People check the aftermath near the West Oakland station after a fire caused the shutdown of BART transbay service in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, June 14, 2012. About 400,000 people take BART trains on a weekday, the transit agency said, but more commuters than usual were expected due to the opening round of the U.S. Open golf tournament and a San Francisco Giants afternoon baseball game. (AP Photo/Bay Area News Group, Kristopher Skinner)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After a fire near a Bay Area Rapid Transit station shut down train service between San Francisco and Oakland for most of the day Thursday, trains began rolling between the two cities just in time for the evening commute.
Service was restored at 3:45 p.m., said BART spokeswoman spokeswoman Luna Salaver, though commuters would experience what she termed “residual delays” into the evening.
During the morning commute and into the day thousands of people were forced to scramble to find other ways to get across the bay.
Thursday evening buses were being used to help people get across the bay and additional ferries were also put into service between San Francisco and Oakland, Alameda and Vallejo. Traffic on the San [auth] Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was heavier than usual with many drivers waiting for more than two hours to cross the bridge, the California Highway Patrol said.
About 400,000 people take BART trains on a weekday, the transit agency said, but more commuters than usual were expected due to the opening round of the U.S. Open golf tournament and a San Francisco Giants afternoon baseball game.
Baseball fan Millisa Hensley told KGO-TV that she missed the first three innings of the game because of the delay in getting across the bay, and she was expecting delays in getting home after the game.
“We’re just going to wait, wait it out. And wait in line like everybody else,” she told the station.
BART work crews were set to perform additional testing of electrical equipment and diagnostic systems overnight when the trains stop running for the night, but no delays were expected Friday morning.
“We’re expecting to have our normal service tomorrow morning,” BART spokesman Jim Allison said Thursday evening.
Brian Long of Oakland, one of the commuters delayed earlier Thursday, waited in a ferry line, hoping to make it to work in San Francisco before noon.
The accountant said he needed to be in the office for an important reason: He was waiting to find out if he won a free trip to Hawaii in an in-office weight-loss competition. Long said he lost 66 pounds in four months and was sure he had won, “but I have to be there in person to claim the prize.”
Karen Hernandes from Concord said she decided to take the ferry for the first time after taking BART to downtown Oakland and passing a bus line that snaked for blocks.
“Someone told me this was the better option,” said Hernandes, an executive assistant at a San Francisco real estate company. She eventually made it to work — nearly four hours after leaving home.
Ernest Sanchez, a transportation services manager with the San Francisco Bay Ferry, said the service added extra boats throughout the day. He said the service experienced five times its normal daily traffic, leading to a temporary crash of its website.
The shutdown also fouled the commute to the East Bay. Kyle Neesan was among those stopped at a downtown station in San Francisco, where trains were backed up.
“It’s kind of annoying,” said Neesan, who takes BART to his job at a Sports Authority in Concord. “I’m not going to wait on BART because that could take forever. I guess I’ll just try to walk over to the bus.”
Rae Lyn Burke said the shutdown would keep her from making a morning meeting in Lafayette.
“I’m trying to figure out how to get there, but I don’t think it’s going to work,” she said, as she searched her iPhone for alternatives in the crowded Powell Street station.
The fire broke out around 2:15 a.m. at a retirement home that was under construction near the West Oakland BART station, BART officials said. It damaged electrical equipment, but train tracks and the elevated concrete structure supporting them were not harmed, Allison said.
BART officials were concerned about power poles that were in danger of falling on the tracks.
The fire jumped to several other structures and also melted parked cars. Its cause is under investigation, but authorities consider the blaze suspicious.
Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Robert Lipp told KGO-TV the fire grew rapidly, and there were reports of people in the area who are not normally there.
Collins reported from Oakland.