After announcing the Bay Bridge would not reopen in time for the morning commute, CalTrans announced about 8:20 this morning that the bridge would be reopening by 9:00 a.m. The reopening follows five and a half days of blame, angst, repair, testing and inspection after a previous emergency fix broke last week on Tuesday afternoon.
Safety engineers were still testing the most recent repairs to the Bay Bridge over the weekend, and the word mid-Sunday afternoon is: don’t count on the bridge being available for the Monday morning commute. Better plan alternatives. Update @ 5:20 pm: That’s confirmed, no Monday morning on the bridge.
Pictures show an eerily empty toll plaza, an eerily empty bridge, and stuffed BART trains. Meanwhile, a car thief blew through barricades in San Francisco and led police on a chase over the closed bridge, and most people in San Francisco today completely forgot there was any problem at all, since it’s a gorgeous, sunny, warm 1st of November.
Back when BART was being planned in the 1960s, each Bay Area county decided whether or not to support it, and the original system (map) — as it existed from the 1970s to the 1990s — reflected the fact that both Marin and San Mateo Counties were left out of BART. (The stations built in San Mateo County south of Daly City station, connecting BART to San Francisco International Airport and to Caltrain in Millbrae, are the result of several whoops-I-guess-it’s-actually-a-good-idea votes in the late 90s.) This new map of all Bay Area rail (large .gif file) by SF Cityscape highlights Marin County’s isolation. (Courtesy CurbedSF)
It’s a local urban myth that snobbish Marin voters rejected BART because they feared it would bring the hoi polloi to its gentle shores. But the truth is more complicated. As told in the book “Paying the Toll: Local Power, Regional Politics, and the Golden Gate Bridge,” by Louise Nelson Dyble, the 1962 decision to eliminate Marin from the BART district was the result of Golden Gate Bridge District intransigence and indecision by the Marin County Board of Supervisors. Read a page of the book from the Google Books scan.
BART management and union representatives announced just after 7 pm this evening that the BART strike that had been planned for midnight tonight has been called off.
A tentative agreement between BART and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) has been reached that must be voted on by union members within a week or so. In the meantime, BART will run as normally scheduled this week.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, and others were present at the announcement.
Little snapshot of life blogpost here. I’m commuting to the East Bay, via bike, from North Beach.
Day 1: Notice the sign on Embarcadero turnstile, “no bikes during commuter hours, 7-9AM” (It’s 10AM). Started this long discussion on FriendFeed. I’m sweaty and exhausted at work, and it’s worst going home- where every staircase is uphill (a quirk of going from an underground station to an overground one).
Day 2: Instead of biking up Embarcadero- which is wind tunnel every which hour or way or day- tack up the streets on the East side of Telegraph Hill. Less wind, a little more distance. I run into an old friend on BART, and I realize the social aspect of public transit cannot be overrated.
Day 3: It all goes by in a blur. It’s faster and becoming rote. I’m not as tired, it’s easier, and I start noticing the signs of approaching fall- ripening fruit on trees, the earlier darkness, and realize it’s great to be outside so much, each day, but still be able to get everything done work-wise and after-work-wise.
Back into the car Monday for the BART strike.
Talks between Bay Area Rapid Transit management and unions broke down today, leading to the likelihood of a strike as early as Monday. Giving a 72-hour notice to the public as required by law, union leaders announced a strike would begin early on Monday morning.
A BART strike could completely shut down the system, or it could run at a vastly reduced schedule with trains operated by management. Read this LA Times article about the 1997 strike, which shut down the system. In 2005, another strike threatened, but was averted, and commuters were relieved.
The strike is the result of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents station agents and train drivers, rejecting BART contract proposals and voting to authorize a strike, after which the other two unions at BART announced they would honor the ATU picket line. The breakdown in negotiations came after representatives of all three unions had reached a tentative agreement with BART on July 31.
Actually this is probably the best possible time for a BART strike. UC Berkeley summer school ends tomorrow. Twenty percent of people are on vacation, plus another ten or fifteen percent are unemployed in the first place. The Giants begin an 11-game road series tomorrow. It seems there will be little reason to cross the bay at all — so tomorrow, go to work, get your laptop, and stay home next week.
However, CalTrans plans to shut the Bay Bridge over Labor Day weekend. BART had been planning to run trains 24 hrs a day that weekend to make up for the closure. If the BART strike lasts into Labor Day weekend, the result could be a real nightmare.
The British company acrossair is supposed to expand its “Nearest Tube” application for the iPhone 3GS — changed to “Nearest Subway” for the US market — to San Francisco today. The app uses GPS to overlay a subway map on the phone’s live video feed to tell users where the nearest station is.
