With BART unions on strike we can expect major gridlock to the Bay Area. Some advice: Consider telecommuting, travel early or late and avoid highways that parallel BART lines.

Public transit alternatives:

-- BART plans to run free round-trip charter buses from the East Bay to San Francisco from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. BART lots and garages will be available free as carpool staging areas. The white-curb passenger loading zones could be used as casual carpool pickup and drop-off locations.

Return trips will be made from a stop near the San Francisco Transbay Terminal loading zone at Howard Street between Fremont and Beale streets from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis in the morning.

-- AC Transit will run its regular service to San Francisco and the Peninsula. It will supplement transbay lines to San Francisco with extra service to the extent possible.

-- County Connection will provide special shuttles to Oakland at Broadway and 20th Street to connect with AC Transit. This is the only transit service through the Caldecott Tunnel aside from BART charter buses.

-- SF Bay Ferry will have direct service from Alameda Main Street to San Francisco Ferry Building and from Oakland to San Francisco Ferry Building.

Carpool options:

Get to a casual carpool lot and catch a ride with a stranger. Go to http://alert.511.org for all options.

The plan is to extend carpool hours on many freeways and bridges from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., affecting drivers as far south as Interstate 880 in San Jose. Big rigs will be allowed to use I-580 from San Leandro to Oakland.

Caltrans plans to restrict the use of the West Grand Avenue on-ramp at Maritime Street in Oakland for exclusive use by public transit, carpoolers, clean air vehicles (with decal), and commercial vehicles to access the Bay Bridge toll plaza.

If you carpool across one of the bridges, remember that you need FasTrak at the toll plazas or run the risk of a hefty ticket. And there must be at least three people in a vehicle to make a carpool on I-80 and the bridges.

Parking in San Francisco:

One of the biggest hassles during the July strike was soaring parking rates in San Francisco. About 4,000 additional vehicles can be accommodated in the following city-owned garages in the downtown area: 5th Street and Mission, Sutter and Stockton, Union Square, Moscone Center, Performing Arts, Civic Center, Golden Gateway, and Ellis and O'Farrell. In addition, about 2,000 parking spaces are available at AT&T Park.

For real-time parking information at these facilities, go to www.511.org and click on 511 Parking.

For more commuting information:

Check the live blog on the homepage of this site for the latest on the BART negotiations, live traffic reports and commuting options.

The website http://alert.511.org will have commuting options and updates.

Contact Gary Richards at 408-920-5335.