BART Commuters Weigh Their Options as Strike Looms

IMG_4544_1.jpgBART riders began grappling with planning alternatives to their daily commutes today. Photo: Michael Rhodes

BART riders braced themselves today as word got out that train service will shut down Monday due to a strike. At Montgomery Station in San Francisco, riders expressed mixed feelings about the politics of the strike, but they were unanimous on one thing: the commute is going to be a pain.

That was regular BART commuter Saehish’s reaction when asked about the strike. He said the strike would force him to drive into work from Fremont. If many riders switch to driving during the strike, the streets and bridges could get ugly.

Fortunately, most BART riders we spoke to said they were planning to take the bus or work from home.

Christine Leland of Hayward said she’ll have to do the former. "I would have to take the bus, because I don’t have a car," said Leland. Her employer isn’t flexible about hours, so she’ll have to get up early to make it to work on time.

Leland said she’s "pretty pissed off" the strike is happening. "I really don’t see how they could possibly do this in this economy, either, how any of them can afford it. But that’s on them," said Leland. "I don’t understand what their problem is. I mean, from what I’ve heard, as far as what they’re being offered, it’s no worse than what the rest of us get as far as benefits and pay goes, so I don’t know what the beef is. I don’t get it."

Paul, from Balboa Park, said he’ll be alright switching to Muni, but "some coworkers are upset who live farther." He wasn’t sure what to think of the negotiations, but wondered if the timing of a strike was right. "Now, so many people have no job," he said. "People are willing to work for a lower salary."

Kasha, who lives in the East Bay, said she understands the reasons for the strike, and is fortunate enough to have a good backup plan. "I’m really supportive of unions and of workers, making sure that they get the best wages and rights that they need," she said. "We talked about it at work, the last time the strike was considered, we might just all work from home, those of us who come from the East Bay."

Another East Bay commuter, Kimberly, said she also would be working from home. At her company, "anybody that lives on the other side of the bridge will be working from home," she said. As for the labor negotiations: "I’m wondering all the time why the costs seem to go up so often, and why there isn’t better planning. So I’m not sure whose fault that lies on, but my first thought is that it’s management."

Other commuters took a practical view of the strike. "I’m not real happy about it," said Mark Johnson, who lives in South San Francisco. "It’s just a negotiation. Nobody’s happy with what they’ve got, and I understand."

Johnson said he’d be taking Caltrain instead on Monday. His employer is flexible about hours, so he may be able to avoid the peak rush.

Michael, from Pleasant Hill, was frustrated with both sides in the negotiation. "There’s room to give on both sides," he said. "Both parties, they’re just being stubborn." He works in retail, so his hours aren’t flexible, and he will have to get up earlier in the morning and ride a packed AC Transit bus.

Several riders were still uncertain about their commute plans for Monday.

"I guess I’m going to drive to San Francisco and take Muni," said Gladys Leung, who normally takes BART from Millrae. Even far from downtown, parking in San Francisco can be difficult, so she’s not certain if she’ll be able to find a spot. Her employer is flexible about hours, but getting to work early won’t be an option. "I cannot because I need to drop off my son to school."

"It’s sad, it’s actually very frustrating," said Leung, especially since "they just raised the fares."

Jose Lorenze of El Sobronte wasn’t aware of the strike, but going home, he said, he "might maybe take the bus, or casual carpool back." He might also have the option of working from home. "I work at home every Friday. But I’m pretty sure that they’ll be flexible if there is going to be a BART strike."

The good news is that only one person out of 14 interviewed reported they plan to drive to work on Monday. Even at that rate, of course, a BART strike will lead to massive congestion. No one reported plans to bicycle or walk to work, but it remains to be seen whether commuters might reconsider after a few days of clogged roads and packed buses.

  • Tell me again? Why does BART even have drivers? That seems innately stupid in today’s day and age. We have the technology, get those guys driving buses or light rail. BART should be operated 100% by computer.

  • Anonymous

    It makes sense to have someone to operate the train when things break but the problem is they’re paying $50/hour for someone to do a $10/hour job. Fire ’em all and hire new people tomorrow.

