They braved clogged freeways and long lines waiting for crowded buses and ferries as a BART strike shut down the region's commuter trains. Now, as commuter rail workers threaten to continue striking for a third day or longer, many Bay Area residents are planning a Fourth of July that is closer to home and quieter than usual -- quiet, at least, until the fireworks start going off.
"There's no way we're going to go out," said Oakland resident Luis Landero, exhausted after meandering around the region by bus and carpool. "It's going to be crazy."
BART trains carried more than 182,000 riders on last year's July 4 holiday, some of them workers but others revelers drawn by San Francisco's nighttime fireworks and public and private events throughout the day. If the strike continues through Thursday, some travelers are expected to shift their celebrations closer to home.
Landero was poring over a map Tuesday morning to figure out which bus lines he would use to take his 2-year-old son to day care before heading off to work in San Francisco. After a tough commuting week, he plans to celebrate Independence Day with friends he can reach by foot.
"With all the circumstances, we prefer to stay home or go some place really close," he said.
Warm weather and fog-free skies could give many Bay Area residents a chance to see San Francisco's fireworks without having to travel to Fisherman's Wharf.
A protracted BART strike is unlikely to deter the 80,000 to 100,000 people who annually flock to the Berkeley Marina by car, bicycle and bus for a city-sponsored fireworks display there, said event producer Lisa Bullwinkel.
"You can see all the fireworks from the Berkeley Marina. You can see San Francisco's," Bullwinkel said. "It's going to be beautiful."
Others looking to see the lights over the Bay might stick to beaches and other spots along the East Bay and Peninsula hills and shorelines, or aboard a restored aircraft carrier in Alameda, where "on a crisp, clear night it's a pretty good view," said Randall Ramian, CEO of the U.S.S. Hornet Museum.
Some relief from the heat and the BART strike also arrived Tuesday when the East Bay Regional Park District averted a strike that was supposed to begin July 4, ensuring all the park district's pools and parks will remain open throughout the holiday weekend.
Oakland officials aren't sure if the BART strike would dampen attendance at this week's First Friday festival. While fewer people from San Francisco would likely cross the Bay for the event that typically draws about 10,000 people to downtown Oakland, more Oakland residents may decide to attend rather than deal with getting into San Francisco.
"We're really not sure what to expect," the city's marketing director Samee Roberts said.
Others inclined to spend the holiday in their backyards were looking forward to a break -- even if just a day -- from the transit mess.
East Oakland resident Michael Red drives across the Bay Bridge each morning to get to his job in San Francisco. Even after picking up two passengers at a casual carpool stop on Monday and Tuesday, getting through the freeway traffic this week has been a pain, he said, and he will enjoy staying home Thursday and firing up the grill.
"I'm not going to the city," Red said. "I'm barbecuing at home and enjoying not going to the city."
The region's airports were not expecting major disruptions for travelers.
"Fourth of July is not a heavy air travel week," said Kim Domeroski, spokeswoman for the Oakland International Airport. "It's usually more of a road trip vacation -- a local drive or barbecue in the backyard."
But for those flying in or out, the airport has invited more taxi and limo services and is guiding arriving passengers to BART alternatives if the strike continues.
Staff writer Matthew Artz contributed to this report.
July 1-7 2012
Sunday, July 1: 132,068
Monday, July 2: 360,624
Tuesday, July 3: 377,487
Wednesday, July 4: 182,107
Thursday, July 5: 345,112
Friday, July 6: 348,366
Saturday, July 7: 180,383
JUNE 30-JULY 2, 2013:
Sunday, June 30: 292,957 (A Sunday record because of Pride parade in S.F.)
Monday, July 1: 0
Tuesday, July 2: 0