It should be a simple feat in San Francisco, which has only two subway lines. But checking the acrossair website shows information only for the London and New York versions, and even those are said to be “launching as soon as Apple approves it!”
Update a day later: Speaking of BART, Streetsblog draws attention to the transit system’s “data transparency,” meaning that it allows anyone to use live data from its train control system to build applications, and lists the resulting applications on its website.
Local photographer Thomas Hawk made a very interesting post on his website today, reporting his “unscientific survey” of what commuters were doing on his 9 a.m. BART train from MacArthur to Embarcadero this morning. He didn’t ask anyone what they were doing, relying on his own observations. Most people were “doing nothing,” he found; others he broke down into “other” and into several categories of reading. See his post for the stats.
I love the idea of noticing what others are doing, and recording it unobtrusively and reporting it. It sounds a bit creepy when put that way, but there’s nothing wrong with doing so in a public space. I’d love to see people do this exact thing from time to time: walk the length of a bus or train and compile the same stats, or different ones. It’s just as valuable and interesting to report on skirt lengths, how many people smell, or the number of people wearing glasses.
That said, it’s interesting that Hawk happened to sort his survey by media consumption, and that he expresses surprise that “so many of the people on BART were simply doing nothing (this included sleeping as well).” Of course, BART, and public transit in general, is a great place to read. I’ve sometimes gotten on a BART train and ridden all the way to the end of the line and back just to have a comfortable reading experience uninterrupted by phones, people I know, my cats, or trips to the refrigerator. But those who were sitting quietly “doing nothing” may have relished the chance to do so as much as the people who were devouring media. As someone who sits in front of a computer all day and, often, much of the evening, I find it nice to have a time where I can’t do so — this includes driving, going to the ballgame or the symphony, and yes, “doing nothing.”
By the way, I just noticed that BART has a page on its website where it collects blog and Twitter posts about BART.
I was inspired by Tara’s post, Public Transportation 2.0, to add more than a comment.
When I was in Bangalore in 2007, I was struck by the utility of the ubiquitous motorized rickshaws, known locally as autocabs or just autos:
Any visitor to Asia has seen these things, since they’re in every Asian city. And they are cheap and they are everywhere. When I mentioned them to one of the panjandrums of the Bay Area public transportation scene, the executive director of one of the NGOs that lobbies for transportation policy, he was dismissive. “Oh, the tuk-tuks,” he said. “They clog up the streets, and they pollute. That’s not what we need. We need commuter rail that goes everywhere.”
Oh, fine, Mr. Bay Area Transit Boss! So I’m on my way to work in the morning. Never mind how I get to the BART station; I take a train across the bay to, say, Ashby. Now that I have alighted at your gigantor 1970s-era concrete monster BART station, I need to get to work, 2.3 miles away. It’s too far to walk. I could wait 20 minutes for a bus, and then that bus would take 20 minutes to poke along for the two miles, making my trip to work take over an hour… And that’s why I drive every day instead.
The Bay Area is is known as the hub for bleeding edge technology, and now public transportation is taking advantage of it. Bart, Muni and Caltrain have easy to use online services to find your way around the city and keep up-to-date on the latest travel alerts.
Bart is now on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/sfbart providing the latest train delays and other interesting Bart news from and for commuters. You can get the updates directly to your phone through text messages. In addition, the account also responds to your questions. Recently I was having some problems with my Bart cards de-magnetizing and complained about the process to get a refund. The SFBart Twitter account promptly responded with some advice.
Here’s an example of a useful and timely update from SFBart: “There is a 15-20 minute delay at Embarcadero in the Daly City / SFO /Millbrae direction due to an equipment problem on a train.”
SF Bart is also getting into the community spirit and has a funny and somewhat unofficial blog where you can see what commuters are up to.
Caltrain is taking an even more progressive community approach by allowing its passengers to provide updates to the Caltrain Twitter accounts: http://www.twitter.com/caltrain
and the bicycle car http://twitter.com/bikecar. More information on how you can participate and provide Caltrain updates to the Twitter account is here: http://cow.org/c/about
If you don’t have a Twitter account, maybe now is the time to sign up or you can subscribe to the RSS feed off those pages.
Muni takes advantage of NextBus, a site that tells you when your bus will arrive via the website, Mobile Internet or SMS alerts.
If you want an easy way to plan your trips using public transportation, try out 511.org. Type in your start and ending address and the time you want to depart or arrive, and it will give you options using Bart, Muni and Caltrain.
511.org has a list of other useful services such as Dadnab which is text messaging service that plans your trips on city transit.
With all of these new fangled ways to plan out your trip using public transportation that make getting around the Bay Area that much easier, who needs a car?