BART mulls early morning buses during three-year Transbay Tube project

Board workshop on option to delay trains' start one hour to 5 a.m. weekdays

BART's Board of Directors held an informational session Thursday on their plans to provide bus service for commuters crossing from the East Bay into San Francisco during a long-term, planned seismic retrofit of the Transbay Tube in preparation for the possibility of a major earthquake.

The project itself involves the installation of a new pumping system and better internal liners to deal with the flooding anticipated with a significant seismic event as part of a $313 million contract awarded to Shimmick Construction and California Engineering Contractors Inc.

To accommodate this process, BART officials plan to close the entire system for an additional hour each weeknight, opening at 5 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. the following morning for more than three years starting in February.

In order to plan alternative service for transbay commuters, BART surveyed 1,367 respondents, 1,180 of whom were identified as "relatively regular riders" who ride BART before 5 a.m. at least several times a month.

More than 47 percent of them expressed some degree of preference for enhancing the existing network of bus routes and adding 14 new direct lines to San Francisco, Daly City or San Francisco International Airport.

BART officials hope to be able to provide bus service at the same cost that is less than or equal to that of taking a train, and in some cases the transit time may even be shorter.

The ride from Pittsburg/Bay Point to San Francisco is estimated to be nine minutes shorter by bus than by train, according to BART staff. The first bus into San Francisco would arrive at 4:45 a.m. and the last would arrive at 5:45 a.m.

Hotel Council of San Francisco associate director Kelly Powers addressed the board, asking them to consider how their plans will impact the 24,000 hotel industry workers her organization represents, many of whom currently take the early morning trains into the city for work.

"We are concerned about the solutions being presented," Powers said. "It'll be very inconvenient."

Some of their employees will need to change their work schedules, which will impact general managers and human resource managers who need to accommodate those schedule changes. Affected workers may also pay a personal cost.

"There will be a cost to their livelihood, to their quality of life," Powers said.

Director Joel Keller pointed out that an estimated 40% of the riders impacted by this project will be in Contra Costa County, and suggested that parking fees at BART stations could be waived before 5 a.m. to accommodate those riders.

There was also some discussion among the directors over whether to add direct routes from East Bay locations into San Francisco's Mission District, or to have riders transfer to San Francisco Municipal Railway buses to reach their final destination.

In the latter scenario, members of the board expressed an interest in finding ways to avoid requiring those riders to pay an additional fare.

Because it was an informational presentation, no action was taken on the agenda item Thursday.

— Bay City News Service

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