If my grandmother and I could vote for Measure RR, we would
Anjali Mehta

A few weeks ago I took my grandmother on her very first BART ride. Everything went smoothly until an avoidable accident shook us up and brought home the need to pass Measure RR and make BART safer.  

On Saturday, October 8, I was in the car on the way to Richmond with my mom and grandmother, who I call “Nans.” We were making a trip to visit and pay our respects to my aunt, whose husband had just passed away earlier in the day.

We left Milpitas at 4 pm, thinking we’d reach Richmond by 5:30, but by 4:45 we’d barely reached North Fremont, and we were frustrated by our 5 mph snail’s pace. Nans was getting tired by the car trip and her ankles were swelling up.

I asked Mom and Nans, “Would you be up for taking the train to Richmond?”

Mom was down, but convincing Nans was more of a challenge. She’s 84, needs a cane to help her walk, and even as she’s walking someone needs to hold on to her to ensure she doesn’t lose balance.

Nans asked me in Gujarati (the language we speak at home), “How long will it take if we drive?” I told her probably two hours, given how slow we’re going. “And if we take the train, how quickly will we arrive in Richmond?”

I estimated an hour, door to door. Enough said – Nans was ready to take BART for the first time in her life.

I got off 880 and drove on the surface streets to Union City BART. Even though Union City BART station is under a lot of construction, it was easy to navigate. The elevator was new, didn’t smell like urine, and was fast!

Nans riding BART for the first time.Before boarding our train, we decided to get off at El Cerrito del Norte, since it would be a smaller station for Nans to navigate. We slowly got on the train, found comfortable seats, and were on our way. 

As the sun set over the hills, I gave Nans a tour of this beautiful place where we live. I pointed out the well-designed Hayward City Hall, showed her the Ghiradelli factory, explained the culture of the Fruitvale district, showed her the Port of Oakland and the view of San Francisco, noted the stop I get off at to go to work, and how the Downtown Berkeley stop is where UC Berkeley is – the very school where my sister and brother-in-law met and fell in love.

In between the sights, Nans and I were people watching. We noticed two people who were new friends and watched their young relationship blossom, checked-out the latest fashion trends, and pondered where everyone else was going. Nans admired an African American woman with braids, remarking, “How lucky that woman is, she never has to comb her hair!”

As the train arrived at our destination, we slowly walked to the door and onto the platform. We couldn’t find the elevator, so we waited for everyone to get on the escalator, then Nans and I got on together. Mom closely followed us from behind in case anything happened, but we disembarked safely.

We got into a Lyft and were on our way. Nans was so fascinated by the concept of Lyft. She couldn’t fathom how our driver, Yaret, knew where to go. She kept asking, “Does he know where we’re going?” and, “Why isn’t Anjali giving him directions?” Mom explained how Lyft works and Nans was so impressed by the power of technology.

We finally arrived at my aunt’s home. There were so many tears, though we knew it was his time and we were all happy he was no longer suffering. After sitting for some time, and bringing smiles to my aunt and cousin’s faces, we decided to begin our long trek back to the South Bay.

My cousin gave us a ride back to El Cerrito del Norte station. We slowly walked to the station and looked for the elevator, but we still couldn’t find it. I asked Nans if she would be okay to take the escalator up instead; she was up for the challenge. She lifted and tucked her sari into her waist and was ready to go up!

I was holding her hand when she boarded the escalator in front of me and I noticed both her feet weren’t properly planted on the step above. Nans rocked back-and-forth and then fell backwards onto me. I tried to catch her, but my foot slipped and we both fell backwards. We went sliding down the escalator, me on my back. As I fell, I hit my spine and head on the edge of the escalator steps. Nans fell on top of me and was pinning me down. My mom, watching all of this unfold from a few escalator steps behind, yelled for help. One man came running down the escalator and a woman from behind me helped lift Nans off of me so I could get up. Shaken and bruised, we thanked these two angels for coming to our aid. The young man walked with Nans and me to the bench to make sure she was okay, and he actually spoke Hindi to her, which helped calm her down. The station agent came out and asked if we needed an ambulance. Luckily, Nans was fine. No broken bones. No bleeding. Just some bumps and scrapes. We were lucky.

Even though I don’t live in Alameda, San Francisco, or Contra Costa Counties – I ask everyone who lives in these counties to please vote yes on Measure RR to reduce the risk of accidents like these.

Our BART stations need to be more accessible and safe for seniors and those who need the support of walkers, canes, crutches, and wheelchairs to get around. Measure RR will not only fix rails, tunnels, and BART’s electrical systems, it will go towards station improvements to help vulnerable riders safely get to and from BART trains. That includes repairing and replacing old elevators and escalators, improving lighting and security, and adding bike parking and bus infrastructure to help people reach BART safely and sustainably. The more accessible we make BART, the stronger we’re making the communities we call home.

Let’s invest in public transportation so we can spend more time doing the things we love, rather than sitting in our cars on highways that feel like parking lots. Please vote yes on RR.

And whoever our angels are – thank you for coming to our rescue!

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