Well it’s going to be an interesting next five days in San Francisco. Not since the 1989 quake has the Bay Bridge been closed for this long. The new bridge is in its finishing stages over the next few days and here’s what it’s like if you’re going to be driving around.
Traffic in the city was pretty light during rush hour this morning. I have to say that driving down Montgomery Street between 8-9am was pretty easy and stress free since apparently there were a lot of people driving into the City from the East Bay who are stuck with Bart or the ferries now. I’ve heard people say that Labor Day weekend isn’t a big weekend for people coming to the City or people leaving the City, but from what I saw today it was practically down right empty.
I gave a ride to someone in the Sunset District this morning who had to go down to Battery Street. This normally would take me a half hour, but today I was dropping him off in 15-20 minutes. Even he was surprised at how fast we got there. There really wasn’t anyone out there on Franklin, Van Ness, Broadway, Gough, Fell or Oak…it was actually a very nice relaxed drive.
If you’re going to be driving around San Francisco over the next few days there’s a few things to keep in mind:
- The Bridge is closed so they’ve cut back on I-80’s lanes. I’d actually try and avoid the freeway unless necessary.
- Oak Street is pretty empty. Since the Bridge is closed there’s not much reason for most people to get on the freeway so traffic was light.
- Franklin & Gough. Two more streets that feed people to and from the bridge. Pretty open generally.
- Bush Street. Ghost town practically. This is a main feeder street for people trying to get downtown from the Richmond.
- Treasure Island. You have to get on at 1st and Harrison. That’s the only way to get there, if you really need to go.
Oddly enough places that don’t have much to do with the Bridge [i.e. the Sunset & Richmond districts] were pretty quiet as well except around the shopping areas which were pretty much busy as always. You can add to this a big warm wet hug from @KarlTheFog with temperatures in the 70’s-80’s and humidity in the 80’s-90’s keeping everyone out here, well, moist. It’s kind of like Hawaii for people who don’t like sun too much. Enjoy!
As of today it looks as if the BART strike is over at least for now. I have a feeling in my gut that sometime late Sunday things will break down and the strike will be back on Monday giving the Bay Area a break for the weekend.
I’ve realized that when I say to myself, don’t they remember? This has happened before. Most of the people in San Francisco haven’t been here before and don’t remember things like June and July it’s normal to have fog in the city and sun in the summer is considered odd. Our summer comes in September and October. Like the weather, transit also has it’s shifts.
It has been awhile since there was a BART strike which probably means that half the people in the City weren’t here for the last one. Hardly anyone was here for the 1989 quake and has forgotten how people used to get to work when BART and the Bay Bridge were closed down. I think the ’89 quake is one of the reason I never liked the idea of working outside of San Francisco. You can get to and from here in the case of an emergency, but it isn’t as easy.
During the ’89 quake people discovered the ferries for the first time in I don’t know how many years. Suddenly people were saying things like, Gee, it’s kind of nice to glide home across the Bay with a glass of wine in your hand. Yes, it does sound a bit like I wonder what the poor people are doing, but it sort of became a luxury commute for some people compared to having to drive or deal with grumpy people smashed together like sardines on BART.
Then there is the casual carpooling which has been around for years. I worked with a guy who used to drive into the City across the Bridge and he’d always pick people up who would give him money to cover the bridge fare which would also help cover his gas as well. Now that BART has been on strike there’s an uptick in the number of people looking into that way of getting to work.
There was also a boom in people who realized that they had a job where they weren’t retail and didn’t have to be face to face with people every day so they could work from home once the internet was more robust.
All of these things led to a drop in the use of BART and to a lesser extent MUNI. People found a way around the problem which in the long run was more enjoyable and gave them an alternative. This caused less crowding on BART and MUNI [I’m not sure why MUNI is affected by a BART strike, but in the past numbers have shown the two co-relate].
BART strikes to me are like a purge that’s needed every once in awhile to get ride of extra people that bloat public transit. In the long run that means less income for public transit which can lead to an increase in fares, but the ride is more enjoyable. Ultimately the solution to the problem would be for people who work in San Francisco to live in San Francisco. They could spend the money from their higher incomes in the City and give something back.
Last Friday I had to meet up with a friend I’m doing some freelance work for and I had to meet her in Oakland. As you know I have a hatred for the Bay Bridge, so I suggested that if we could meet somewhere near a BART station that would work out best for me. She found a coffee shop right next to the Rockridge BART station so we had a date.
Now it’s been close to 10 years since I’ve taken a trip on BART and it was hard to remember what it was like back then. Well, 10 years ago is a long time these days. I hopped on MUNI and rode it down to Embarcadero and went up and then back down to BART. The first thing I noticed was that there were fewer people waiting for BART. The MUNI had been jammed up all the way down to Embarcadero with people who were more likely to push and shove to get their way around. BART was a whole different story.
First off, MUNI has cold hard seats that encourage you to spend as little time on it as possible. BART had nice cushioned, comfy seats that while being stained a bit and dirty wasn’t so bad. There was also lots of room on BART and less people. I do remember many years ago when I had to use BART during rush hour to travel to a rehearsal space in Oakland that was fairly uncomfortable, but nothing near what it was during rush hour in the city.
So as I’m sitting down in my comfy chair and we speed off into the transbay tunnel the first thing I noticed was that we were going fast. Then I noticed it was kind of loud. I pulled out my iPhone to run my decibel meter to find out that the average noise level was 95db with a peak of 105db. That’s louder than MUNI, but then I noticed something I never noticed on MUNI. I had 5 bars of service underwater and free WiFi access. WTF? Why doesn’t San Francisco have this? There was a guy sitting across from me who was happily surfing the web and going work on his laptop while we were cruising along just like me on my iPhone. I kind of wished I had the iPad with me as it would have been enjoyable to watch a TV show while I was cruising along.
It turns out that to watch a half hour TV show I would have had to travel almost to Pittsburgh to get the whole show in. BART is fast. It also uses the Clipper card now so I didn’t have to buy an extra ticket enroute that I would probably never use within the next 10 years. All in all, it was a nice fast trip. In the BART station the announcements were in a very well spoken, understandable English and the stations overall just seemed cleaner. There were signs that told you which stops to get off at for the various destinations around the Bay which was a nice addition as I didn’t realize how easy it was to get to places outside of San Francisco. Now if they could only find a way to put a station near IKEA and the shopping centers next to it we would travel across the bay far more often. I think I may have found an alternative to the hell of the Bay Bridge, I just need to see what’s around the stations for me to visit.