BART, AC Transit strikes to affect A’s fans

By now you’re probably aware of the awful gridlock gripping much of the Bay Area because of the BART employees’ strike, which started this morning of months-long negotiations broke down again over the weekend. The employees, who are members of the ATU and SEIU, have been asking for raises to make for recession-era givebacks. The ATU asked Governor Jerry Brown to force an order to keep the trains running while negotiations continued. Brown refused to act, leading to a complete shutdown of trains. (Disclosure: My dad, who retired 2 years ago, was a shop steward for ATU in the South Bay/VTA chapter.)

Whatever your feelings are about the strike, if it goes on throughout the week there will be no BART service to the three-game series against the Cubs, Tuesday through Thursday. BART has attempted to bridge some of the commuter gap by running charter buses between its terminal stations (Fremont, Dublin/Pleasanton, etc.) to San Francisco, but those buses are limited to commute hours. AC Transit is providing extra Transbay buses, while service along the BART spine remains as-is.

AC Transit’s employee contracts were also up last night, so they’re currently working without a contract. There is talk that AC Transit employees will do a one-day walkout as early as Tuesday, which would compound the the East Bay’s transit crisis.

Ferries are experiencing a huge surge in ridership. Unfortunately, fans still need AC Transit (or Capitol Corridor) to get from Jack London Square to the Coliseum.

And not to be left out, the City of Oakland’s non-emergency public employees started their own one-day strike on Monday.

Capitol Corridor is an option that will provide uninterrupted service, despite the fact that its trains are actually operated by BART. While Capitol Corridor isn’t the quickest or most convenient way to get to the Coliseum, it can do in a pinch if you’re set against driving to what will undoubtedly be a more packed Coliseum parking lot. Amtrak even started a promotion this summer that allows riders to pay only $5 each way for companions, up to 5 companions per trip. Capitol Corridor doesn’t have a very frequent schedule late at night, so if you’re considering taking the unelectric train, first check the schedules to see if they work for you.

Fans along the 680 corridor are pretty much screwed from a public transit standpoint. As for South Bay and Peninsula folks, BART was never a direct option unless you drove to Fremont or Millbrae to take BART in the first place. Same goes for North Bay fans, whose transit options to the Coliseum have historically been limited.

BART usually accounts for 15-20% of fans getting to the Coliseum. Tuesday’s date is not a Free Parking Tuesday game, so don’t be shocked if you have to pay – it was on the schedule from the beginning. The A’s haven’t provided any advisories for the series yet, but you can expect to see something tomorrow. The A’s homestand ends Thursday, which should hopefully limit damage if the strike extends through the weekend. The Giants have a six-game homestand starting on Friday starting with a Dodgers series. The A’s return on the 12th with a Red Sox series.

The last BART strike occurred in September 1997, at the end of a particularly dismal season for the A’s (65-97). The A’s weren’t affected in the first two days of the six-day strike as they were on the road. Come Wednesday, September 10, the A’s were greeted by crowds of 4,764 and 6,135 against Toronto.

Advice: Carpool as much as possible. Allow for an extra 30 minutes to get to the ballpark, or leave late (close to 7) to avoid the nastiest part of the commute. Try Capitol Corridor if it works within your schedule. And hope that the different parties can come to their senses and end this mess.

Dodger Stadium post-renovations

The middle game of a three-night set at Dodger Stadium had thousands of discounted tickets available on StubHub, a reminder that even for teams with $200 million payrolls and season attendance totals surpassing 3 million almost regularly, it’s still possible to find a deal. Or in Tuesday night’s case, an empty house.

I came because I happened to be in town for a week and I wanted to catch a game at either Chavez Ravine or Anaheim. I also wanted to take the Dodger Stadium Express, the bus that runs directly from Union Station to Dodger Stadium. This year there was also the added benefit of a bus-only lane going up Elysian Park Drive to help speed up the trip. I calculated that it took 15 minutes to get from Union Station to the intersection of Sunset and Elysian Park, then less than 5 minutes to get to the final destination behind centerfield. As you can see from the picture below, the buses get packed. It’s a good option for those who want to take Metro or a Metrolink train in. The $1.50 fare is waived if you show a ticket on the way in. The driver doesn’t bother to check for anything on the way back.

Inside a packed Dodger Stadium Express bus

The Tuesday night game had no giveaway and was billed as Taiwan night. Pre-game festivities included a traditional band from Taiwan who played a mournful version of The Star Spangled Banner. Since this is Hollywood, there was also a purely commercial wrinkle as the American band Fall Out Boy was on hand to promote their new record. Pete Wentz threw the ceremonial first pitch. I entered the stadium greeted by this view.

