Chicken N Waffles (sweet potato & red velvet waffles?!), and Pacifica Archery which has an indoor archery range. Cross highway 280 and you will pass by an In and Out Burger and Krispy Kreme on the way to the DMV. (2 hours total waiting, not really too bad – once I had a number assigned I went outside and did some work, getting online over my phone.) Strikingly, everyone was friendly – guys from auto body shops half out in the street working on cars, people who seemed nicely concerned that I have enough room on the sidewalk (not leaping to pull each other out of the way, just regular, nice courtesy). Everyone said hello or returned my smile and nod. (Of course, smiling, because of having such a nice expedition & happy to be out in the sunny day.)

Since I had my errand to do, I didn’t explore much. There is a street of restaurants in Colma and then all the cemeteries — I hear the Italian Cemetery is amazing to visit & it’s extremely close to the BART station. So, definitely worth more visits. Next time I’ll go to the Italian Cemetery and try the chicken n waffles.

Index to all posts describing my BART station visits

Balboa Park BART station, take 1

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.

Index to all posts describing my BART station visits

24th St Mission BART station report

Starting my BART station report series with my home station, 24th St Mission. Sometimes the St is spelled out so it’s 24th Street Mission, and sometimes it’s abbreviated in station signs. You can get some overview of the neighborhood on the Calle 24 Historic District site in English and Spanish. Get ready to ramble! I’m going to just write everything that comes into my mind from my notes, memories, and researches. I hope that you will enjoy reading it and then will see this (or some other train station or place in your city) with a new perspective.

Though I can go the half mile from my house to the station under my own power, this time I got there on the bus, debouching directly in front of a bench where a guy with a 49ers jacket was sitting holding a bug-eyed chihuahua on his lap, passing by him to scoot into Taqueria El Farolito since the line was very short.

El Farolito has a narrow corridor along the kitchen where you order and wait, and small picnic tables along the wall. I can make it in there in my powerchair to order, turn around by the jukebox after I order, and make it back out, but there is nowhere my wheelchair can fit for me to sit and eat inside. No big deal. As is usual in SF taquerias you get a number and lurk around the counter listening for your number. Bonus if you understand numbers in Spanish. I got a carnitas super burrito with everything and a mexican coke to go, which comes with a little bag of chips and some napkins, in a plastic bag with handles. The handles are so useful and important for hanging the bag on the arm of my wheelchair. Mexican coke is nicer and tastier than US coke because it uses cane syrup instead of corn syrup and it comes in a pretty glass bottle.

If you can see over the counter as you wait (I cannot in this particular location) then please admire the efficiency of the burrito-makers and study their workflow. It is instructive to compare the workflow of different taquerias, for stunning speed, La Taqueria; for complexity (sometimes as many as 14 people behind the narrow counter) Pancho Villa. Keep in mind that THESE BURRITOS ARE LOVE. You are going to be nurtured by your delicious and amazing burrito. Appreciate it properly.

At some point over the years I wondered what possible connection there was between burritos and lighthouses (Faro = lighthouse in Spanish and in many romance languages from the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria on the island of Pharos). I think it is from the “home of the Mission burrito” being Febronio Ontiveros‘ El Faro taqueria. So maybe El Farolito is an offshoot of the original El Faro at 20th and Folsom.

As I was waiting two mariachis came in, one with accordion, another with guitar and an amp on a hand truck. They set up and started playing in the back of the tiny narrow restaurant. I got my own salsa in containers and headed out to eat in the BART plaza. I shared one of the square cement bench blocks with a friendly tamale lady and a couple who were discussing their plans for the day in Spanish; staying in my comfy powerchair but using the bench corner for my coke bottle and bag of chips and also putting my feet up on there from time to time. One bench over, I noticed the Raccoon Guy (a white haired and bearded grizzled older man who has hung out in this plaza for years but recently achieved viral fame for bringing a dead raccoon into the nearby McDonald‘s.) From this we can deduce that 24th and Mission is a pretty good raccoon habitat, barring accidents.

orquestra de 24

OK so this plaza, the one on the Northeast corner. I am pretty familiar with it and it is one of my favorite hangouts, sort of refreshing and beautiful to me in a special way. Yes I realize sometimes it smells like pee. Try to bear with me. When it doesn’t smell too much like pee, it’s so nice! Lively, full of action, so much to look at, excellent food for the flaneur’s soul! On weekends there are often loud preachers or a band of old dudes playing mostly Cuban music. If I get there for the music then I hang out for a few songs and put some money in their donation bin. It is a lovely scene on a sunny day with families stopping to watch, people dancing, the tall washingtonia palms far overhead against a blue sky. Even without those very organized musicians, there are frequently other musicians playing in the plaza or coming up from the BART stairwell, and music coming from someone’s portable speaker or cars or the market in the southwest plaza that’s catty-corner across the street. The buses fwoosh and beep, the distinctive train car sound swells up from underground, Norteño or salsa music comes and goes, lots of Spanish and Chinese spoken all around. It is a lively soundscape that I absolutely love.

