SAN FRANCISCO -- Unusually heavy traffic did not stop thousands of people from getting around the Bay Area on Friday night for the start of their weekend festivities.
A sold out show for Jay Z and Justin Timberlake at Candlestick Park, plus a home game for the San Francisco Giants, meant a majority of those traveling by car or by public transit were heading into the city. However, a spike in BART ridership revealed that 5,300 people exited at the Oakland Coliseum station for a night in the East Bay with the Oakland A's.
Whether some planned to leave hours early -- like many attending the festivities at Candlestick Park chose to do -- or some decided to brave the "Carmageddon," this weekend's packed schedule of sporting events, festivals and concerts definitely meant a boost in Bay Area traffic snarls.
The parking lot at Candlestick Park had hundreds of cars in it well before venue doors opened at 4:30 p.m., with tailgaters preferring to brave the mighty winds instead of heavy traffic.
"I didn't want to risk it," said Jenine Olea, who left around 1 p.m. from Santa Cruz. "I'd rather come, hang out and have lunch." "I wouldn't be late for this -- no way in hell," said Julie Lynn Esmaeili, who left by car at noon from Modesto with her friends Judy Williams and Amanda Williams. "This will be my 18th time seeing Justin Timberlake." Pleasant Hill resident Jennifer Ortega experienced first hand the influx of people hoping to beat the freeway traffic by instead opting for public transit.
Ortega, en route to the Giants game, was on BART hours before the game was scheduled to start, and many others seemed to have the same plan.
But fortunately, Ortega said commuters were not grumpy.
"I'm on BART at MacArthur," she said. "The train is crowded and hot. But (Highway 24) looks like smooth sailing to the (Interstate 580) bridge. ... Standing room only at the Walnut Creek station." A preview of what was to come, however, came much earlier in the day, when an early morning crash on the Bay Bridge gave commuters a peek at the evening's snarl.
While no one was seriously injured in the two-car crash at the beginning of the westbound incline about 6 a.m., the collision blocked two lanes for more than half an hour and further slowed the normal morning crawl into San Francisco, CHP Officer Ron Simmons said.
Simmons warned that traffic would not thin as the day wore on -- between simultaneous Giants and A's home games, San Francisco's critical mass bike ride, the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival and a slew of concerts expected to draw huge crowds, motorists could expect a slow shuffle in any direction.
"It's Friday. People are going out, and it's congested anyway," Simmons said. "This definitely set things back. And with all the things that are happening tonight, it could be a setback for the entire day." More than 40,000 fans were expected to hit AT&T park for the Giants home game, and 25,000 more were likely to turn out across the Bay to support the A's. Music fans were out in droves, too -- about 53,000 were expected at Candlestick Park for Jay Z and Justin Timberlake, 15,000 at Shoreline Amphitheatre for John Mayer, and 8,500 in Berkeley for the Postal Service.
All five events, which put more than 100,000 fans on roads in all directions, began between 7 and 7:30 p.m.
A's season ticket holders Kirk and Susan Rinnie left from Fairfield at 5:10 p.m. and arrived at the park at 7 p.m.
"We just pulled in," Susan Rinne said as she got to the park. "It took almost two hours and usually we're here in 45 minutes. With the bridge closed for a bit, the two games and four concerts, it was pretty busy." "I started from San Jose first, and it took me 2½ hours to get to Fairfield," Kirk Rinnie said. "I got a quick shower and we hit the road, but it took a long, long time." The midday hours were hardly a reprieve, with the Bay Bridge shut down in both directions temporarily around 3 p.m. after a man reported seeing what he thought was an explosive device on the shoulder of the Treasure Island off-ramp.
San Francisco's critical mass bike ride began at 5:30 p.m., and heavy traffic in and out of the city was expected on almost every major roadway, from Interstates 280, 880 and 80, to Highway 101, which was also expected to be clogged in the southbound direction by food-enthusiasts headed to opening day of the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
Caltrain is providing its usual additional trains from AT&T Park following the Giants game, but has limited resources during the evening commute hours, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said. A better option, officials say, is to take BART, which has added extra trains and lengthened existing trains.
"As platforms get crowded, we have reserved event trains who will sweep in and help clear up the crowds," BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said. "It's always a convenient option to come in and park for free when you don't want to worry about traffic, parking, or all of those things that get in the way when you're having a good time." As of 7 p.m., Trost said, BART exits compared to last Friday at various stations were up by 12,000, with the largest groups of people getting off at the Oakland Coliseum and at the Embarcadero.
Both the BART and Caltrain websites will be updated throughout the evening to provide commuters with the most up-to-date information to get them to their destination quickly and painlessly, officials said. Public transportation options for concert-goers are available at www.ticketmaster.com/jtjzcommute.