Freaked out about the BART strike? A shutdown would shoot an extra 200,000 frustrated transit riders onto the Bay Area's already-jammed freeways, trains and buses -- and you need to be prepared to deal with it.
Traffic officials implore you to:
BART's daily ridership amounts to about 5 percent of the 3.8 million Bay Area commuters who need to get to work in the typical weekday, but even slight increases to the number of vehicles on the road can really slow travel.
"If this (strike) happens, we really need drivers and passengers to be patient, but take somebody along, a friend or a stranger," said John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "Fill up those empty seats in cars."
BART management and its unions returned to the negotiating table Saturday as agency leaders offered a fresh proposal that included double the pay increase previously offered -- 8 percent over four years, up from their prior offer of 4 percent over four years. They also reduced the amount of money they were asking workers to contribute to pensions and health care benefits, so much that the higher wages would result in a net increase in total contributions for workers, BART spokesman Rick Rice said Saturday.
The offer comes after union leaders -- who are seeking pay hikes totaling 23 percent -- walked out of the negotiating room Saturday. Both sides had scheduled to resume talks Sunday morning, though it was unclear if the unions would even show up.
The current four-year contract expires at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Two unions representing about 2,300 blue-collar workers have sworn they will strike before BART service would normally begin around 4 a.m. on Monday if a deal is not reached in time.
If a strike happens, BART parking lots would be free for drivers to meet up and carpool together, or catch a bus. Existing casual carpooling services are available in the Bay Area as well.
The MTC and Caltrans would fully staff Bay Area bridge toll booths and traffic operation centers to monitor freeway flow. Metering lights would be enforced most of the day but can only do so much to speed up freeway traffic, Goodwin said, so load up some music and blast the air conditioning for what is forecast to be yet another blisteringly day.
Effects on Bay Area
Goodwin said the traffic effect in the San Jose area and the far North Bay should be minimal, but the rest of the Bay Area could be a sea of red brake lights most of the day. However, commute-time traffic is historically near its lowest levels during the Fourth of July week, when school is out and many families are vacationing. Plus, some Bay Area businesses are telling their employees to work from home or leave outside of rush hour.
"It's going to be pretty bad," said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council, which represents businesses. But "there are definitely plans in the works at a lot of companies to enable people to telecommute. Some of the bigger ones have arranged carpools, encouraged people to take vacation days, things like that."
If you can't drive, regional officials are ramping up a $20 million plan to beef up alternative transit service that should provide enough seats to serve one-fourth of the displaced BART riders. AC Transit -- if its workers don't also go on strike Monday -- SamTrans, San Francisco Muni, ferries, and Contra Costa County and North Bay buses all would add limited extra service during the commute period.
If you're used to catching a bus at the BART station, those lines would still run, but the bus stops would move to just outside the stations. Look for signs at your local hub.
BART also would offer free shuttles leaving the El Cerrito del Norte, Walnut Creek, Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont stations en route to San Francisco's Transbay Terminal from 5 to 9 a.m., and back from 3 to 7 p.m. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and only about 2,000 to 4,000 people would be able to make it on each day, BART officials said.
Caltrain is typically a good bet for people heading up the Peninsula into San Francisco, but the rail line is so booked during rush hour already that it would likely be unable to handle additional loads or launch more trains. That means very, very crowded Caltrains.
Use an app
San Francisco International Airport, however, will operate free shuttles between its international terminal and both the Millbrae Caltrain stop and the South San Francisco ferry station.
Car service Uber, which dispatches black town cars and taxis using an app, said Friday that it planned to ramp up social media efforts to recruit passengers Monday and would even scour the BART stations to recruit commuters without a ride.
Competitor SideCar, which relies on community drivers who work for a donation, is asking all of its drivers to be available next week.
"You'll see a big spike in demand, especially when you look in the morning and in the afternoon around rush hour," said Matt Carrington, marketing director for Taxi Magic, an app in San Francisco and San Jose that lets riders hail and pay for taxis on their smartphones. "That commuter traffic has to unload somewhere."
Staff writer Heather Somerville contributed to this report. Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at Twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.