Facing north from this plaza, you’ll see a mural on the wall of El Farolito. This is by Michael V. Rios and shows a geometric cityscape, and some determined, rather grim people shouldering train rails with a shining metal BART train riding on top. It has a nice socialist realist feel to it, as it honors the workers who built and maintain the city’s infrastructure. The gleaming futuristic train is carried on the backs of the people! Maybe the people who built it or the people who paid for it with their taxes!

Facing west, past the stairwell, there is a giant mural on the side of the Silverstone cafe in addition to the super funky and cool coffee and tea sign of Silverstone. Sorry I don’t know much about the mural and forgot to take pictures but it says something like “SOCKS” on it. More later if I go investigate, or find info about this mural online. The Silverstone Cafe itself is quite nice, and has wifi and – I didn’t know till this week’s exploration – A pretty nice patio in back! And good, low priced, (large) pastries and breakfast and sandwich type of food. The interior is beautiful with a giant wooden… bar back or mantelpiece sort of thing. Because of the TV I didn’t try to work from this cafe, though I might in future. (Instead I ended up a few blocks down 24th, at Haus, which also has a lovely patio and an accessible bathroom.) If you go that direction you could also stop by Precita Eyes and learn more about the neighborhood’s murals.

I didn’t hang out today at the southwest plaza but can say it has a pleasant street market with booth selling jewelry, souvenirs, shopping bags, belts, phone cases and chargers, headphones, shirts (often ones embroidered huipil style) and ponchos (wool). There are also sometimes flower sellers and a booth for vitamin type of things, phone plan sales. Sometimes events in the far corner under the Coffee & Mission mural like, breakdancers or rappers. This mural is on Osage St. and is by Mark Bode, Mel Waters, Dino, Nite Owl, Dagon, and Free. You may notice Mel Waters‘ distinctive style in like, a zillion other murals all over the Misson and the rest of the Bay Area. There is a big metal ventilation tower here that, in Ingress and Pokémon, is a portal named Lipstick Tube after the shape of the tower. The way the plaza is shaped in the back by the stairwell entrance makes a pretty good stage for any sort of street events. There is also a dark green kiosk-style public bathroom in this plaza. I have never used it, opting to buy a coffee or something instead to use a bathroom!

Did you ever notice the “two totemic posts” of this plaza? I hadn’t. Hang onto your hats as I want to paste in a hefty quote from the designers.

The two totemic posts in the foreground were placed to formalize a stage area already used as such by the community. Otherwise, most vertical elements were removed to open up the plaza.

The plaza was originally designed along with the underground station in 1970. The basic configuration is an open plaza paved in a concentric brick pattern that radiates out from a large circular opening in the center. The opening comprises the main station entrance, containing a stair and escalator column with recessed semicircular planters on either side.

The circular opening offered the design team a powerful theme. The circle form not only ties together design elements throughout the plaza but attempt to also communicate universal notions. The circle is an ancient form used by many civilizations. It was universal and almost always represented the sun and thence fecundity, society and important values.

Eliminating the security fencing revealed the existing great circle—being able to enter and emerge from such a shape is an unusual experience even in a famous city. The cylindrical tower (necessary to protect the existing spiral stair) acts as a beacon for the station and recalls an ancient Maya astronomical observatory. It has a south-facing skylight through which the sun illuminates colored portholes. Emerging from the circle passengers will catch a glimpse of colored sunlight—but the light will not again appear in the same spot for an entire year. Of identical shape to the tower are shiny bollards (necessary to prevent vehicle intrusion from the alley) that are positioned in various angles to reflect sunlight at different strengths when seen from a distance. Throughout the plaza can be found variations on the theme of circles, light and totems.

Nifty! (What spiral stair?! Is that what the Lipstick Tube is?! I assumed it was for ventilation!)

Back to our BART station. I did not get even halfway through the burrito. I can live off a burrito for like, three meals at LEAST. While I was sitting there a mad-eyed disheveled dude asked me and everyone nearby for change. He eventually settled down elsewhere in the plaza. Being accosted for money is likely but just take it in stride. If you like to help people you might keep some dollar bills in a pocket ready to dole out (that’s what I do) and know how to set limits on the interaction, and how to say no. It may make you uncomfortable though especially at night. Personally I feel perfectly comfortable here day and night as it is very public and well lit with tons of people around. Anyway, I sat through many buses pulling up, people walking by, tamale lady calling out her wares (tamales de pollo, de carne!) and selling some from her ice chest on wheels. She’s super nice, I see her there a lot.

