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BART ‘early bird’ bus service off to a bumpy start at some stops

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(Courtesy of MIchele Boswell)

BART’s early morning service hit a few bumps on Monday, the first day that 4 a.m. trains were replaced by buses, that left huge crowds of commuters waiting.

That’s according to riders, BART Board of Directors President Bevan Dufty and BART itself. But while the commutes of perhaps a few hundred were impacted, roughly 1,000 commuters saw bus service well-matched to traditional train service, according to early BART estimates.

Starting Monday, BART began operating on a new schedule with trains starting at 5 a.m., an hour later than usual, to allow construction crews more time to seismically retrofit the three-and-a-half mile Transbay tube. Shaving time off morning service is expected to accelerate the three-and-a-half year earthquake retrofit project by 4 months and save the agency $15 million, according to BART.

But the bus service meant to substitute for those early morning trains did not kick off without problems.

The El Cerrito Del Norte route saw two buses delayed due to a train crossing arm, and BART plans to reroute those buses to avoid the problem Tuesday. The Pittsburg/Bay Point bus line saw massive crowding and high ridership — which BART counted at more than 100 people — with riders lined up as early as 3:30 a.m. for a single bus at 4:11 a.m.

SEE RELATED: BART service cuts to affect early morning commuters

“Overwhelmingly it went great, given all the moving parts,” Dufty told the San Francisco Examiner, except for the Pittsburg/Bay Point and Del Norte routes. Interestingly, he added, many of the early riders were Muni operators and staff.

“People’s attitudes were, they expected it to be worse. Others said they had a good ride and that it was quicker than their normal commute by train,” Dufty added.

Michele Boswell is an IT professional from Bay Point who commutes into San Francisco early because her work involves financial markets on the East Coast. Boswell told the San Francisco Examiner that she was only just able to board the first bus — ad she was among the lucky ones.

“People left behind stretched farther than the back of the bus,” Boswell said. “There were a lot of people left behind.”

The line of people left waiting, Boswell said, was “gigantic.”

Boswell reached out to Dufty on Twitter, who thanked her for the feedback, apologized, and said “others boarding at (Pittsburg/Bay Point) gave me similar reports” but, he added, “this is fixable.”

To Dufty’s point, BART spokespeople said it will make adjustments for Tuesday’s commute that should shore up any hiccups from Monday.

Tuesday, BART plans to have two buses leave Pittsburg/Bay Point by 4:15 a.m., with a third leaving at 4:30 a.m. “since most of the ridership was in that first half-hour,” BART spokesperson Anna Duckworth said.

BART and its partners operated 15 bus substitution routes for the early morning, representing a united effort form AC Transit, County Connection, Wheels, WestCat, Tri Delta, SamTrans, Golden Gate Transit and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni.

“What worked really well was having BART staff in yellow vests and ambassadors in orange shirts at 25 stations,” and at the Temporary Transbay Terminal, Duckworth said. “They were there to answer questions and guide people where they needed to go and will be back at those stations at least through Wednesday.”

BART’s responsiveness gave Boswell some hope for her commute, at least.

“They were very attentive at the station, and on social media,” Boswell said. “So now we just communicate and hope for adjustments.”

joe@sfexaminer.com

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