  • CT

    I still think we need to get more people ride motorcycles or scooters. the money they spend on each driver for one hour can full up 10 motorcycles. and there will be no strikes and fee high

  • Mike

    Why not just ride your bikes? That’s what we did in the New York strike in 2005, and it was 20 degree weather. You people have it easy!

  • ZA

    Where possible, if you are able to, please bike to work or a major transit point. This may decrease the chances of crazy road congestion on Monday, making it better for the buses.

    Even if you have to rely on a Samtrans, Caltrain, MUNI, AC Transit, or Golden Gate system, eliminating feeder cars with bikes for those systems can improve the overall commute for everyone in this bad situation.

    Thanks for giving it a go.

  • o hai! SamTrans is about to announce service cuts that are fatal, and they’re not gonna try and make up for the fact that San Mateo County cuts are gonna SERIOUSLY fuck over people who are not rich who need to get to work!

    The strike is not in solidarity with the owner/riders of BART and connecting systems! They suck and don’t realize the rest of us don’t have union protection, we are getting screwed by corporate america! but they don’t care! The unions actually hate us and we should be in solidarity!

  • @Mike, unfortunately, you can’t ride a bike over the Bay Bridge. You could take it on a ferry, but it’s a LOT longer process than the transbay tube.

  • 511 Transit has removed BART from the trip planner on trips you plan for Monday, August 17th after 3:00 am.

    You can plan these trips in advance, and for after the strike begins, and they will automatically exclude BART and provide alternatives. You will not need to check the “Exclude” BART box in our Additional Options features.

    Keep in mind that some of these alternative trips may be somewhat lengthier if there are not frequent or direct routes on other agencies parallel to BART.

    We will not be able to keep up with all ad hoc changes that may occur after the strike on other agencies within the trip planner, but will have BART removed from the trip planner and will try to provide breaking information on additional added services where possible on the 511 website.

  • soylatte

    I bike from home (in SF) to BART and from BART to my workplace (in the East Bay). BART is really one thing I do rely on and I bought my house (forgoing other, a little nicer neighborhoods) exactly because its proximity to BART instead of having to rely on Muni. So I get royally screwed.

    Muni around Balboa Park is already miserable, and if all the people from Balboa Park BART squeeze themselves on the buses and trains, it will simply be out of the question, realistically. I don’t mind biking into the city to some transit point (or perhaps to carpool with a coworker), but I’m a little concerned about bike parking availability and leaving my bike around a major transit point (which always tend to be bustling and rather seedy) the whole day.

  • Mike

    You can’t ride a bike on the Bay Bridge? Seriously? You guys should work on fixing that. If you couldn’t ride over the East River, no one would bike in New York.

  • Mike

    Meanwhile, how about lobbying for a temporary bike lane on the Bay Bridge during the strike? In our (NY) strike, they set aside huge bike lanes on the avenues, and they were extremely well used. It seems like a no-brainer to do that for your strike.

  • Mike, you’re absolutely right — in such a supposedly liberal area of a supposedly liberal state, not encouraging cross-bay bike traffic is ludicrous.

    (The thing is this: Californians for the most part cannot be separated from their cars.)

    What’s even dumber is that the state is currently building a new Bay Bridge, to be completed sometime around 2013 — and current plans include a bike lane only *halfway* across (on the eastern span, where Oakland connects to Treasure Island). Though apparently there are some funds for studying how to add a bike lane to the western span to SF, so maybe it’ll happen.

    As for a temporary bike lane, no way. There’ll be so many more cars than usual that it would be completely impossible (and the request to Caltrans would basically be laughed at).

  • Mike

    Jason — in our strike, there were also so many more cars than usual, which was precisely why it was so vital to set aside space for bikes. (They also instituted strict HOV-4 restrictions on all the bridges and tunnels entering Manhattan.)

    It’s not like many more cars than usual will get through SF promptly, so why keep the capacity leading up to the bottleneck? Trying to get more cars into the city is precisely what they shouldn’t be encouraged. Sensible policy would encourage carpools (mandatory HOV-4 like in NY) and bikes.

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