Before sunset with the normally late-arriving crowd

There isn’t much else to say about the experience, other than that the scoreboards by ANC Sports are quite impressive. Circulation between the levels is still impossible, and since I got the $11 ticket near the RF foul pole, I couldn’t go any higher than the club concourse. The final crowd (announced 35,898) was not much better than what you see above. I assume that the events surrounding the Boston Marathon incident may have scared some people off. The Padres dropped a 4-spot on the Dodgers in the first inning off Chris Capuano, so the small crowd that showed up wasn’t tempted to stick around for long. Security didn’t seem heightened to a great degree.

A new display set above the RF Pavilion

The best way to describe the new scoreboards is to think of them as a set of three. The lower part along the outfield fence is an out-of-town board and a State Farm ad. When a Dodger comes up to bat it usually changes to an animated intro. This is mirrored on the small display underneath the diamond/hexagon large display. The strip is a great addition because it’s the perfect spot for a perpetual in-game line score. Unfortunately, the geniuses at Dodger Stadium don’t keep it perpetual at all, instead choosing to include the strip as part of the ongoing multimedia presentation. The big board is very impressive. Even the funky shape works to the team’s advantage, as there are little nooks for the clock, the on-base situation, even logos for the teams above the lineups. When a Dodger comes up to hit, the LF board shows a big picture (in keeping with the old setup) and on the bottom corner is the player’s Twitter handle. Statistical presentation is clean and modern, though it could use more advanced stats.

I was eventually able to sneak down to the field club seat area down the lines. By the 8th inning everyone wanted to go home. An attempt to sing Sweet Caroline in honor of Boston was met with a big SoCal “meh”. WiFi was supposed to be better, but I couldn’t tell. Who knows what would’ve happened if the game were better? We’ll never know. Maybe the next time I go to Dodger Stadium, someone will give a damn.

BART groundbreaking in San Jose

It’s happening.

Bolstered by the release of $250 million in funding, the BART-to-Silicon Valley project got its official groundbreaking earlier Thursday afternoon. Representatives of BART, VTA, plus East and South Bay politicians were on hand for the ceremony. Also there was reader @MarkyJ824 to take pictures. He sent many of them to me and I’ll repost them below.

December’s article looking at the BART project explains how fans would get to Cisco Field/Diridon Station from the East Bay. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth a look.

More shovels to come

Poster of Berryessa Station rendering.

A BART car model on site. Hopefully it has the new anti-pathogen seats and floor.

The subway portion of the Warm Springs Extension is still under construction, and the line is expected to open for service in late 2015. The $2.3 billion BART-to-Silicon Valley project will get a total of $900 million from the federal government. Construction to Berryessa is expected to be completed by 2016, but could be done earlier. Testing should take another two years, putting passenger service at 2018, possibly earlier.

New HOV lanes, BART-to-SJ good news for A’s fans

If you’re one of the 80% of A’s fans who drives to games, you just might get a quicker trip to the Coliseum in the future, thanks to a flurry of new road projects that Caltrans is starting this year.

According to Mr. Roadshow, the Bay Area is getting $5 billion to be spread among 19 projects. While none are in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties, the bulk of the work (12 projects) will be in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties. Key among them are the extensions of carpool lanes along the Nimitz:

  • I-880 from Hegenberger Road in Oakland to Davis Street in San Leandro ($108 million)
  • I-880 from CA-237 in Milpitas to US-101 in San Jose ($31.5 million)

The South Bay project is less expensive than the East Bay project because most of the groundwork was already done for the former as part of a previous 880 widening project a decade ago. Combine these two with ongoing improvements to the Nimitz and improved interchanges at CA-92 and CA-262/Mission Blvd., and it should eventually be much smoother sailing in each direction for carpoolers, who are the usual profile for those who drive to games in Oakland.

If the A’s move south, the carpool lanes, along with at least 4 lanes in each direction the entire way between Oakland and San Jose, will help funnel gameday traffic. However, it’s not a complete, direct solution. Once a driver coming south along 880 hits the 101 interchange, the freeway will revert to not having carpool lanes, which could create congestion there and along surface streets as they try to make it the last two miles. A good way to go might be the Gish/10th Street exit on 880 South just before 101, as it’s a quick detour to downtown and SJSU.

The big ticket item is $2.3 billion for the 10-mile BART extension from Warm Springs (its own separate project) to Berryessa in North San Jose. Again, it’s not a direct trip to Cisco Field, but it’s a lot closer than Fremont and the only way to get to downtown San Jose is to first build to Berryessa.

