Buses to serve BART passengers during Transbay Tube closures

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- Nearly 100 buses will continuously shuttle passengers between 19th Street BART station in Oakland and San Francisco's Temporary Transbay Terminal during two weekends of suspended BART service through the Transbay Tube in the coming months.

With the exception of the West Oakland BART station, all BART stations will remain open during the first weekends in August and September, while the Transbay Tube is closed.

Transbay BART riders will need to transfer to a bus bridge that will be in place while crews conduct work inside the tube.

The last time the BART system closed for an extended period was during the BART strike in 2013, sending a huge and unexpected influx of vehicles to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, said Sean Nozzari, Caltrans deputy district director of traffic operations.

Nozzari said the 2013 strike didn't allow for Caltrans and public transportation agencies to plan ahead, but this time extensive planning is underway to ensure that bridge traffic keeps moving and BART passengers can get to their destinations.

But Nozzari said the influx of bridge traffic is expected to be significant, especially over the Labor Day weekend. He's encouraging people to refrain from taking non-essential trips across the Bay Bridge the weekend of August 1-2 or September 5-7.

Nozzari said that while BART crews work in the tube, Caltrans employees will be closely monitoring the traffic situation on the bridge via cameras and will use metering lights and bus-only ramps to keep traffic moving.

Last year, almost 200,000 people depended on BART over the Labor Day weekend.

Nozzari said roughly 15,000 to 20,000 additional vehicles are expected to take to the bridge each day of the closure.

Beginning on Saturday, August 1 at 6 a.m. going until 1 a.m. on Monday, August 3, and then again on Saturday, September 5 at 6 a.m. until 1 a.m. on Tuesday, September 8, Caltrans will transform Essex Street ramps in San Francisco and Grand Avenue ramps in Oakland into bus-only ramps.

Nozzari said 94 buses will be in place during the weekend closures to shuttle riders between Oakland's 19th Street BART station and the Temporary Transbay Terminal via the Bay Bridge.

Bob Franklin, BART's department manager of customer access and accessibility, said even those who plan to take buses across the Bay Bridge should plan for about an hour delay.

As far as the schedule, Franklin said the buses will leave "every 45 seconds" or as soon as they fill up.

Those hoping to avoid the bridge altogether should consider taking a ferry via San Francisco Bay Ferry, which will have increased service between San Francisco and the East Bay.

Franklin said that other than planning for additional travel time, transbay BART riders should just ride BART as they usually would and then follow the signs and guides to their connecting bus.

"Just take BART and we will direct you," Franklin said.

In San Francisco, BART riders at Embarcadero station will be guided, or shuttled via San Francisco Municipal buses if they prefer, to and from the Temporary Transbay Terminal two blocks away, at Howard and Main streets.

In Oakland, the buses will arrive and depart from the 19th Street BART station, Franklin said.

There will be no additional charge for the bus and a bus shuttle will also be set up to bring riders from the closed West Oakland BART station to the 19th Street BART station.

During the closures, BART train service in both the East Bay and the West Bay is expected to be more frequent than during a typical weekend.The exact cost of the closure for BART is estimated at $2 million, which will come out of BART's operating budget, but agreements are still being ironed out. The exact cost is to be determined, according to Franklin.

BART spokesman Jim Allison said that although the closure will be an inconvenience to riders, it will allow BART crews to conduct critical track repair that can't be done during the overnight hours.

The .46-mile section of track, known as the interlocking, will receive a complete rebuild that will allow for single tracking of trains in

alternate directions.

The maintenance will allow for increased use of the crossover at normal speed and allow greater flexibility during service disruptions.

It also has the added benefit of resulting in a smoother, quieter ride for passengers, Allison said.

Crews will replace 932 rail ties and roughly 2,400 feet of rail. Other tasks such as inspection of tracks and traction power cables, cleaning of the third rail insulators, and servicing of equipment will also be conducted, Allison said.

In a passenger bulletin from BART, customers were informed that the vital repairs are part of the "Building a Better BART" program and will ensure safer and more reliable service.