People reached the Jack London Ferry by foot, bike, car and even rollerblade (photo: Rachel Dornhelm/KQED)

Oakland got an unexpected influx of visitors this morning.

Many people headed to San Francisco on BART from the East Bay this morning, ended up rerouted through Oakland City Center. BART riders were told (sometimes in reportedly cryptic messages) that they needed to get off the train at Oakland 12th Street and catch a bus over the Bay Bridge at 14th Street.

Annie Rabinovitz of Oakland was waiting in line at 12th and Broadway for one of the Transbay buses AC Transit brought on line for the occasion. She was frustrated.

“There was no one outside of the Lake Merritt BART station,” she said, “No sign or anything warning you all trains to SF are cut off. I put my clipper card in, went down to the platform and there’s a muffled announcement but not one person on the platform from BART.

“I had to ask someone else, ‘what was that announcement?’ then I take my Clipper Card and exit,” Rabinovitz continued, clearly annoyed. “It charged me $5.50. So they didn’t turn that off for people who go in and exit within 10 minutes.”

A lack of communication from BART was a theme that came up over and over. At the Jack London Square Ferry Terminal, Serena Custer stood in a long line with her bike trying to get make her way to her job at an advertising agency in the City. She said the best information she got was from friends texting each other updates. That’s how she found out BART was shut down when she got to the station and sensed something was wrong.

“I usually take my bike on BART. I had a text saying I could take the ferry,”  Custer said. “I actually had never taken the ferry so this is different for me.”

The people in line for the boat weren’t just morning commuters, there were people headed to doctors appointments, Angel Island, the Giants game and tourist points.

The commuters I did speak to said their employers were understanding (many stuck in the same jam). My favorite reply, though, was from a guy who, when asked if the long commute was a problem just shook his head dismissively and said “I work for a start-up!”

It was a beautiful day by the water and Dominic Wade, a security guard for Jack London Square said while there were unusual crowds down there, everyone seemed pretty serene. One man who works in the building next to the ferry terminal said around 8 AM the line for the boats snaked around the plaza, about 10 times as long as it usually is.

Indeed one of the winners in all this has to be the parking industry in downtown Oakland. I talked to people standing in line for the ferry who threw in the towel after sitting practically parked on I-880 or I-580. Sure enough, the woman manning the parking booth at Jack London Square said there were many more cars there than usual, though the seven-story structure still had room.

In my house we had to do a surprising amount of juggling given the fact we’re usually non-SF commuters. I was supposed to drive a family (and their luggage) to SFO for a 10:30 A.M. flight. And my husband had tickets for the 12:45 PM Giants game against the ‘stros. It all worked out. With an early heads up, my husband took the family in their car to the airport over the San Mateo bridge and then headed on to AT&T park where he planned to “work” until game time.

BART Outage Leads to Alternate Commutes 14 June,2012Rachel Dornhelm


Rachel Dornhelm

Rachel Dornhelm has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in public radio for the last twelve years. She got her start in New York City at WNYC and went on to work with the national business program Marketplace, WBUR’s “On Point” and KQED News in San Francisco. Her work has been honored by the LA Press Club and the SF-Peninsula Press Club.

Rachel has a BA with honors in anthropology from Rice University and did graduate work at NYU.

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