There may be only one surefire way for commuters to get through this mess of another BART strike -- we bond together.
Yes, extra bus service, more ferries and longer carpool hours are helpful. But they are not enough to compensate for 200,000 stranded BART riders looking for a way to work and the impact that has on our freeways.
Courtesy, patience, understanding bosses and the willingness to offer a ride to a friend are perhaps the best ingredients to counteract our growing anger at BART management and its striking workers and the inevitable gawd-awful commutes.
"You're spot-on," said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "Patience, good cheer and generosity are always recommended. And by generosity, I refer to sharing the unused seats in one's vehicle."
That's what Melissa Summers, of San Francisco, will do if the strike continues this week. She'll be giving a ride to a friend who works near her in Berkeley.
"She lives on the other side of the city, and it's normally too inconvenient for us to carpool," said Summers, 36, who works in science administration at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "But I'm happy to go out of my way to help her out, as I know she doesn't have good alternatives."
Kristine Wilson's bosses at Wells Fargo also have the right spirit. They are allowing the Stockton-to-Oakland commuter to start work at 6 a.m. instead of her usual 7:30 a.m. time.
"Also, if your job allows, you can work from home," said Wilson, 44, a loan servicing consultant. "Unfortunately my job doesn't allow me to do that."
Britt Tanner and her husband took the BART bus shuttle from El Cerrito to San Francisco with their two young kids (Kai, 4, and Nils, 1) in tow. Mom and Dad work in San Francisco, where the toddlers go to day care.
"Other bus riders were very nice," she said of her Friday journey. "Courtesy was not lacking at all."
Regional transportation officials also are trying to turn frowns into something less. They will reward drivers on Spear Street in San Francisco who pick up casual carpool passengers with $5 coffee gift cards while supplies last.
Courtesy is important, but it also pays to rise early. Before 6 a.m. on Friday, carpool lanes flowed freely on approaches to the Bay Bridge and other spans. But after 7 a.m., it was a sea of red brake lights, and no one appeared to be moving faster than 15 to 20 mph.
Some even saw other motorists -- yes! -- using their blinkers to change lanes before the toll plaza.
"No reports of any road rage or anything like that, but I think people are pretty ticked-off," said traffic reporter Joe McConnell.
But that might well get worse. During rush hour in the days ahead, the approaches to the nation's second busiest bridge from Interstates 80 and 880 and Highway 24 will be where the true test of our resilience will come. Very long lines of traffic will begin before the sun rises for solo drivers, FasTrak users and even carpoolers.
Greg Bayol, a longtime Caltrans public information officer now retired, begs everyone to control their frustration.
"Please don't flip off the BART pickets," he said. "Really, don't. It would be rude, so don't, really. Don't even think of it."
Beverly Miller, of Pinole, did something Friday she would never do on a normal commute -- she glanced over at a driver in an adjacent lane. "I would never look at another car on a normal day," she said. "Eyes straight ahead always.
"But I did this time, and he looked at me, shrugged -- and smiled."
A smile a day could keep those commute blues away.
NTSB takes control of probe in rail deaths;
commuters told BART strike will continue
Complete story, PAGE B1