As you no doubt have heard, BART’s negotiations with unions haven’t been going so well, and there’s a possibility that workers could strike as soon as next week. So BART issued a press release yesterday, explaining alternative options to its riders in the case of a strike, which makes complete sense.
What doesn’t make sense is the order in which they placed these recommendations. BART’s first two suggestions are to adjust work hours or telecommute, which is great advice if your boss will allow that. But for the rest of us, BART’s next suggestions are to carpool or to drive alternate routes that might not be as congested. Um, are they serious?
Way down at the botttom of the list, after recommending bicycling, they finally mention that there are other transit agencies in the Bay Area that serve a majority of their riders. Look, I’m all for bicycling, but I really can’t imagine that many people who take BART are traveling a short enough distance that biking would be a viable option. But for so many, other public transit agencies offer the best alternative if BART is shut down.
So why isn’t this recommendation at the top of BART’s list? I don’t think it’s because BART is evil and wants to congest our roads further and create more pollution. It’s more likely it’s because they’re terrified of losing riders to AC Transit, Caltrain, and other transit agencies that offer comparable service.
I didn’t live here at the time, but friends have told me that BART’s last strike in 1997 was when AC Transit’s transbay commuter service really took off. People switched to ACT, and many never switched back. And I can understand why – most of the transbay commuter buses are extremely comfortable and less crowded than BART. Also, there’s a much better chance that an ACT transbay bus stops within walking distance of your house, which means riders can ditch their cars and not have to pay for parking at a BART lot.
But beyond the transbay mess, there are a surprising amount of people who use BART to commute within the East Bay, and with ACT’s rapid lines, I would not be surprised if, in the case of a strike, BART riders made the switch to local ACT service and never switched back.
This is all very bad news for BART, which has been losing riders, but is it so bad that BART should essentially be discouraging its riders from riding the bus or using other public transit options? I think not. So my recommendation, if a strike happens, is to first look into other public transit options before hopping in your car.