Two years ago, the Bay Area coined a new term: “BARTpocalypse.”
It was born out of the two BART strikes in 2013 that crippled Bay Area transit. The agency scrambled to arrange buses, ferries and road changes in hopes of accommodating the hundreds of thousands of passengers who use the train system on weekdays, but it was unable to fully replace its service.
Now BART is using lessons learned from those strikes to prepare for two upcoming weekend closures of transbay service.
No trains will run between Oakland and San Francisco the weekends of Aug. 1 and 2 and Sept. 5, 6 and 7 (Labor Day weekend). Trains will run throughout the rest of the system. BART will perform track work it deems critical at the mouth of the underwater tunnel, and the agency said it has designed a thorough plan for the disruption.
At a news conference Tuesday, BART announced a fleet of 94 buses to replace its trains during the first weekend closure. Depending on how things go, it could adjust its approach for the second service shutdown.
“We assembled a public transit dream team,” said Bob Franklin, BART’s customer access manager who’s spearheading the bus program.
BART reached out to bus service providers across the Bay Area, Franklin said, in order to shore up service. Buses from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni; AC Transit in the East Bay; Golden Gate Transit in the North Bay; and SamTrans in San Mateo County will run while BART is shut down.
Local ferries will increase service, and roads will be reworked to facilitate faster public transit.
Paratransit vehicles will also be provided, and all buses will be wheelchair-accessible.
Bicyclists will have fewer options for transbay service and are advised not to take them.
Asked how large an undertaking this is for BART, Franklin smiled and said: “It’s huge.”
BART and the other agencies have been planning for the closures for the past two months, but more importantly, Franklin said, “It’s a refinement from the BART strike.”
During the strike, BART ferried 12,000 riders along. But for the upcoming closures, the agency has beefed up its efforts to transport as many of the anticipated 100,000 average weekend day riders as it can. However, transbay bus service could be one to two hours longer than the regular train trip.
Robert Lyles, an SFMTA spokesman, said Muni drivers have already taken practice runs across the Bay Bridge.
“They’re incredibly skilled, it’s just a different route,” he said, adding that transbay service is “an unprecedented event” for Muni.
San Francisco’s transit agency will provide 30 Muni buses and 30 operators, Lyles said. Muni service will not be impacted, he assured, and some service downtown will increase.
Sean Nozzari, Caltrans’ deputy district director, said two on-ramps to the Bay Bridge will be designated for buses only during the closures: West Grand Avenue in Oakland and Essex Street in San Francisco.
Nozzari also said Caltrans expects 15,000 to 25,000 more vehicles will cross the Bay Bridge due to the shutdowns, adding as much as 30 to 60 minutes onto trips.
Passengers can find the transbay buses at the temporary transbay terminal and Howard and Beale streets in San Francisco and outside the 19th Street BART station in Oakland.
BART’s board of directors will be asked to approve spending of up to $500,000 per day for buses, $200,000 for city permits and up to $1 million to reimburse the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a regional transit planning group, for roadwork.
BART management is asking for more than it anticipates it will spend, Franklin said, in case of the unlikely scenario that track construction is delayed. Ultimately, he anticipates the two weekend closures will cost BART about $1.9 million.