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Brace yourselves again, you sad, sorry commuters.

As the BART strike enters Day 2 with no negotiations in sight, expect a repeat of Monday's commuter chaos, with long lines at bus stops and ferry terminals and some of the worst gridlock in decades, with traffic jams so paralyzing in the East Bay that they make even seasoned carpoolers cry.

Oh, and another thing. Endure it amid a summer heat wave, when temperatures are expected to climb even higher into the triple digits Tuesday in some East Bay communities. Can you say crabby?

"It was very frustrating and hectic. People were cursing in their cars and cutting in front of the line and trying to move forward," said Jorge Buenrostro, 44, whose normally 20-minute commute from Oakland across the Bay Bridge to his job at a Peet's Coffee in San Francisco took him nearly 90 minutes Monday. "It took an hour just to get to the toll booth in Oakland. I was trying to keep my cool."

But look on the bright side. Even if the strike continues, commuter traffic is expected to lighten up Wednesday as workers pack their coolers and beach towels for Thursday's Fourth of July holiday. And if commuters learned anything from Monday's gridlock and the bollixed up Bay Bridge, perhaps they'll find quicker, smoother ways to get to work. Better yet, can you -- and more importantly, can your boss -- say telecommute?


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The Bay Area Council estimated that 25 percent of people who cross county lines to get to work telecommuted or stayed home Monday, said the business group's spokesman Rufus Jeffris.

The biggest missed opportunity for many Monday was taking advantage of the so-called "casual carpool" rides in which strangers team up to qualify for the carpool lane. Across the East Bay, solo drivers lined up at designated pickup spots expecting to see throngs of San Francisco-bound commuters thumbing rides. Instead, they sat like taxi cabs at the airport, backed up and waiting.

"We had more willing drivers than there were passengers waiting to get in to the cars," said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional agency that operates the 511 traffic information website. "Depending on the corridor, carpooling is going to save you at least a half-hour from most locations and on a day like today, probably more."

Once his colleague reached the Bay Bridge on Monday morning and hit the carpool lane, Goodwin said, "he was going 60 mph across the bridge."

Commuters did try to be resourceful in other ways, however. Some left earlier than the big rush, some later. Others chose alternative bridges -- the number of cars crossing the San Mateo and Dumbarton bridges increased 4 percent Monday compared to last week and increased 5 percent on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Strangely, the number of vehicles crossing the Bay Bridge at the peak of commute dipped slightly compared to the previous Monday. But Goodwin attributed that to several factors, including that more people paid cash at the toll instead of using Fastrak, which backed up traffic for miles. Backups were reported from the bridge to Walnut Creek, with traffic creeping along so slowly it took an hour to get a third of a mile on Highway 24. But while fewer vehicles crossed, more people were stuffed into them, in carpools and in standing room only buses.

"I think I spent more time traveling than working today," said Juan Nadal, 29, who spent three and a half hours transferring buses to get from his home near Lake Merritt in Oakland to the Veterans Administration Hospital in the Richmond District of San Francisco.

Let's hope Monday was the worst of it, when confusion reigned for many of the 200,000 BART riders not sure where to go. Some were frustrated trying to use BART passes for shuttles and AC Transit.

Most, like Ama Gee, learned the biggest lesson to cope is to have a plan. And a backup plan, too.

Gee, of Discovery Bay, looked bewildered Monday morning as he wandered Grand Avenue in Oakland.

"I have no idea how to get to San Francisco," said Gee, who had driven from his home in Discovery Bay to Oakland's Lake Merritt, but couldn't figure out a public transit connection to the city's Financial District. "No one can tell me where to go, what bus to take."

Finally, a fellow commuter helped direct him to the morning's first AC Transit transbay bus, which was full of extra riders looking for a BART alternative.

The afternoon commute out of San Francisco looked a little less miserable, but cars still jammed city streets and bulged onto the Bay Bridge.

Buenrostro, who carpooled in from Oakland in the morning, chose to take the ferry home. But even that was a mess.

"I've been here for 30 minutes," he said. "The line is already zigzagging to get on the Oakland ferry. There are about 500 people waiting."

Still, Goodwin, the traffic expert, knows the weary commuter is an adaptable breed. Surviving a BART-free commute means today and tomorrow and the next day should be better.

"I would hope a little bit less friction as people learn new patterns," Goodwin said, making a pitch for those casual carpools.

"These are the days that mom's wisdom can be dismissed. Take a ride with a stranger -- you might pass on the candy, but take the ride."

Staff writers Joshua Melvin and Matt O'Brien contributed to this report. Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409. Follow her at twitter.com/juliasulek

5 TOP TIPS FOR GETTING AROUND
1. If possible, telecommute.
2. Leave home/work before or after rush hour.
3. Go to a casual carpool lot and find someone looking for a carpool partner. Carpool hours on the Bay Bridge have been extended to 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
4. Get real-time traffic updates on 511.org.
5. Avoid highways that parallel the BART route, especially the Bay Bridge.