If Bay Area commuters wake up Oct. 11 to the second BART strike of the year, they will be back where they were when the transit system shut down in July: on their own.
The transit agency handles nearly 400,000 weekday boardings on average, and there is no alternative transit method — land, sea or air — to move so many people.
That leaves commuters to fend for themselves, be it carpooling, adjusting work schedules or telecommuting. It also forces employers to have to bend to the circumstances.
"We've got to ask the business community" to be more flexible, said Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which manages regional transit funding. "I will be needing a much more concerted effort from the business community to see people through here."
An October strike is guaranteed to be worse than the summertime work stoppage, which came during Fourth of July week.
BART does plan to charter up to 200 buses to provide limited "lifeline" service to workers who do not have the luxury of taking the day off, adjusting work schedules or telecommuting. The transit agency is currently securing them for service, spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.
If a strike is averted, BART could be on the hook for up to $900,000 in cancellation fees, she added.
About 1,600 commuters rode 60 lifeline buses from the East Bay to The City during July's work stoppage.
On Wednesday, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates — in his capacity as an MTC commissioner — floated the idea of somehow restricting the lifeline service to those who would not be able to make alternative arrangements: nurses, service workers or employees in manufacturing.
That's not something BART can do, Trost said, meaning commuters will be left to make the determination of whether or not to use the buses.
"This is really, truly a lifeline if you need to get to your job if you have no other option," she said.
BART and its largest unions, Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, have been unable to come to terms on a labor deal since April.
How Bay Area commuters coped Day 1 of July BART strike:
• 29,200 Commuters stayed home
• 26,800 Commuters took alternative transportation
• 22,600 Commuters carpooled, took ferries or rode AC Transit
• 2,600 Commuters drove alone
• 1,600 Commuters took BART shuttles
Contingency plans during strike:
• 60 Buses hired by BART in July
• 200 Buses that could be hired in October
• $1,200 Cost per bus per day
• 12 Managers who are trained to operate trains, in event of another strike
Source: Metropolitan Transportation Commission