Transit Agencies Brace For Second Possible BART Strike

With a second BART strike possible on Monday, Bay Area transit agencies are again preparing alternate ways to get commuters to their destinations without BART trains running.

A 30-day contract extension between BART management and two of BART’s employee unions—Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 — expires Sunday night and there is no sign yet that an agreement is likely before then.

The first strike occurred during the Fourth of July holiday week.

It lasted four and a half days and ended on July 5.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin said today that the MTC is creating a strike contingency plan that is “largely the same” as the approach used during the first strike.

BART officials said the agency provides about 400,000 rides daily, with slightly lower ridership during the summer months. However, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said a strike in August would impact more riders than the one during the holiday week in July.

A conference call was held Tuesday with leaders of Bay Area transit systems including AC Transit, BART, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District and the San Francisco Bay Ferry. Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and Oakland and San Francisco city officials also participated, Goodwin said.

He said participants discussed the logistics that need to be in place in the event of another strike.

As with the first strike, BART will provide charter buses from the East Bay to San Francisco in the morning, and back for the evening commute.

Trost said BART is working to secure up to 95 buses that will pick up passengers at four East Bay BART stations—Fremont, Dublin/Pleasanton, Walnut Creek, and El Cerrito Del Norte—and possibly at two others, Concord and San Leandro.

Those buses will stop at West Oakland, where passengers will transfer to another bus into San Francisco. Passengers heading to the city can also board at West Oakland.

During July’s strike, Trost said a different number of buses were used each day for East Bay passengers. The most buses deployed in one day was 79, she said.

Goodwin called the buses “a very limited lifeline service.”

“This is not going to come close to accommodating normal BART ridership,” he said.

Extra service will be offered again on the San Francisco Bay Ferry, which operates lines to and from San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, Vallejo, and South San Francisco.

There will be 13 vessels systemwide instead of the normal eight, ferry spokesman Earnest Sanchez said. During the last strike, the ferry system operated 12 boats.

There will be additional departure times from Vallejo and Oakland in the morning, and for the evening commute there will be two extra ferries leaving from the San Francisco Ferry Building.

“We are encouraging people to try to travel earlier,” Sanchez said.

He advised getting in line for a ferry before 7 a.m. and avoiding the Ferry Building during the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. crunch time.

The South San Francisco line will offer normal service, as will the Golden Gate Ferry, which leaves from Larkspur and Sausalito and is operated by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.

“Ferries were pretty much filled in July,” Goodwin said. “We expect that will largely be the case this time around.”

AC Transit hopes to bolster its transbay service depending on bus and staff availability, Goodwin said.

Agency spokesman Clarence Johnson said, “We’re going to roll out every piece of equipment we can.”

On its regular East Bay routes, Johnson said AC Transit tentatively plans to offer normal service, but may try to boost that service if needed.

He said, “we will augment the heaviest routes to the extent we have personnel and equipment available.”

On the Bay Bridge and its approaches, carpool lane hours will be expanded and Goodwin advised motorists to use FasTrak passes to expedite trips through the toll plaza.

Although the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge may appear to be a viable alternative to the Bay Bridge, MTC officials are warning motorists to expect delays on that bridge as well.

The MTC is urging drivers to carpool, including by using casual carpool pickups at BART stations and other designated spots. There will be free parking at all BART stations in the event of a strike.

Another option is to change work hours to non-commute times or work from home if that is possible, Goodwin said.

In late June, before the first strike, MTC executive director Steve Heminger requested that the commission redirect state funding that normally goes to BART to other transit agencies if a strike occurred.

Goodwin said that during July’s strike, hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding was diverted to the CHP, Caltrans and bus and ferry agencies.

He said more state funding would be diverted to other transit agencies this time around.

Goodwin said the MTC could vote to pay for setting up even more transit options for commuters, but that there is no plan to do so yet.

He said the MTC is considering a variety of options and could take more dramatic action if the strike drags on—especially if it is still in effect when schools start to go back in session.

“If there is a strike and it proves to be of long duration then it may prompt some policy changes on the commission’s part,” Goodwin said.

For now, the MTC is waiting to see what happens with the BART negotiations.

“We are hoping for the best, preparing for the worst,” he said.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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