Alameda's commuters manage BART strike
Alameda's commuters manage BART strike
Video by Donna Eyestone.
Updated at 2:52 p.m. Monday, July 1
The morning commute out of Alameda was a quiet one Monday morning – until commuters hit heavier-than-usual traffic on freeways and over the Bay Bridge.
A BART workers’ strike left hundreds of thousands of Bay Area commuters to seek out other ways to get to work Monday – options that included ferries and buses, casual carpools or just working from home. About two-thirds of Alameda’s roughly 37,000 workers commute solo by car, U.S. Census data show, while 15 percent use public transit and 10 percent take carpools. Some 5.5 percent work at home, the data show.
Thousands of Alamedans took advantage of extra ferry service Monday, with cars jamming the Main Street ferry terminal’s parking lot and lines snaking along its edges. But an 8:15 a.m. ferry that workers said could hold 300 swallowed the line whole – including commuters who dashed up at the last minute – with room for more.
“Is that all you got, Bay Area?” a ferry worker shouted to a sea of parked cars.
A passer-by said the lot at the Harbor Bay ferry terminal on Bay Farm Island was similarly jammed. Police announced Monday afternoon that they'd allow parking on the curb line of Harbor Bay Parkway in both directions to accommodate the extra ferry commuters, while a spokesman for the ferry service recommended that ferry riders get dropped off, walk, bike or take transit to get to the ferry; shuttles are also available, including one to and from the Chuck Corica Golf Complex, where additional Harbor Bay ferry parking is available.
Ferry spokesman Ernest Sanchez said the Alameda and Oakland ferries carried three times the passengers this morning that they normally do. The Alameda and Oakland lines took 4,656 passengers - more than three times the 1,400 they normally carry during a morning commute - and the Harbor Bay ferry carried 1,046 passengers, up from 750 on an average morning, Sanchez said.
Casual carpoolers waited in their usual line outside Café Jolie, on Santa Clara Avenue at Webster Street. Stacey McDermott said she left for work at her usual time and that cars had already pulled up to take passengers. She was expecting heavy traffic on the Bay Bridge.
“A lot of people work from home, so we’ll see what happens,” McDermott said.
A few moments later a Transbay bus pulled up to the stop on Webster Street, with seats to spare for the would-be carpoolers who hadn’t yet snagged a ride. AC Transit drivers opted not to strike today, with the leaders of their union – who, like BART’s union leaders, are negotiating a new contract – saying that they’d give 24 hours notice of any strike. Buses traversing the Island had room to spare Monday morning.
The Posey Tube also appeared to be free of backups Monday morning. But once commuters got onto freeways, some said, it was a different story.
Jay Cooke tweeted that buses that breezed across Alameda were “crawling” once they hit the I-880 freeway, and others said backups doubled their commutes. After 9 a.m., the commute site 511.org showed the drive from Alameda to San Francisco taking 36 minutes when it typically takes 22 minutes; a trip to Fremont was an estimated 29 minutes, instead of the usual 25 minutes.
McDermott said later that her commute was "pretty normal," with her carpool getting her into work 15 minutes late. Other said that surface streets were light, though they, too, saw freeway backups.
Even with the inconveniences, commuters – including some who usually take BART to work – were equivocal about the strike on its first day. Rachel Witmer prepared to take the ferry to work in San Francisco’s financial district after hearing that a BART strike seemed imminent. She faced a short wait in line.
“I think we had enough notice that it was coming,” she said.
“I hope they come to a fair solution that everybody’s happy with,” she added. “I rely on BART, and I understand they’re not happy with the current wages. I hope they come to a conclusion that everyone can live with.”
San Francisco Bay Ferry has added extra service between Alameda and San Francisco; schedules are available through the link above. AC Transit buses are running on schedule. The city has set up shuttles to run to and from its two ferry terminals and also relaxed parking rules around the terminals to accommodate additional commuters; they’ve also set up a valet bike parking station at the Main Street ferry terminal. Additional commute information, including schedules, casual carpool locations, freeway times and conditions and strike updates, is available at 511.org.