Little relief for BART commute nightmare

The Monday morning commute turned into a living nightmare — and the evening and Tuesday morning commutes are expected to be just as bad — after BART workers went on strike and the agency’s trains remain idle.

With BART providing trips to nearly 400,000 passengers a day, freeways, buses and the ferries were jammed as commuters who usually ride BART trains drove or jumped on whatever alternative means of transportation they could find.

The I-80 freeway into San Francisco — considered one of the area’s toughest commutes — started backing up earlier than normal Monday morning, and traffic remained heavy into the afternoon.

Highway 24 was also jammed, with traffic reporters saying at its worst the heavy traffic heading west stretched as far as Walnut Creek. The San Mateo Bridge was also jammed with commute traffic Monday morning.

Ridership on ferries across the bay spiked and  ridership sharing services were working on keeping up with the increased load.

After the chaotic morning commute, BART officials called on union leaders to call an end to the strike. BART spokesman Rick Rice said in a statement:

“We are sorry peoples’ lives have been disrupted by the union strike. This strike is not necessary and we call on union leaders to end it and join us at the table so the Bay Area can get moving again.”

But union officials said say BART workers didn’t want to go on strike said BART management “threw in the towel” and blamed transit officials for the strike.

As part of its contingency plans for the strike BART offered limited bus service across the Bay from four of its stations — El Cerrito del Norte, Walnut Creek, Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont — into San Francisco.

Still, BART officials acknowledged that the 2,000 to 4,000 passengers a day the temporary service can carry is a “far cry” from the number of passengers BART trains usually carry every day.

In one bit of good news for the thousands of frustrated and confounded commuters, AC Transit drivers remained on the job and did not go on strike Monday as some had feared.

Though the contract between AC Transit and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 expired at the same time as the BART contract expired, transit managers and labor officials have agreed to continue negotiating.

AC Transit Board president Greg Harper said:

“We are gratified that the talks are continuing and our operators and mechanics are showing up for work. We have great concern and respect for our ridership and this action by the ATU shows that the union does, too.”

AC Transit officials say their buses rolled at peak capacity Monday morning, with the agency putting its 60-foot articulated buses into service carrying standing room only crowds from the East Bay into San Francisco.

With BART trains not running, AC Transit buses are the main mass transit link between the East Bay and San Francisco.

Other options available to transbay commuters during a BART strike include:

  • Ferries departing from Oakland, Alameda and Vallejo;

  • Telecommuting;

  • Bus service from Greyhound, WestCAT or Amtrak;

  • Limited BART charter service from and to El Cerrito del Norte, Walnut Creek, Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont stations;

  • Casual carpooling from BART stations or other locations. Parking at BART stations will be free to accommodate car poolers during the strike.