SAN FRANCISCO - November 2022
This excursion started off differently with a drive to the airport. The 8:00 am flight meant arrival at the airport by 6:00 am. There was no need for Bill and Condit to drive the distance at that hour. The BART and MUNI Metro systems in San Francisco were finally going to be photographed, visits were to be shared with friends not seen for nine years and the Stanford campus was also scheduled for a visit.
There was nothing remarkable about the flight. There was a bit of confusion about how to pay for BART as a means of transportation upon arrival. The website indicated that a paper tickets was the only method available for payment and not the stored value CLIPPER Card. This proved not to be an accurate statement.
The trip into the city began as normal until photos became fuzzy somewhere on the journey. The camera focus mechanism had been unintentionally changed from automatic to manual. The discovery of the reason for the bad photos wasn’t uncovered until the end of the day. Quite a few station photos and a good number taken on the ferry ride into Oakland from the San Francisco Embarcadero were unusable.
The ferry ride is a highly recommended way to travel across the Bay while delivering awesome views of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline. The sun was shining through clear skies, with mild temperatures. Operations at the Port of Oakland, one of the busiest on the west coast, were clearly on display. The ride lasted 30 minutes with a stop in Alameda before disembarking at Jack London Square.
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has been in operation for 50 years, since 1972 in the East Bay and 1974 under the bay and down the peninsula. There are a total of 50 stations, including the two used by the people mover operated between International Oakland Airport and the Coliseum station and a light rail connector between Pittsburg and Antioch. Since BART is a commuter system, fares are based on distance travelled. This makes using BART to be one of the most expensive systems to use in the country.
Fifteen stations were visited between SFO and the city. The stations included open-cut and surface construction near the airport with elevated stations on viaducts, followed by underground stations below Mission and Market Streets in the city.
Stations in the East Bay include six constructed underground in downtown Oakland and Berkeley. The remaining stations are built on elevated viaducts or in open-cut surface excavations. The primary East Bay service extends from Richmond in the north to San José in the south. Two eastern extensions provide services to Pittsburg-Antioch and Dublin-Pleasanton. BART followed the lead of Chicago's CTA by constructing these two lines primarily in the median of existing freeways. Huge parking structures are located adjacent to the Antioch line along California Highways 4 & 24 and adjacent to Interstate Highway 680 along the Pleasanton Line.
There are four generations of mainline
rollingstock. The original vehicles,
manufactured by Rohr, Inc., with the cone-shaped nose were built between 1968 and 1975. A second generation of Rohr vehicles was built between 1971 and 1975. Between 1987 and 1989, BART contracted with Alstom for a series of flat faced vehicles. The current series, made by Bombardier Transportation, was introduced in 2018. BART runs the longest trains ridden with up to ten 70-foot cars. Light rail (LRT) vehicles manufactured by Stadler Rail service the connector link between Antioch and Pittsburg. Doppelmayr Cable Car manufactures the monorail cable system operating between the Coliseum station and Oakland International Airport.
The camera focus debacle was partially corrected for the second day of shooting which included stations between Richmond and San José and to Dublin. The elevated stations between Richmond and Fremont more or less represent a standard design with little diversity. The underground Oakland stations offer color variations within a standard design, while the Berkeley stations and the South Bay stations in Milpitas and North San José go overboard in uniqueness.
The Antioch-Pittsburg stations were photographed on the third day and pretty much conform to designs seen on the first two days.
A helicopter flight was launched from Hayward Executive Airport, about 27 miles southeast of the city. The cost of the flight was pretty much in line with other flights taken, but industry practice is that two seats must be purchased. My friend Roger from Stanford accompanied me on the flight and kept the pilot busy with conversation which allowed me to concentrate on photography.
The skies were pristinely clear with long distance views. There were however minor problems with window glare. The additional fee for removal of the helicopter doors was beyond budget. Incredible views of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges were captured along with major attractions within the area during the 45-minute flight. These attractions included San Francisco and Oakland city skylines, the Trans-America and Sales Force Buildings, the Port of Oakland, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, and Golden Gate Park.
The evening proved San Francisco to be a photographer’s paradise for night photography. Activities began with capturing the colorful lights of Chinatown, followed by the lights of North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf. A tasty meal was enjoyed at one of the city’s fine restaurants before departing to finish at the Ferry Building.
The fourth morning was used to capture nine underground stations along the San Francisco Municipal Metro (MUNI Metro) within the city. Rolling stock consists of Breda LRV (Light Rail Vehicles) introduced between 1995 and 2003. Siemens S200 vehicles also have been in use since 2017. The Market Street portion of MUNI mostly shares tunnel space on the level above BART. These MUNI stations generally follow a common design scheme while the continuing stations to the south offer unique designs. Four additional cross-town stations were opened two days after leaving San Francisco. Damn!
The day continued with visits to the LGBQT Castro District, City Hall and Golden Gate Park. The Painted Ladies Victorian houses surrounding Alamo Square were photographed in the golden light of the descending sun.
The Stanford University campus was visited on the fifth day to resurrect memories of some of the happiest days from this life. The amount of construction since the last visit in 2013 was truly amazing. Some of the buildings from the 1970s had been replaced while others were difficult to recognize. The beauty of Memorial Church had been forgotten, since I entered only one time for a wedding back in the day. The Avery Aquatic Center also was visited to collect another Stanford Swimming shirt in support my website name. It is most amazed that the campus is now a sinkhole collecting parking revenues that weren’t required 50 years ago.
The planned finalé which included night shots of the Palace of Fine Arts and the Legion of Honor never happened after becoming lost while roaming in the darkness. The grand finalé of capturing the city skyline from Treasure Island also never happened after hitting a pothole resulted in a flat tire. Roadside assistance finally arrived five hours later after having abandoned the rental car.
Five consecutive successful days capped by mishaps at the start and finish made for an enjoyable trip. The mishaps presented opportunities to try new tricks in photo processing. More quality photos were captured aside from transit stations on this excursion than on any other. I am proud to have once called the San Francisco Bay Area home. It’s a special place that always calls me back and still feels like home.
For more information on MUNI and other photos, visit
For more information on BART and other photos, visit