UPDATE October 23, 2013
BART and its unions have reached a tentative agreement. BART train service has resumed normal operations. Plan your trip or get real-time departures at 511.org.
MTC and its 511 Traveler Information Service are working on several fronts to ease commute problems for Bay Area residents in the event of a second BART strike in October — from supporting bus and ferry alternatives and deploying transit ambassadors to offering free coffee cards to casual carpool drivers who pick up passengers in San Francisco for the evening commute. Caltrans also plans to do its part in the event of a strike by extending diamond lane hours in key corridors and dedicating an Oakland on-ramp to the Bay Bridge for the exclusive use of carpools, vanpools and buses.
BART unions could walk out as early as Friday, October 11, 2013, the end of the 60-day cooling-off period requested by the governor in August. In actions in June and September, MTC set aside a total of nearly $21 million to help with augmented transit services during a BART strike.
BART has been rounding up as many as 200 charter buses to provide free shuttle service to San Francisco from select East Bay stations in the event of an October strike, up from the 60-78 buses that BART chartered for the first strike in July. In preparation for a possible October work stoppage, MTC approved $900,000 in contingency funds to help defray the cost of cancellation or termination in the event that the strike issues are resolved and the charter buses are canceled or released earlier than contracted for.
Meanwhile, other transit agencies are working on contingency plans, including the following:
- San Francisco Bay Ferry is expected to ramp up the frequency of trips between Vallejo and San Francisco as well as the East Bay and San Francisco, with MTC providing portable Clipper® card readers to allow docking at an additional pier in San Francisco.
- AC Transit will supplement transbay lines to San Francisco to the extent possible.
- SamTrans will provide a temporary shuttle from Daly City and Colma to the Temporary Transbay Terminal in San Francisco.
SFO will provide a free shuttle to the Millbrae Caltrain station and the South San Francisco ferry dock.
MTC also will deploy ambassadors to help with way-finding at key transit hubs.
Clipper customers should be aware that BART high-value discount (HVD) tickets can only be used on BART. MTC is advising riders to add cash value to their Clipper cards ahead of time so that they are prepared to take an alternative transit service during a strike. For more information about how to add value and use Clipper on different services, visit clippercard.com.
Carpooling Best Option
Efforts to boost transit service notwithstanding, “For most people, carpooling may be the best option if BART shuts down, as other transit providers will have limited capability to ramp up service,” said Randy Rentschler, director of Legislation and Public Affairs for MTC.
MTC is advising commuters that they can use the free 511 RideMatch Service to start or join a carpool. Or for a more ad-hoc approach, commuters can hook up with casual carpools at one of the more than 20 East Bay pick-up locations (check out the interactive carpool mapon 511 and the unofficial casual carpool blog for locations). A number of third-party virtual tools make it easy to hook up with other carpoolers in real time. See 511’s Mobile and Apps page. Casual carpoolers also can use the #casualcarpool hashtag on Twitter to shout out about where drivers or riders are needed.
MTC will do its part to get the word out about casual carpooling, and in the event of a strike, will hand out free $5 coffee gift cards to drivers who pick up riders in downtown San Francisco for the ride back to the East Bay in the evening, while supplies last. MTC is alerting commuters that as of September, the casual carpool pick-up location in San Francisco has been moved to the west side of Spear Street between Howard and Folsom Streets due to construction adjacent to the former Beale Street pick-up location (see theinteractive carpool map on 511 for the current location).
Since traffic volumes and BART ridership are typically higher in October than in the summer, officials are expecting more impacts this time around compared to the July strike. To mitigate this, Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and MTC are prepared to implement aggressive carpool strategies.
As was the case in July, MTC is working with Caltrans to extend the hours of operation for the carpool lanes along key freeway routes; this time three freeways would offer carpool hours from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.: Interstates 80, 880 and 680. As carpools are charged a toll electronically when passing through the Bay Bridge toll plaza (albeit at a reduced rate from what solo drivers pay), they need to be equipped with a FasTrak® transponder. Find out more at bayareafastrak.org.
Caltrans again will designate the West Grand Avenue on-ramp to the Bay Bridge for the exclusive use of high-occupancy vehicles (three or more occupants), trucks and buses. The HOV access lane on the Interstate 880 approach to the Bay Bridge would be stretched a half mile to the south to better accommodate carpoolers trying to reach the Bay Bridge.
“And there’s another bonus for carpoolers,” said Rentschler. “In the event of a strike, carpoolers can use the BART parking lots free of charge.”
Keeping Freeways Free-Flowing
The MTC-operated Freeway Service Patrol will help keep freeways free-flowing by extending the service hours for its free tow truck service in the event of a strike, as it did during the July strike. Meanwhile, truck weight limits along an 8.7-mile segment of Interstate 580 through San Leandro and Oakland may be lifted in order to relieve congestion on Interstate 880.
MTC will support these freeway management efforts with extra electronic signs, cameras and monitoring equipment.
Stay tuned to alert.511.org for updates on commute alternatives in the event of a BART strike.