Friday, July 5, 2013

What the @SFBART strike cost me ~ #bartstrike

So last weekend, most of the San Francisco Bay Area sat transfixed to their news stations, wondering if our main mass transit system, Bay Area Rapid Transit (aka BART), would go on strike.  Two union contracts were expiring Sunday evening, and they were planning to negotiate late into the evening, meaning we would have no clue when we went to bed if we had a way to work the next morning.  That mean that I had to go to bed prepared to get up very early the next morning to find an alternate way to work. 

Alternatives included:  The ferry (which means driving about 15+ miles, paying to park, then getting on a ferry from Oakland to San Francisco), BART shuttles (free, but include busing to Oakland, switching to a new bus, then busing to SF -- they were also filling up early and leaving commuters stranded), other buses (which would also require transferring and lots of time), casual carpool and other carpool services (which made me nervous since I had never tried it), driving (which would mean about $15 in gas using my huge truck, $6 bridge toll, plus $50 or more for parking since a lot of lots increased their rates to take advantage of commuters and I drive an over-sized vehicle), or not going to work, which would mean I had to take my own vacation time.  

On a normal work day, I wake up around 6 AM, which means I lay around in bed whining to myself about getting up for half an hour, then I get out of bed, eat breakfast, ice my injured foot, get in the shower around 7 AM and then head out the door to walk to the closest BART station by 7:45 AM to be at work a little before my start time of 9:00 AM.  Last Monday, I was up at 4:30 AM and out the door by 5:45 AM.  I drove to a friend's house where we got into her car and commuted to Oakland to try out the ferry.  We were in line by around 6:50 AM and got on to a ferry around 7.  The ferry took off at 7:30.  We got into the city a little after 8 and I was at my desk by 8:30 AM.  So my entire commute was around 2 hours and 45 minutes.  

The commute home was just as miserable.  We hurried out of work at 4:00 PM (an hour earlier than my normal time), hoping to make the 4:30 PM ferry back to Oakland.  The line was so long and the ferries were on some random schedule so we didn't even get on a ferry until probably 5:00 PM.  We got to stand in line with the sun beating down on us for an hour.  Once we were on the ferry, we got across the bay in the normal half hour, jumped in the car and drove home.  We were pretty lucky and didn't hit much traffic.  Still, it was pretty close to 6:30 PM before we got back to Walnut Creek. 

My normal commute would be 40 minutes each way (not including walking -- that's train time only) and cost $10 round trip.   On Monday, the cost was gas, parking ($4), and ferry fare (about $8.50 round trip, which was discounted fairly heavily since I had a Clipper card).  My commute time, however, had almost two hours added to it each direction). 

Tuesday, I just couldn't do it.  My injured foot was so swollen and sore.  I called in and took the day off.  So the BART strike cost me almost $300 before taxes out of my paycheck.  It was a good choice, though.  I understand the Tuesday commute was an even bigger nightmare than Monday's. 

Wednesday, I had to get back to work.  I knew there were things to be done and I just couldn't afford to take any more days off (thanks to my injured foot, I have very little time off saved up).  I decided to try the shuttle from Walnut Creek BART to San Francisco.  I got to the parking lot around 6:00 AM.  I walked almost right on to a bus and we took off.  We were dropped off at West Oakland BART and had to transfer to another bus (which I thought was stupid).  But, again, we got straight on to another bus and I was in San Francisco by 7:15 AM.  I wandered around, got breakfast and got to work by 8:00 AM, an hour earlier than my normal start time.  Since it was the day before a holiday, we were allowed to leave at 3:00 PM.  It was a busy work day and I ended up skipping lunch, which means, I still worked my 7 hour day before getting off at 3.  Several of us walked to the bus lines and we were on a bus by about 3:30 PM.  We sat in some traffic on the Bay Bridge and had to get off the buses in West Oakland again.  They dropped us off pretty far from the line and made us walk through the BART employee picketers.  That was pretty annoying.  We then had to wait awhile to get back on another bus to Walnut Creek.  That was even more annoying.  We got to the Walnut Creek BART parking lot around 5:00 PM.  At least the shuttle was free, but I did not enjoy the long, hot commute home.

Thursday was 4th of July and I did not have to go to work.  However, since it looked like the strike was going to continue, I also didn't get to go out and see fireworks.  I needed to get up early on Friday, so BART owes me a freaking fireworks show.

Friday, I got up at 5:00 AM.  I was happy to hear they were starting service up again at 3:00 PM, but that did me no good for the morning commute.  I left my house at 6:00 AM and was parked at the Walnut Creek BART station by 6:15 AM.  All buses were gone.  I was furious.  I had to get back in the car and drive to the Oakland ferry then stand in a cold line (since it was 100 degrees yesterday, I apparently didn't foresee the 55 degree, windy morning and didn't bring a jacket).  The ferry loaded us up in Oakland, made a stop in Alameda, and we were on our way to San Francisco.  We offloaded, I made a quick stop at the store and was at my desk a little after 8:00 AM.  Another two hour commute.  And tonight, since my car is at the ferry, I have to do the reverse trip on the ferry since taking BART wouldn't drop me off in the right place.  That means I have to request to leave work a little early so I can get home at a decent hour.

So, I can't give you an exact number on what this BART strike cost me.  Sure, a few hundred bucks at least, many lost hours of sleep, stress (I'm certain I see extra wrinkles in my face) and some serious anger that the system is set up to allow one transit system to hold an entire area hostage for a week (I understand other transit systems in other cities are not allowed to strike).  I don't want to debate unions or whether they are useful (or how they are the ones who negotiated a lot of the laws that benefit me today as an employee).  I don't blame BART employees for wanting to be paid more but guess what...until this year, I hadn't had a raise in six years.  I was the only one contributing to my 401k.  So if you wanted a sympathetic audience, you lost us.  I also don't let BART and their fat cat, overpaid management off the hook.  They are equally at fault here.  If there is any way I can find an alternate way to get to work and not give BART another dime of my money, I'm going to do it.  But they know they have us.  400,000 riders a day rely on BART.  So there doesn't seem to be any incentive to make us happy.  There are not a lot of easy options for many commuters.  And if BART decides they want to screw us, we apparently get to bend over and take it.  Happy Friday!

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