I waited for the elevator with a sweet family who had been shopping (grandma, mom, and teenage daughter with her backpack worn frontways across her stomach). Three dudes were just nearby playing very loud Cuban music (excellent taste) and cat calling us (Ay mamacita!!! que estás bonitaaaaaaaa!!!!) But not like hostile cat calling, basically a . . . non-hostile routine social interaction. I looked over at them and nodded, breaking all the rules of such things, being a sucker for good music and since their piropos weren’t gross or anything. But me and the older women also side-eyed each other in mixed annoyance and amusement and then when we got in the elevator kind of burst out laughing.

The elevator had the horrible smell of pee and industrial cleaning fluid. I always kind of long to tackle the gross walls of this elevator where someone tried to write, or paint, and then it was ineptly and incompletely sprayed with cleaner, so there are horrible drips going down the wall and it looks filthier than if they had just left the graffiti alone. There are also times when there’s… food smeared on the wall? I dunno! The thing with the smell is, the pee must run down through the mechanism of the door to the elevator well below, and just fester there for years. There need to be more bathrooms, open all hours, though, I think the Pit Stop bathrooms do help and in recent years the stench has been ameliorated to some extent.

The elevator from the northeast plaza lets you out in a sketchy feeling nook in the north corner of the concourse. The stairwell there (and, same on the other side) has 2 stairways and an escalator, with abstract concrete bas reliefs by the English sculptor William George Mitchell. If you get up close to the walls you can feel the rough (even sharp) corrugations which are the background to the broad smooth planes of the cement geometric shapes. I wonder if they give the Mission stairwells some of their nice acoustic properties. There are often musicians in them, and while I explored on this day there was an excellent guitarist, Ángel Rodriguez from Banda Sin Nombre, in one stairwell and then later in the day, a saxophonist in the other.

The concourse has a beautiful arched design that makes me think of 70s futuristic things, or maybe particular airports, with the concrete arches overhead soaring like an airplane hangar, and more interesting corrugation in between creating a fairly beautiful line. If you don’t look up, or look at the shape of the buttresses of the arches, you are missing out. The lighting is also really not bad for an underground area. If you do have a look at the ceilings you may also notice a lot of anti-pigeon spikes. (Ow!) Speaking of ow, as a small accessibility note I would say there is an archway pillar between the north stairwell and the entry ticket points where, the slope of it as you might be coming out of the ticket area is such that for a blind cane user, it would be easy to run your head right into the underhang of the arch. Same goes for the pillar by the southwest stairwell as you come out of the ticket area there and turn right – headbonking opportunity. That could be prevented by a small guard rail in both areas.

There’s a ticket entrance by the elevator and the northeast stairwell, and another on the south side of the station, by the agent booth. This south entrance is where the wheelchair and stroller accessible entry and exit point is. In some other stations, the elevator to the platform is outside the pay entry cage so you have to specially remember to reach over the barrier to tag yourself out (even though you’re already out!) Once you’re in the paid area, there are 3 stairwells from south to north; the first is an escalator coming up from the platform, and some bike racks. At the far north end of the paid area you’ll find the elevator to the platform (call button on the left). Like most elevators in the system this one has buttons marked C for Concourse and P for platform.

Platform 1 has the northbound trains, Platform 2 has the southbound. If you traverse the length of the platform you will see the 3 stairwells; the furthest one from the elevator is the escalator going up. In between the escalator and the middle stairwell are some big block style cement benches, and between the second stairwell and the 3rd, there’s a big map and schedule. The median walls (on the stairwells) are tiled with brown, orange, gold, yellow tiles with an occasional black one, which I think of as a kind of nice Painted Desert effect or like the backgrounds for Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. There are mysterious little rooms in these areas too with numbered doors (as there also are on the concourse). I expect these will factor into my BART text adventure game in some way. On the walls to either side of the platform tunnel you can see the same buttress looking cement things as you see above in the concourse. Between those, there’s plain beige tiles and a space for ads.

So, I’m going to return to my game-writing now! This isn’t an exhaustive Guide To Things To Do near 24th and Mission station, though, I do recommend you get a great burrito and admire the murals while you’re here. There is also excellent grocery shopping at many small latin american stores, a middle eastern grocery around 26th, bookstores nearby down 24th and on Valencia and 20th, and several import stores with a standard selection of things like cheap suitcases, backpacks, socks, SF souvenirs, jeans, trinkets, and I don’t know what all else as it’s been a while since I was able to fit through their aisles!

By the way…. tomorrow is the 18th Annual No-Pants Bart Ride Day! Are leggings cheating? I get cold!

Index to all posts describing my BART station visits