Using Oakland airport-bah humbug

Old Jul 31st, 2006, 09:35 AM
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Using Oakland airport-bah humbug

Just got back from a trip to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe using Southwest. SW has discontinued its flights into San Francisco because they say they couldn't get flights in/out on time. But I'm sorry to say that if it requires using Oakland, we probably won't be returning to wonderful SF.
The airport terminal itself is under a great deal of construction and was hot and dirty (and I don't often criticize public places).
Using suggestions on Fodors, we took the AirBart shuttle to the nearest station, which turned out to be almost half an hour away. Admittedly we are hicks from the sticks, and are unfamiliar with automated ticket machines in public transportation areas, but the 3 BART employees lounging in the ticket booth gestured toward a machine on a wall when I asked how to purchase the fare we'd need for Embarcadero and made no attempt to assist us as we tried to figure out the machine which printed the tickets. There were no directions on how to print the amount of the ticket we needed. A young guy hustled over to where we were standing perplexed and offered to help us, which he did, but then panhandled us for a donation "to help support his family." There were no signs indicating which side of the tracks or which stairs to use to get to the proper train to San Francisco. When I asked at the (same) ticket booth, I was told we could go through the gate, but when we walked through with our luggage (which by this point had been dragged up the wrong set of stairs and back down), 2 of the 3 lounging employees surged out of the booth and told us we couldn't go through the gate. Apparently, just our LUGGAGE could go through the gate. We had to leave the luggage and go back through a turnstyle using the just-purchased tickets. We finally made it to the correct platform, and muddled our way up to the Hyatt Regency (which was a fantastic place to stay, btw), but the experience of getting there was no fun. We took a cab back to the airport when we left and considered the $$ well spent.
Maybe if you're city dwellers, a lot of our angst could be avoided, but even knowing what we know now, we will avoid flights through Oakland in the future.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 09:41 AM
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Yes, it's not easy to use BART for the first time, especially if you're not used to public transportation.

My (younger and smarter then I am) son who knows how to use BART, thought the monorail is similar to it, and had problems there!

I found it difficult to navigate BART-to-SFO system. And when I posted a question about it, I was in a company of people who agreed with me.

You see, you are not the only one with public transportation difficulties.

Experience is needed for everything. I'm sure, next time you'll be able to go the route on your own. And maybe even help others.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 10:07 AM
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I've used subways extensively in many cities, in the US and abroad, and would have to agree that the track and exit signage in BART is a disgrace. Even if you're used to the system (which I am), it's easy to get turned around when in a new station. As Faina pointed out, BART is equally annoying when going to SFO as when going to OAK.

I was, however, a bit confused by your statment that there were no instructions on how to print the tickets. Weren't there onscreen instructions? Maybe they're not the clearest, but they do take you through the steps in the process.

Incidentally, you forgot to leave out the dismal choice of food in OAK compared to SFO!
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 10:09 AM
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Sorry--I should have edited: Meant to say "You forgot to mention the dismal choice of food, " not that you forgot to leave it out.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 10:21 AM
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NEVER again to Oakland. Has to be the most disorganized place in California.Traffic was just terrible last time. However, Sacramento is a real gem, especially with SWA.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 10:24 AM
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I do not find BART any more difficult that the RER in Paris, or the subway in NYC, or the Metro in D.C.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 10:47 AM
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I must confess that I don't find OAK all that confusing or disorganized. I use this airport fairly often, and while it could be better managed, I have had no difficulties in using it, at least so far. With online check-in and only carry-on luggage, the only thing I have to deal with is the security line, which is no different than other airports.

I think one of the problems that OAK is suffering, though, is lots of growth. There seems to be a lot of airline traffic going through OAK, so they're probably at the limits of what they can handle. I almost always use BART to get to OAK and back, and have been able largely avoid all the traffic.

