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Early BART Bus Service Hits Snags On First Day

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- BART's new Early Bird Express bus service worked for some riders but failed others during Monday's launch of buses to cover the later weekday start for trains on the transit system to accommodate an extensive seismic retrofit of the Transbay Tube.

The transit agency said it is working to fix problems on the new bus service, which fills the gap created by trains starting at 5 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. for the next three and a half years.

There are now 15 new bus lines between 3:50 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., serving 21 BART stations and the Transbay Temporary Terminal in San Francisco.

In the East Bay, commuter Michele Boswell arrived early at BART's Pittsburg/Bay Point station at 3:50 a.m. -- 25 minutes earlier than she usually gets there -- to make sure she caught a bus. It was a good strategy since there was there was a long line.

"There were not enough buses for that first run," Boswell said. Not everyone made it on the bus, she said.

Her bus left at 4:18 a.m., a few minutes late, and thanks to light traffic arrived at the Transbay Temporary Terminal at 5:04 a.m.

But Boswell worries if there aren't enough buses to accommodate all riders, she may be one of the unlucky commuters left standing in line.

"If I can't catch that first bus, I won't be to work on time," she said.

BART officials acknowledged after the bus service's debut on Monday that there were glitches and they are making adjustments.

"The Pittsburg/Bay Point station was slammed by high ridership early, with 100 people lined up by 3:30 a.m., BART spokeswoman Anna Duckworth said.

On Tuesday, the first two buses will leave at 4:15 a.m. instead, with a third leaving at 4:30 a.m. since most of the ridership was concentrated in the first half-hour, Duckworth said.

Riders were also delayed when El Cerrito Del Norte buses, at 4:35 a.m. and 4:50 a.m., were held up because of a train crossing arm on Cutting Boulevard. On Tuesday, the buses will take a different route to the station to avoid that problem, Duckworth said.

Other glitches to the new bus service occurred when the first Pleasant Hill bus was delayed by a driver who got lost, and an Antioch bus was seven minutes late, according to Duckworth.

BART had staff in yellow vests and ambassadors in orange shirts at 25 stations, including all of the 21 stations served by Early Bird Express, and at the Transbay Temporary Terminal.

"They were there to answer questions and guide people where they needed to go and will be back at those stations at least through Wednesday," Duckworth said.

The early bus service carries riders on seven transbay routes, five East Bay routes, two San Francisco/Peninsula routes and one Contra Costa County route.

Fares on the bus service are the same or less than the equivalent trip on BART, and riders can pay with either cash or a Clipper card.

Because BART stations won't open until 5 a.m., current parking payment methods will not be available for Early Bird Express riders. Instead, BART will offer three options for riders who wish to pay for parking between 3:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.: using a smartphone app; a computer, internet connection and printer; or purchasing parking passes in advance from a customer service window.

BART did not have information on ridership numbers on the bus service Monday morning. The agency said last week that more than 2,400 of the 2,900 riders who typically begin their trips between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. originate in the East Bay, and 64 percent disembark at downtown San Francisco stations.

The retrofit work will take place starting at 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and ending at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday.

More information on the project, train and bus schedules is available at BART's Transit Information Center can be reached at (510) 465-BART (2278), from 3:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.


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