OAKLAND, Calif. — San Francisco Bay area commuters sweated in crowded buses, shivered on loaded ferries or inched through crowded freeway traffic on Monday after hundreds of train workers demanding higher wages went on strike and the region’s heavily used rail system ground to a halt.
The walkout derailed hundreds of thousands of riders who use the nation’s fifth-largest rail system each day, forcing them to find other means of transportation in the second-most congested region in the country.
Morning rush hour did not come to a standstill as feared, and some travelers who used carpool lanes and other options added relatively little time to their commutes.
Later, evening commuters lined up early for ferries, buses and casual carpools to get a jump on the heavy traffic.
“It’s been an absolute nightmare for some commuters, but we didn’t see total gridlock,” said Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, an Oakland-based nonprofit organization focused on public transportation and walkable communities. “Everybody got so worried about potential congestion they found an alternative.”
Two of the largest unions representing Bay Area Rapid Transit workers went on strike early Monday after their contract expired Sunday night. No new talks were scheduled. It was the first strike by BART workers since a six-day walkout in 1997.
Theresa Tramble, 23, and Antanisha Thompson, 24, who usually ride BART trains together from Oakland to San Francisco, were upset after their long, hard commute. They usually enjoy a $5.85 round-trip on a line deep beneath the bay on the quiet, cushioned seats of BART trains. Instead, they rode a bus — a noisy, jerking ride that cost $4.20 one way.
How was the ride?
“Super crowded, super hot,” groaned Thompson, who works at a drug store in San Francisco.
California Highway Patrol spokeswoman Sgt. Diana McDermott said it could have been worse.
“It’s summertime and a holiday week, so plenty of people didn’t go to work,” she said. “Others had prepared for it, or they were able to work from home, and we saw lots of informal carpooling.”