Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

One If By Bus, Three If By Carpool

Photo by Torbakhopper on Flickr

With another BART strike looming, BART’s contingency plan is to offer limited bus service during the peak commute periods for its 365,565 regular weekday passengers. This service has the capability to serve 4,000 passengers each day. So that should take care of it.  Let's crunch the numbers and double check: 366,565 stranded passengers, 4000 of them transported by the BART contingency bus line...that leaves 362,565 commuters remaining. Let's move on to plan B. Next slide please.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and regional transit partners have been working together weeks in advance of the contract deadline to give other public transit providers time to develop their response plans if BART unions strike; but they realize that while there are a variety of public transportation alternatives to BART, these systems cannot possibly provide the resources to carry BART’s entire normal ridership.

This means that many people will be forced to rely on getting to the City by car. San Francisco has the third busiest commute in the U.S. On a normal commute day there are 500,000 vehicles already in the City with a 35,000 vehicle gain during each business day, for a total of 535,000 vehicles.  I estimate that there will be another 50,000 cars coming into the City during each weekday during a BART stoppage.  

Many people will turn to casual carpooling, which is a great way to get into the City. I used to do it when I lived in the East Bay for a year many moons ago. Casual carpoolers please note: If you join a casual carpool in the morning during a BART strike, you will not be able to board an East Bay-bound bus in the afternoon/evening–only roundtrip ticket holders can board the limited charter buses. For your return trip to the East Bay, MTA has established additional casual carpool pick-up locations on Beale Street and Spear Street to make it easier for displaced BART riders to catch a ride home. To see a map of these locations, click here.

BART is doing its part and all BART parking lots are going to turn into casual carpool lots, and there will be more temporary HOV lanes created. But even so, needless to say, the drivers of those casual carpool vehicles, along with those driving solo, and everyone else in a two-, four-, six- or 18-wheeled vehicle will find the streets much more congested, and as a result, parking is going to be more of a challenge and much more competitive.
 
But, drivers in the know can give themselves an edge come Monday morning, and drive into the City knowing that they have a guaranteed parking spot waiting for them at a reasonable price. How? By using an app called Park Now.
 
Park Now searches for available spots, offers affordable and frequent discounted parking rates, and, most importantly, allows drivers to reserve parking spots in San Francisco in advance, online or with the mobile app. The app is available for free on Google Play and the iTunes app store. I was curious about it, and in anticipation of another BART strike, I tried Park Now a couple of weeks ago. It worked like a charm. The night before, I knew where I had to be for a 10 am meeting, so I entered in the address. The app showed me several choices nearby, with the amount I would be charged for the time that I planned to stay. I selected one for $12, half a block away from where my meeting was. A fair price for the location, so I booked it. Knowing that you have a pre-paid reserved spot for the next day will remove that lingering layer of stress and anxiety that is familiar to most San Franciscans with wheels.
 
The other option that I really like is, of course, VoicePark. VoicePark, which Urban Daddy calls “Siri’s Parking Obsessed Little Sister” guides the driver by voice to the closest off-street or on-street parking spot available depending on the function selected. Querying a database of 75,000 publicly and privately owned off-street and 20,000 on-street spots city-wide, VoicePark identifies the closest available spot near the driver’s destination in less than a second, and then guides the driver by voice, turn by turn…calmly and accurately. All of the rules, yellow zones, meter hours, and street sweeping times are built into the app, and it will never guide you to a spot that is not safe to park in.
 
Let’s hope they reach an agreement and there isn’t a strike, but if there is a strike, public transit and carpoolers can look forward to the possibility of blossoming new relationships with their new carpooling buddies, a little more human contact on the buses, and drivers can take some comfort in knowing that, with or without a BART strike, parking no longer has to be the stressful bane of a driver’s experience, but actually completely stress-free.
 
David LaBua is a leader in the sustainable urban mobility movement, author of Finding the Sweet Spot and founder of VoicePark, the world’s first voice-guided mobile parking app.