I do understand that landing in a new locale after a long flight and then having to deal with an unfamiliar public transportation system can be a bit daunting. I have personally assisted a number of travelers trying to navigate the BART system for the first time coming into OAK. I am rather dismayed that the BART personnel weren't more helpful and would suggest you lodge a complaint on the BART website. The personnel at that BART station should be especially sensitive to helping people use BART.

I will note that while the BART system takes a bit of familiarization, I don't think it's that difficult to use. As others have noted, if you're not familiar with public transportation systems, it can take a while to figure things out.

I was recently in London, and my familiarity with BART helped tremendously in navigating the Tube. When I arrived in London, it was after a long flight out of SFO and it was quite hot. Not only that, the Picadilly line was out of service passed Acton, so I had to endure a 2 hour odyssey through various detours involving buses until I arrived at my hotel. The entire journey should have taken between 30 and 45 minutes. While the first impression of the Tube wasn't great, I used it extensively in the following days and found it a great way to get around.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 11:16 AM
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YOu could always pay more money and fly into SFO, or pay for a cab from OAK to the city from the money you saved on SWA.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 11:19 AM
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Let me explain further. One of the arguments for SWA is they fly into "nearby" airports to avoid higher costs, thus Baltimore instead of DC, Providence or Manchester instead of Boston, OAK instead of San Francisco, blh blah blah. Their thinking is people will tolerate the inconvenience in order to save money.

For you, this means the inconvenience is too high, which is reasonable. That doesn't mean you can't go to San Francisco, but instead you just can't tolerate the inconvenience of SWA.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 11:27 AM
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We live 15 minutes from SFO but often fly SWA out of Oakland, especially to fly to southern cal. I just this morning got back from Orange county on SWA flying through Oakland.

SWA is so direct, simple, and fast, even though I never seem to score an A boarding ticket, as well as economical, that it makes it worth it for us to drive across the bay to Oakland. I used the valet parking which was a few dollars more per day than the other parking but quite convenient.

I think BART was the problem for you rather than Oakland per se. The airport security was well organized. The dining options are poor.

I agree with the poster who suggested filing a complaint or at least a customer comment; the lounging, unhelpful employees must have been extremely frustrating.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 11:33 AM
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Having agreed with some of the complaints about BART, I must admit that I actually don't mind OAK, either, (except when I'm hungry).
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 12:22 PM
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When my husband (retired military now)we lived in OAkland at one of the bases 1990s I had to fly in & out of OAkland almost every week. I mostly flew SWA.

There is nothing good I can say about OAkland Airport except that SWA always had the best fares.

Food bad (used to have a great candy store with drk covered coffee beans),
never knew Which terminal I was flying out of/into and when you have your own bags it is a DRAG as the distances are long.... SURLY security staff and, obnoxious pasengers who think they are SPECIAL and everyone OWES them, no idea of customer service, flthy bathrooms, horrible nasty traffic direction staff (once they threatened my husband in uniform with a ticket because he could not get by the drop off traffic fast enough, unless he hit some car violating teh no parking zone to pick me up.)

After a very frightening rid home in a taxi with a really scary driver..I started to arrange my own transport ...OAkland Airport would not allow any other commercial vehicle to come into teh airport for p/u other than certain taxis...like teh scary one.....

We no longer live in NO Cal but we do still fly SWA into OAkland if we want to go to SOnoma or SF.

I will say the Oakland Waterfront's nice, big Borders store good coffee, nice Korean BBQ place nad some nice seafood restaurants.

The US president's former YAcht the Potomac and the waterfront SF Embacadero OAkland water taxi easy..

Sunday market was nice too...usually stop there for fresh baked bread and fruit on teh way up to Sonoma..

When we fly into OAkland we get a rental car...we know the cheapest palces to park in SFO..and we just close our eyes to teh blight that is OAkland Airport.


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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 12:47 PM
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I can't recall any of these issues with BART, and I actually prefer Oakland to SFO because of the weather delays. But it's too bad it was so frustrating. I learned BART when commuting and so I knew the drill before being in an airport with luggage etc. and maybe that made a difference.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 12:55 PM
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I don't think BART is hard to use at all, but I have never used it to/from an airport. I figured it out pretty easily when I was in college, and at that age had never dealt with mass transportation in large cities. That is too bad that the employees were not helpful. I would definitely write a letter so that BART will know where they can improve.

