BART's return a relief for area commuters as region heads back to work 

click to enlarge BART strike in Bay Area ends
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • BART passengers board a train Friday as the first trains started moving after workers ended their strike.

The reality for commuters returning to normal Monday -- a regular, full workweek with regular, full BART service -- may be unwelcome, but it's true: You were lucky.

BART's nearly five-day strike last week -- the transit agency's first labor stoppage over a contract disagreement since 1997 -- was kinder than it could have been to commuters.

The strike fell on a holiday week, with many workers out of town or otherwise out of the office on a week punctuated by the Fourth of July holiday. And the number of cars crossing across the Bay Bridge was close to normal.

The week before the strike, an average of 128,391 cars crossed the Bay Bridge, with 40,517 of those entering San Francisco during the 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. hours, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

During the strike -- when Alameda residents reported two-hour commutes into The City -- 128,065 vehicles crossed the bridge Monday, including 39,546 during the five-hour peak morning commute time. That's 1,000 less than the average from the week before, according to MTC data.

With BART out of service, commuters turned to a few alternatives: ferries, buses, carpooling and telecommuting. Ferries had triple their normal ridership, and AC Transit carried double the number of passengers it would in a normal week.

The Bay Area "clearly got a couple lucky breaks: a Thursday holiday and the AC Transit workers stayed on the job -- and did a great job carrying a heavy load," said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the MTC, who added that it's "hard to gauge" exactly how much worse it would have been otherwise.

Transportation officials have said that the similar vehicle loads turned into lengthier commuters since the roads are already some of the most-congested in the country. With highways at bridges at their capacity, just a few commuters uncomfortable with driving can cause a slowdown.

The worst of it may be yet to come: BART's 2,300 workers represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 are back on their jobs for 30 days, after which if there is no deal they could strike again.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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