Not related to Caltrans funding is one more big mass transit project, Caltrain electrification. The long-awaited conversion from diesel to electric trains will create an opportunity for more frequent service, which will drive down the operating cost per trip and help keep Caltrain solvent. To achieve this, Caltrain cut a deal with the state’s troubled high speed rail authority to devote $700 million towards the electrification project. To support the more frequent service and greater number of riders, the San Jose, Millbrae, and San Francisco stations will be expanded. The $1.5 billion project is expected to be completed by 2020. HSR is teetering right now politically, so it’s not clear if that project will ever be built. This money shift appears to be an acknowledgement by the authority that it may need to start in the most heavily impact areas first, before it commits to the full intra-state backbone. The move could backfire in the long run, as it may convince stakeholders and citizens that high speed rail would be best if it terminated in San Jose, not San Francisco.

News for 1/17/12

Today I did an TV interview on Get Real with Brian Stuckey, a show produced out of CreaTV San Jose. CreaTV is a non-profit to whom Comcast has farmed out all of their public access programming for much of the South Bay. The segment will air January 30 on Comcast channel 15 with a web stream simulcast, so my ugly mug won’t show up until then. I doubt anything will have fundamentally changed by then, but you never know.

On to the news.

  • Matier and Ross report that nothing official happened on the A’s-to-San Jose front. That’s true at least when it comes to making a decision or coming to a compromise plan. We set those expectations going into the owners meetings. Yet background work did occur, including the presentation to the executive committee and Selig’s statement that the A’s are now on the front burner. Write that off all you want, it’s movement that wasn’t happening six, nine, twelve months ago. Remember that as incalcitrant the Giants are, there’s always the threat of binding arbitration to force the Giants’ hand. Commissioner Selig won’t give San Jose a greenlight for a vote (for either MLB owners or the city referendum) unless the Giants drop their lawsuit, making the legal action the last real weapon in the Giants’ arsenal to block the A’s efforts.
  • While the Giants are doing everything possible to stop A’s ownership, they’re actively encouraging new arena deals. We all know about their overtures towards the Warriors. Yesterday, Larry Baer gave a pep talk to Sacramento civic leaders pushing for a new downtown Kings arena. Baer said that after four defeats at the ballot box, the effort to get a ballpark going was “worth the fight.” I imagine that Lew Wolff feels the exact same way, Larry.

“It can be done, don’t give up,” Baer said. “You must persevere, you must exercise patience, you must have strong leadership in the private and public sector.”

When a man’s right, he’s right.

  • While the Oakland-only crowd was eager to jump on a graf in the M&R report, they buried the lead: Thanks to the death of redevelopment, the City of Oakland will have to cut 200 jobs and hand out 1,500 pink slips. The Mayor and City Council may also have to take huge cuts in pay on top of cuts already taken last year. How does this affect San Jose? Not that much, since as of the end of 2011 there were only about 10-12 people left in SJRA, with budget cuts and changes already enacted. Not that San Jose actually anticipated the change. SJRA’s fiscal issues forced it shut down early.
  • Less than three months from the opening of the Marlins Ballpark in Miami, and there’s no solution for funding transit options that can bring fans from downtown or the nearest Metrorail (BART-like) station.
  • The Cubs are replacing their right field bleacher section with a Green Monster Seats-style party deck, fronted by one of those new-fangled LED scoreboards.
  • Santa Clara’s City Attorney declared a petition effort by 49er stadium opponents illegal. That doesn’t mean the opponents can’t sue. We’ll see if they have the resources to sue for the right. We’ve seen this happen before.

On a lighter note – since Jeffrey and I will both be at FanFest, would any readers like to do a meetup? Not exactly sure of where we could do it, we can talk through the details.

The long slog to the South Bay

Last week’s news that VTA may get BART to the South Bay as early as 2016 was certainly welcome, though many important steps remain. In the spring, federal New Starts funding has to materialize for the extension to move forward. Fortunately, the fact that work is already underway on the separate-but-linked Warm Springs extension should help the Silicon Valley extension’s case. As we’ve discussed previously, the South Bay extension has been split into two parts to help its chances of getting funding for the entire project. As a result, the first part extension to Berryessa (the flea market) is scheduled to be completed by 2016-2018. The second part, which runs through downtown San Jose and up to the airport, has no completion date at this time. FYI, Phase 1 is about the same length as the Dublin/Pleasanton extension from Bay Fair.

The 10-mile Berryessa extension (Silicon Valley Phase 1) is in addition to the 5.4-mile Warm Springs extension

Terminating BART in Berryessa leaves no clear solution for ferrying fans from BART to the Diridon Station area, where the ballpark would be. Any highway-based bus routing is circuitous. Running on city streets would be a shorter trip. Either way it’s at least an extra 20 minutes after leaving BART even if it’s a direct bus with no additional stops. A natural BART-to-light rail transfer in Milpitas would take 40 minutes, though it would shave off a few minutes of BART time. Keep that in mind when looking at the following table of travel times, comparing BART, Caltrain, and Capitol Corridor.

