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 РI 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