As far as OAK goes, we use it over SFO because family is in the east bay. Works for us.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 09:59 PM
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I use Oakland airport pretty frequently and have never had any complaints...and I don't find purchasing BART tickets difficult at all. You simply look on the paper affixed to the ticket machine where you want to go from your destination (Oakland coliseum - embarcadero $3.35 one way), stick in the money and push the button for the ticket.

That is really bad that the BART employees wouldn't help though. I do agree that they need better signage there. Sometimes I'm not sure if I'm on the right track or not, but then I just ask someone and they let me know.
 
Old Aug 1st, 2006, 09:14 AM
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Well, all the feedback is interesting.
First, let me say that I should have clarified my bah-humbug: I only used Oakland to SFO because I love SWA and therefore I equated my BART experiences (mandated by SWA's switch to Oakland) with Oakland Airport. The airport itself seemed filled to capacity with humanity, hot and dirty, but if we hadn't had the subsequent experience on BART, I probably would have just blown it off. I grew up near Boston, used the T the whole time I was growing up, and have used public transportation (including busses in Malta, the Tube, et al.) with no problem. The real issues I believe have to do with signage (or lack thereof) and if my memory serves me (and it may not, I'm a geezer and it's now been almost a month since I was there) the message on the ticket printing machine that indicated we could print a $10 ticket when 1 of the "lounging employees" said we needed a $3.35 ticket to get to Embarcadero. So how were we supposed to print a $3.35 ticket? As the panhandler showed us, you start with the $10 ticket but add/subtract dollars and cents to come up with the correct fare. But I really don't think it says how to do that on the machine. At least, we didn't see it. We didn't want to print a $10 ticket and find out we couldn't use it because it was the wrong value and often, with automated machines, things have to be exact.
I understand there is a price to be paid for the benefit of using SWA. However, I live in NH and we don't have all that many options for crosscountry flights. Manchester airport is one of the secondary airports served by SWA and I'd like to be able to use it in the future for trips to SFO, along with trips to other places.
Anyway, thanks to all the Fodorites for their responses.
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Old Aug 1st, 2006, 02:07 PM
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Hi gailw, just read your thread. Don't feel bad about being confused regarding buying tickets for BART. I wish I had a dollar for everytime I have showed someone how to purchase ticket(s). And please don't take the BART employees as anything personal against you. To say they are not customer friendly is putting it midly.

But the most important thing..did you have a good trip? I hope you can share it with us when you have time.
Best regards.
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Old Aug 1st, 2006, 03:54 PM
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Ah, those ticket machines that take credit cards are a bit confusing, especially with the add/subtract nickels and dollars functions. I found that confusing myself the first time I tried it. The machines do have the prices to various destinations posted on the machine. I think once you input your credit card, it does a default value, and then you can add/subtract from there.

I think the usability would be improved if you could simply choose a destination and let it print a ticket with the appropriate amount. Or, if it started with a $0 ticket to which you had to add value using the buttons. Defaulting to a $10 ticket value is just asking for trouble.
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Old Aug 1st, 2006, 04:26 PM
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Using BART is confusing. My friends have showed me how many many times and I still get mixed up. People volunteering to help you than ask for money happens ALL the time.

I think Oakland is an incredibly easy airport, but then a friend picks me up in his car.

Point I'm trying to make is I think your difficulties were primarily in learning to use the BART (which is NOT user-friendly the first time or two), not arriving the Oakland airport.
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Old Aug 1st, 2006, 04:40 PM
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Gosh Suze, I never knew to ask for some money when showing people how to use the BART ticket machines, LOL. Really though, how tacky! I think you are right, although Oakland isn't my favorite airport and I don't use it any more since I moved up to the Sacramento Valley I do think it was the BART situation that was the frustrating part for gailw.
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