In light of the imminent morning closures of the Transbay Tube, BART will implement a bus system for early morning commuters but will leave Berkeley stops unserviced.
Starting Feb. 11, the Transbay Tube — the BART tunnel that connects the East Bay with San Francisco — is set to close during the first hour of service during the 3.5-year-long seismic retrofit announced last September. The Early Bird Express bus service will then start to mitigate some of the inconvenience for early commuters by adding 15 new lines servicing 21 BART stations in the Bay Area between 3:50 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.
“Over 2,400 of the 2,900 first-hour riders begin their trips in the East Bay and 64 percent disembark at downtown San Francisco stations,” said BART spokesperson Anna Duckworth. “This gave us an idea of where there should be more Early Bird stops.”
BART gathered information about its early morning riders during a spring 2018 outreach program in which it surveyed 2,900 commuters that would be affected by the construction on the Transbay Tube. The information collected was then used to develop the Early Bird Express map.
While BART stations with the largest amount of morning riders were prioritized, many areas will not have direct access to the Early Bird Express. There are currently 26 stations — including Ashby, Downtown Berkeley and North Berkeley BART stations — at which the Early Bird Express won’t stop.
“It didn’t make sense to have a bus get to a station with a handful of riders,” Duckworth said about BART stations without the service. “Some riders are going to have to travel to the nearest station that offers the Early Bird Express.”
To help commuters in these areas, BART has released station-specific guides for commuters who live near stations without Early Bird access. These guides point riders to the nearest Early Bird stop and lists different options to get to there. Berkeley residents are advised to take the AC Transit bus lines 800 or 851 to their nearest stops: MacArthur BART station and 20th Street, Oakland.
Berkeley transportation manager Farid Javandel advised Berkeley residents to find their way to one of these Early Bird bus stops or consider delaying their trips until 5 a.m. when regular transit resumes.
A new round of in-station outreach began during December and is set to last until early February. This outreach provides riders with one-on-one help in planning for the upcoming change and provides more information for the new bus network.
According to Duckworth, there are advantages to the new early morning system — the transbay buses, for example, will be quicker than BART because of their direct routes to the Temporary Transit Terminal in San Francisco.
“Fares (for the express) are to be the about same or equivalent to the fares of the BART trains,” Duckworth said. “This was part of the contract with the 8 different bus operators servicing the Early Bird Express.”