Pleasanton traffic planners, police and the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission are encouraging commuters to prepare for a possible BART strike tomorrow that could add thousands of vehicles to Tri-Valley streets and highways.
The strike is scheduled to start at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow and could double or triple commute times on an already congested highway system in the region, a California Department of Transportation spokeswoman said.
BART's second-largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, announced yesterday that its members would begin the strike after months of negotiations with BART management did not result in an agreement.
However, the union leadership and BART management will meet starting at 11:30 a.m. today in a last ditch effort to avert a walkout.
Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho and Police Capt. Eric Finn met Friday to put a contingency plan in place.
"Extra police patrols will be provided at the BART station," Finn said. "We will have motorcycle officers on duty early Monday to evaluate and respond to traffic problems and to help direct vehicle and bus traffic that converges weekedays at the station as needed."
Cones will be placed along Willow Road and Owens Drive in the vicinity of the BART station where buses, including Wheels and County Connection, and shuttles will offload and pick up passengers. By allowng these temporary pick up points, public transit and other drivers willl not have to cross picket lines at the station, if there are any.
To see temporary bus stops click here.
It's also unknown at this time if BART wil allow free use of its parking lots on the Pleasanton and Dublin sides of the station, which commuters could use as temporary "Park and Drive" lots as they group together in carpools for the drive to San Francisco, Oakland and their other usual BART station destinations.
A BART strike could lead to long lines at the freeway on-ramps along Interstates 580 and 680 and traffic jams at the already usually congested interchange of the two freeways. Streets leading to the Pleasanton-Dublin BART station could also become crowded as commuters search for rides and riders for the trip by car to their usual BART destinations.
"In terms of our approach, it is to rely on the existing contingency plans that were previously created," Fialho said. "That means working in cooperation with BART to minimize impacts to the public and maintain the public peace while respecting the right of those on strike and lawfully protesting. Law enforcement will remain impartial while working to ensure public safety and protecting property."
Although some BART officials indicated earlier that a sufficient number of trained management personnel could be assembled to operate some trains, BART board vice president James Fang said later that won't happen.
"We can't run the trains for reasons of safety and experience," Fang said.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which plans, coordinates and finances transportation in the nine counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area, recommends that commuters carpool, take alternative transit and avoid peak driving periods to keep traffic moving.
A RideMatch service is offered at 511.org, a trip planner site run by the MTC. The agency also recommends that commuters who cross one of the region's eight toll bridges purchase FasTrak toll tags, which can be purchased at Costco and Safeway and activated online.
In the meantime, Bay Area transportation agencies beyond Pleasanton also are making preparations to deal with the influx of riders who would be displaced by the strike.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has developed a plan to help connect commuters with Caltrain, SamTrans, AC Transit and ferry services once they're in the city, according to a statement from the agency.
Muni service will be prioritized along 14 Mission, 49 Van Ness-Mission, J Church to and from Balboa Park/ Geneva, and N Judah to and from Caltrain and Fourth and King routes. Parking enforcement will also be increased, especially in the South of Market area where motorists enter the city from the Bay Bridge and Highway 101.
Casual carpooling pick up areas will include 12 additional destinations that will be in effect between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays. SFMTA will work with private taxi companies to make sure there are cabs with ramps at transfer points to help disabled customers.
Alameda-Contra Costa Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said the East Bay bus line will also deploy any extra resources it can to back up existing services. AC Transit has a Transbay line that goes between various East Bay locations and the San Francisco Transbay Terminal at Mission and Second streets.
"We will have people directing commuters so there's no confusion about where they should go," Johnson said. "We also stepped up maintenance to make sure all of our vehicles are road ready. We're doing all we can to make sure our riders experience as little inconvenience as possible."
The Blue and Gold Fleet ferries offer another option for crossing the San Francisco Bay without a car. One-way trips cost $6.50 and leave from Sausalito, Angel Island, Oakland/ Alameda, Tiburon and Vallejo about every half-hour or hour, depending on the destination, between 6 a.m. and 9:25 p.m.
Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said today that if the strike occurs, an on-ramp to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will be converted into a carpool and FasTrak lane as one of many changes on Bay Area highways.
As part of an agreement with the city of Oakland, the California Highway Patrol and the AC Transit District, Caltrans would convert the West Grand Avenue on-ramp to the Bay Bridge to a carpool and FasTrak access lane only.
The on-ramp would only be converted to the alternate use between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Only vehicles with three or more passengers, as well as buses, motorcycles, commercial trucks, and those with FasTrak would be able to use the lane.
Wonder said the department will also be monitoring traffic and could extend the operating hours for carpool lanes on highways in the region, particularly on the busy Interstate Highway 80 corridor.
Caltrans will also be deploying field personnel to adjust metering lights at on-ramps and at the Bay Bridge, and activate changeable message signs with useful traffic conditions and travel information.
Tollbooths will also be fully staffed starting at 4 a.m. and would continue through the commute hours, Wonder said.
The Bay Area's 511 Rideshare program has seen an increase in interest because of the looming BART strike, according to program spokesman Kit Powis.
"The phones have picked up a lot in the last few minutes" since the 4 p.m. announcement of a possible strike, Powis said Thursday evening.
New carpoolers to the program can register by going online to http://511.org and clicking on the "Rideshare" link. The 511 RideMatch Service provides a free list of travelers seeking carpool partners who live and work nearby.
Caltrain and SamTrans have also developed a contingency plan in the event of a BART strike Sunday night, agency officials announced today.
SamTrans will be routing its buses out of BART stations and run a commute-hour shuttle to a temporary transit center where passengers can connect with San Francisco Municipal Railway service, according to officials.
Caltrain will be operating its regular service.