Freaked out about the BART strike? Here are some tips on how to deal
with today's shutdown, which is adding up to 200,000 frustrated transit riders
onto the Bay Area's already-jammed freeways, trains and buses.
Traffic officials implore you to:
--Keep updated: Check 511.org and the 511 hotline early and often for the latest traffic updates and commute alternatives, and follow news reports to see if a deal is reached to halt the strike.
--Ask your employer: Can I telecommute or avoid the prime commute hours of 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.?
--Carpool: The diamond lanes would be the fastest-moving all day and would be enforced from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
--Ride: Check out the BART shuttles from the East Bay into San Francisco and extra bus and ferry service in the Bay Area, which combined will provide enough seats for an extra 52,000 people.
--Change your route: Avoid the freeways that parallel the BART corridor -- especially the Bay Bridge.
BART's daily ridership amounts to about 5 percent of the 3.8 million Bay Area commuters who need to get to work in the typical weekday, but even slight increases to the number of vehicles on the road can really slow travel.
Even though it's a holiday week, with the Fourth of July on Thursday, "We really need drivers and passengers to be patient, but take somebody along, a friend or a stranger," said John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan
Transportation Commission. "Fill up those empty seats in cars."
BART shutdown early Monday morning after its labor unions went on strike. It was not clear when they would return to the negotiating table, as both sides remain far apart on issues such as wages and health care and pension contributions. A strike will continue indefinitely until a deal is reached.
AC Transit was not on strike Monday but could be as soon as Tuesday.
During a strike, BART parking lots will be free for drivers to meet up and carpool together, or catch a bus. Existing casual carpooling services are available in the Bay Area as well.
The MTC and Caltrans are fully staffing Bay Area bridge toll booths and traffic operation centers to monitor freeway flow. Metering lights will be enforced most of the day but can only do so much to speed up freeway traffic, Goodwin said, so load up some music and blast the air conditioning for what is forecast to be yet another blisteringly hot week.
Goodwin said the traffic effect in the San Jose area and the far North Bay should be minimal, but the rest of the Bay Area could be a sea of red brake lights most of the day. However, commute-time traffic is historically near its lowest levels during the Fourth of July week, when school is out and many families are vacationing. Plus, some Bay Area businesses are telling their employees to work from home or leave outside of rush hour.
"It's going to be pretty bad," said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council, which represents businesses. But "there are definitely plans in the works at a lot of companies to enable people to telecommute. Some of the bigger ones have arranged carpools, encouraged people to take vacation days, things like that."
If you can't drive, regional officials are ramping up a $20 million plan to beef up alternative transit service that should provide enough seats to serve one-fourth of the displaced BART riders. AC Transit -- if its workers don't also go on strike later this week -- SamTrans, San Francisco Muni, ferries, and Contra Costa County and North Bay buses all are adding limited extra service during the commute period.
If you're used to catching a bus at the BART station, those lines are still running, but the bus stops would move to just outside the stations. Look for signs at your local hub.
BART also is offering free shuttles leaving the El Cerrito del Norte, Walnut Creek, Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont stations en route to San Francisco's Transbay Terminal from 5 to 9 a.m., and back from 3 to 7 p.m. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and only about 2,000 to 4,000 people will be able to make it on each day, BART officials said.
Caltrain is typically a good bet for people heading up the Peninsula into San Francisco, but the rail line is so booked during rush hour already that it would likely be unable to handle additional loads or launch more trains. That means very, very crowded Caltrains.
San Francisco International Airport, however, will operate free shuttles between its international terminal and both the Millbrae Caltrain stop and the South San Francisco ferry station.
Car service Uber, which dispatches black town cars and taxis using an app, said Friday that it planned to ramp up social media efforts to recruit passengers Monday and would even scour the BART stations to recruit commuters without a ride.
Competitor SideCar, which relies on community drivers who work for a donation, is asking all of its drivers to be available next week.
"You'll see a big spike in demand, especially when you look in the morning and in the afternoon around rush hour," said Matt Carrington, marketing director for Taxi Magic, an app in San Francisco and San Jose that lets riders hail and pay for taxis on their smartphones. "That commuter traffic has to unload somewhere."
Staff writer Heather Somerville contributed to this report. Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at Twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.
(c)2013 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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