Why this weekend could bring traffic of epic proportions to the Bay Area


If riders do not return to public transport, or if major bus and train lines cannot meet demand, then the weekend revelry could have one major downside: traffic of epic proportions.

Transit agents try to open the pressure valves. In August, BART extended its Saturday schedule from 6 a.m. to midnight, running trains every 15 minutes on most lines.

As of October 1, BART was carrying around half of the passengers it had seen on a typical Saturday before the pandemic – an “incredible” feat for the regional rail backbone, spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.

BART is also considering strategies to strengthen the Sunday service, which remains limited to three lines with thirty minutes between trains. This Sunday, the teams will replace a critical segment of rail between Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations, spokesman Chris Filippi said. He recommended that passengers in that area go to Orinda or Lafayette stations to bypass what could be a ten to 15 minute delay.

The agency will also put three special trains “on hold” on Sunday, Filippi said, running them “as needed” if people flock to watch the Blue Angels.

As tourists pour into Fisherman’s Wharf and the Marina District for Fleet Week, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency plans to expand service on its F Market & Wharves streetcar line, by supplementing vehicles from era with shuttles to the wharf and the Ferry Building.

Muni will organize express shuttles from the 16th Street BART station to the Chase Center for the Warriors preseason basketball games on Friday nights on October 8 and 15.

Additionally, the agency will attempt to control the flow of traffic into Mission Bay by closing King Street eastbound between 2nd and 3rd Streets, two and a half hours before the first pitch of each Giants game. Crews will reopen the route from the start of the match through the seventh inning, then close it until the post-match crash begins to dissipate. The SFMTA will also charge $ 8 for special event parking near Oracle Park, to reduce traffic jams and deter people from driving.

Caltrain has increased weekday service to two trains per hour in September and will provide additional trains to Giants fans attending playoff games on Friday and Saturday. The added post-game trains depart from 4th and King Street station, 15 and 25 minutes after the last exit. And for those looking for a scenic ride over rough waters, the San Francisco Bay Ferry will offer direct service to the Giants game from terminals in Oakland, Vallejo, and Alameda.

Since many Bay Area commuters are as fond of ferries as they are baseball, the agency will be deploying its Blue & Gold Fleet MV Bay Monarch boats for these special trips, accommodating up to 787 passengers at a time.

City dwellers attending the weekend festivities could also choose to travel by bicycle, due to a pandemic boom in cycle lanes that have streaked the green landscape. The paths leading from Mission District to Mission Bay – now a hub for Bay Area sports – could be particularly appealing.

For years, San Francisco prided itself on its ability to move people efficiently, whether it was for football games, music festivals, events, or marathons. The pandemic has turned this delicate transportation network upside down, allowing challenges to pile up, as people have consecrated automobiles as a form of protective armor.

But now, as the Bay Area comes to life, officials are hoping its transit systems will bounce back quickly – and people can be weaned from cars.

To facilitate this transition, BART has changed its sales pitch. Since ridership is declining, Fillippi said, the station grounds have “a lot of parking.”

Rachel Swan is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @rachelswan

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