sun_tour.jpgPublic transportation around the Bay Area became torturous yesterday as the brutal heat caused major breakdowns on BART and Caltrain, with 311 also reporting heat-related delays on Muni. BART officials warn that today’s commute home might also be a rough one.

It was a nasty trick of nature as the heat wave hit on “Spare the Air Day”, when people are encouraged to take public transportation instead of driving. Yesterday, Caltrain commuters experienced up to 40-minute delays because trains had to slow down as a safety precaution.

Lack of air conditioning in the control rooms caused the BART computers to overheat around 4 PM yesterday. Human conductors had to take over operation of the trains, which slowed them down to 25 mph from their usual speed of 50 to 75 mph. Commuters faced 25-minute delays during rush hour. The fact that one third of BART cars have broken air conditioning was icing on the cake.

What about Muni you say? After waiting 45 minutes for an N Judah that NextBus said was “arriving” between 9:05-9:50 Tuesday night, Appeal Editor Eve Batey called 311 and was told that “the high temperatures are impacting the entire Muni system, with buses and trains overheating” as a reason for the delays.

However, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose disputes the 311 operator’s characterization, saying that as of 2PM today there have been no reported or expected delays related to the heat.

As the heat wave continues to smother the city today, BART warns us that commuters may face a repeat of yesterday’s travel conditions. BART spokesperson Linton Johnson recommends that people give themselves an extra 20 minutes for their commute home.

BART says it needs more funds to fix the AC problems which is interesting considering the agency has a $4.5 million surplus in it’s budget this year. However, Johnson claims that the surplus is a small contribution as BART has $7.5 billion worth of needs. A temporary fare reduction is on the table and will be voted on at the Board meeting tomorrow.

Though the MTA asserts that Muni’s running smoothly, reports from riders (and, apparently, 311) seem to tell a different story. So I have to ask you readers – how has your Muni experience been today?

Update: Paul Rose just called to confirm with me that no Muni routes are currently affected by the heat. There have been minor delays on some bus routes but it was more of a problem yesterday. He reaffirms that there haven’t been any significant widespread delays. Do you agree?

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