Caltrain and Capitol Corridor trains arrive at ballpark. BART is more frequent but would require a 20-40 minute transfer (at least in the near term). Caltrain and Capitol Corridor times are published. BART times are estimates except for Coliseum.

What would take a shuttle 20-40 minutes to bridge the gap between Berryessa and Diridon would probably take only 5-6 minutes if BART went all the way to Diridon. Alas, that’s not in the cards until several years after Phase 1 starts operation. One interesting observation is that Capitol Corridor is somewhat competitive timewise with BART when heading all the way down to San Jose. Unfortunately, fares are much more expensive than BART.

There’s never been a doubt that just about any Oakland site is more convenient for much of the Bay Area and the existing East Bay fan base than San Jose. Even with BART coming to San Jose, it would seem that trips averaging an hour or more plus a transfer would be prohibitively lengthy for many fans. The flipside to that argument is that both the Giants and A’s in their current locations aren’t all that accessible from the South Bay, so if MLB were to place the two teams so that they could grab the largest potential audience for the MLB product, having the Giants in SF and the A’s in SJ would make the most sense.

Even if A’s management were to earn back much of the goodwill lost over the last decade, long trips from the East Bay will surely cause a reduction of fans from that region, making it all the more important that the A’s replace those lost or less frequently attending fans with South Bay fans. Certainly there are Sharks fans who make the trek from the East Bay now, but going to 2-3 games per week per homestand is a lot less rigorous than 6 games per week. The A’s have recently had among the lowest season ticket rolls in MLB (7-8,000), so replacing them may not be such a huge task. It goes to show that even if the A’s get the green light for San Jose, there’s plenty of work left to do.

News for 12/14/11

A boatload of news has been piling up.

  • Matier and Ross “reveal” that the real party behind the Stand for San Jose lawsuit is, in fact, the San Francisco Giants. Glad to know that Larry Baer and company are so concerned with traffic in downtown San Jose. (SFGate)
  • The San Jose Earthquakes have gotten their development permit, so they are one step closer to breaking ground. (SBNation/Quake, Rattle and Roll)
  • VTA approved $772 million for the BART-to-Silicon Valley project. This funding is contingent on federal matching funds, for which a decision is due in February. Incentives in the bidding could allow the first phase, which ends at the Berryessa/Flea Market site in North San Jose, to be opened as much as 18 months ahead of schedule in 2016. Berryessa is three miles from Diridon and there is no light rail transfer from there, so unless there is a special bus or existing routes are realigned, the best bet may be to transfer to light rail at the Great Mall. A post dedicated to this subject is due in the future. (Gary Richards, Merc)
  • Santa Clara’s City Council approved $850 million in loans for its Stadium Authority to take out for the 49ers stadium. The money won’t actually be raised unless the NFL chips in with its $150 million share.
  • The Merc’s Tim Kawakami tweets that the 49ers “might land a naming-rights deal with a green technology company…” Okay.
  • Now that Tesla is gearing up for production at the old NUMMI plant and Union Pacific decided not to use land there for a big train/intermodal yard, Fremont is looking deep into ways to redevelop the land, the same way Oakland is looking at the Coliseum area. The 850 acres in question could be developed in a mixed use manner with up to 3,000 homes. Unlike Oakland, Fremont’s tendency to think small may keep things rather humble in nature, though that could change if some sort of anchor element were part of the planning. Like, oh, a stadium. (Matt Artz, Argus. Note: Good luck to Matt on his switch to the never boring Oakland city beat.)
  • MLB may be getting ready to seize control of the Mets because the team is losing money like crazy. Let’s see, maybe a little after the Dodgers are sold in April/May? (John Harper, NY Daily News)
  • Ever wonder where money from concerts and non-game events goes? This article tries to figure it out. (Tom Lyden, FOX 9 Twin Cities)
  • Marlins ballpark news: There may be a scandal about shotty welds and falsified inspections on the retractable roof (Andres Viglucci, Miami Herald); See pictures inside and outside the stadium (Joe Capozzi, Palm Beach Post; Juan Gonzalez, Stadium Page); the Marlins are getting rid of their sideshow dance troupes of skinny girls and fat guys (Juan C. Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel)
  • Robert Bobb is back in DC after two years as the Detroit Public Schools financial czar. What’s he doing? Consulting, of course.
  • Qualcomm is changing the name of Qualcomm Stadium to “Snapdragon Stadium” for 11 days to give a marketing boost for its mobile chipset. (Terry Lefton, Sports Business Journal)
  • The NFL announced extensions of its TV deals through 2022. Changes include an expanded Thursday night package on NFL Network and NBC getting rights to the Thanksgiving night game. Combined value of all TV deals is $4.3 billion a year, enough to take care of every team’s annual payroll without ever selling a ticket. (NFL Communications, Variety)

That’s it for now.