Bay Area crawls to work Monday as BART strike causes commute mess

The worst ever, the worst in history or just the worst since Friday? No matter, Tuesday is sure to improve with the end of the labor strife.

BART trains will be running Tuesday after a tentative contract agreement was announced late Monday. Each line will have some trains operating as soon as 4 a.m., with service increasing throughout the day, BART General Manager Grace Crunican said.

That may help soothe the souls of Bay Area commuters who on Monday struggled through waves of stationary cars, piled onto overloaded buses and otherwise tried to make sense of the way to get to work on the fourth day — and second workday — of the second BART strike of 2013.

“No question, this inflicts a lot of pain on a lot of people — even people who don't ride BART,” said John Goodwin of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which reported Monday that drive times increased regionwide by more than 40 minutes.

On a normal workday, BART handles 400,000 boardings. About 62,000 BART riders stayed home Monday, according to the MTC. But for those who could not, the trek was long and slow.

Drivers in the East Bay crawling from the Carquinez Bridge to the Bay Bridge saw their trip times peak at triple a normal commute — 1½ hours.

Traffic backed up at the Bay Bridge after 5 a.m., as 41,476 cars — about 10 percent above normal — crossed into The City.

The Bay Area's heavy reliance on BART — the nation's fifth-largest transit system — and the limited number of alternatives was evident Monday.

As bad as the morning was, the afternoon was predicted to be even worse — and while data wasn't available Monday to quantify it, it certainly looked that way.

Hardest hit were downtown office workers attempting to leave San Francisco via car.

Backups on surface streets approaching the Bay Bridge stretched for blocks as delays at on-ramps in the Financial District and South of Market began as early as 1 p.m.

On social media, frustrated commuters posted photos of lines for charter buses stretching for four blocks, exits to parking garages blocked by walls of cars, seas of red brake lights and crowds of carpoolers awaiting rides.

Reports of hourlong drives from Financial District parking garages to Bay Bridge on-ramps continued throughout the evening.

To fight off the madness, Bay Area commuters sought creative solutions — and some received them from their employers.

Several San Francisco hotels — whose lower-income workers rely on BART — allowed the East Bay residents among their workforce to stay overnight in otherwise empty rooms, according to Kevin Carroll, executive director of the Hotel Council

For all the havoc, the worst commute of all was by air.

Following Saturday's fatal accident involving BART workers on tracks in Walnut Creek, Mayor Ed Lee cut an already truncated tour of China and South Korea short and hopped a jet to return to work in San Francisco.

After landing Monday, Lee met with Muni Transportation Director Ed Reiskin, who reported an increase of nearly 25 percent, or 10,000 passengers, on the J-Church and 14-Mission lines Monday morning. That extra service cost Muni $100,000 a day, but offers “very little” help to East Bay commuters, Reiskin said.

In a brief encounter with reporters, Lee dubbed the strike's impact on San Francisco “not sustainable.”

“They've got to settle today,” said the mayor, who noted he had not taken a side on the issue. “These are issues that can be settled. They're close enough.”

Heavy loads

The Bay Area's transit infrastructure was pushed past its limit Monday with BART service out for a fourth straight day. All figures are for morning commute times only and reported by each agency.

SF Bay Ferry

7,508 Monday

2,650 normally

Bay Bridge

41,476 Monday

37,435 normally

Golden Gate Bridge

16,952 Monday

19,339 normally

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