Brokedown Melodies

When I woke up Thursday morning, my plan was to get ready as quickly as possible so I would have enough time to go to the gas station on my way to work. I have a fairly set schedule in the morning and usually leave with just enough time to make it to the BART station with a few minutes to spare before I have to actually hop out my car to walk to the station. Let’s just say that I have a fairly slim margin for error.

Usually this means that if something goes wrong or takes longer than usual in the morning, I run the real risk of getting to BART later than planned, but because of a quirk in my work schedule, I still have a fairly big buffer to play with. Basically I get to work about a half hour before I’m actually scheduled (we’re fairly flexible with our working schedules – as long as you get your work done, you’re good to go) because I have billable hours, I am accountable for every hour each workday so I come in early to give myself the leeway to  make sure I get my full 8 hours in every day. But that’s neither here nor there.

The point is, I woke up Thursday, got ready, and then found out that BART was broken. Like, really, really broken.

Long story short: a fire next to the tracks by the West Oakland station, which is also the gateway to the SF peninsula, did enough damage to force the closure of that station and effectively cutting off service from the East Bay to San Francisco.

A closure like that effects a big portion of the Bay Area population. BART carries and average of 110,000 passengers each weekday, most of whom are going to San Francisco. So what are all these passengers supposed to do? A lot of people hopped in their cars, which tied up an already strained freeway system (seriously, it was like a parking lot) and others tried taking area buses into the City, but none of these have the capacity that BART has so they were backed up. And still others took the ferry or just stayed home. Plus this was the same day as the first round of the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Mateo (there was no parking and the organizers told everyone to take BART/public transportation) and a Giants’ day game. Needless to say, there were going to be a lot of extra people trying to get into the City that day.

For a moment I contemplated staying home but realized I had too much work to do to so I opted to take the ferry. This was the first time I’ve ever taken the ferry to San Francisco and at first was really impressed with the service. The entire ride takes about an hour, which is roughly what I spend driving to BART and then riding BART into the City, and there is a coffee bar on the boats so you can have a snack (or even happy hour on the way home!) and free WIFI. Not too bad. I kicked back, watched the scenery and read my book. I was so impressed that I was actually considering taking the ferry instead of BART. I even started calculating the savings I could realize if I did make the switch. I was definitely experiencing the post-boat glow.

Then came the afternoon. I had an appointment in Vallejo at 6:30 so I had to leave around 4 to catch the 4:45 boat back into town. This is where the fun starts. And by fun I mean not fun.

First, I was late leaving the office. In the few times I had purposely tried to leave early, I have failed. It just seems almost impossible. I had planned on walking to the ferry building from the office, but because I was late, I had to take Muni. I was hoping to take a N-Judah train but the next train wasn’t coming for another 10 minutes, which left with with the T-Sunnydale train that was actually on it’s way into the station as I walked up.

I will not relive the hell that was the T-train. I suddenly was flooded with memories of unpleasant and loud rides while working at the old company. I can’t. I just can’t. So here I was slightly stressed because I left work late and was worried about getting to the Ferry Building in time to catch the boat, coupled with being stuck on a crowded T-Sunnydale train overhearing a bunch of nonsense. I could slowly feel a wave of anxiety start to wash over me. It was not a pleasant situation.


So I escaped as soon as possible before I became the lead story on the five o’clock news and walked the rest of the way to the Ferry Building, only to find out that the 4:45 boat was now scheduled for 5:15.  At this point, I was done. The ferry was no longer a suitable option.

There is simply too much stress involved with catching the ferry. If I leave late and miss my boat, then I have to wait an hour for the next one. At least with BART I know another train is only a few minutes away. No one should experience so much stress at the end of a work day. It’s just not right.

So it looks like I’ll be BARTing in from here on out. Once I move to the other side of the bridge, taking the ferry will no longer be an option either, so if BART ever shuts down like that again, I guess I just take the day off.

How NOT to win a public fight

This was some kind of weekend. Mainly because I was waiting around on pins and needles for word on whether the threatened BART strike was actually going to go down.

Well, waiting around on Sunday afternoon that is. Saturday was spent blissfully as I turn off thoughts of work once I leave the office. There is no fretting over that once I’m out the doors. It helps keep me sane. Plus is the #1 indicator that I am stressed the mess out over the job.

Anywho, this proposed strike. So it would have been the first strike since 1997 and would have CRIPPLED the commute. With an average of 300,000 people taking BART everyday, can you imagine that many more people on the already congested roads heading to San Francisco? I wonder how fast we can get to nowhere. Traffic would be at a stand still. I had to mentally prepare myself to wake up earlier in hopes of getting to work on time. Thankfully, around 6:30pm Sunday evening, we all got word that the strike was off. That an agreement was made between management and the last union holdout, the Amalgamated Transit Union [ATU] Local 1555, and all was now right in the world. Well, depending on the actual union vote later next week.

Anywho, during this little tussle, what stood out to me was how the ATU didn’t stand a chance. Not one tiny iota.

First against them: the general state of the economy.

Sure in a time when money is falling out of the sky, standing firm in your demands for benefits and wage increases and better working conditions are supported but we’re at our financial worst at the moment. People are being furloughed, having their wages and benefits cut or frozen for the foreseeable future or, worse yet, losing their jobs. This is not the time to be upset that you’re being asked to consider a wage freeze, paying a little bit more for your benefits and paying into your retirement pension. Especially not when many of your members make more than the commuters who use your service [wanna see how your salary stacks up? Try it. It’s fun! If you consider getting punched in your stomach fun] and do less work.

Second against them: the other two unions

BART management was able to come to an agreement with the other two unions working with BART, the first and third largest unions in terms of membership. They agreed to management’s contract terms yet the ATU didn’t and continued to threaten a strike. And in a show of union solidarity, the other two unions would honor said strike.

So if the 900 members of the ATU called a strike, thousands of other union employees, who have already agreed to a contract, will be forced out of work. They’d have to take the much lower strike pay and suffer along because one group refused the offered contract. That doesn’t seem fair. And plays nicely for BART management. How you ask?

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