Bay transit urges calm in case of quakeBy Staff
Passengers who are on buses or trains when an earthquake strikes should remain calm and wait for instructions, according to officials with Bay Area mass transit agencies.
In most cases, buses and trains will proceed to the nearest stations and operators will wait for orders from control centers at their respective agencies.
"Waiting for instructions is the basic rule," said Jonah Weinberg, spokesman for both Caltrain and SamTrans.
He said trains operated by Caltrain are instructed to pull into the closest station and wait for further orders. Once trains pull into a station, passengers can decide if they want to stay on their train or get off, Weinberg said.
"Caltrain doesn't want to hold people captive on the train, so they're welcome to get off," he said.
Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Linton Johnson said the transit agency's normal procedure, depending on how big an earthquake is, is to have trains continue to the nearest station.
BART workers will then do track inspections and install sensors to see if trains can resume operations, Johnson said.
BART's response to an earthquake is determined by the size of the temblor, he said. "There's no one-size-fits-all response," Johnson said.
Many BART passengers are frightened by the prospect of being in the transbay tube underneath the bay when an earthquake hits, but former BART Director Nello Bianco used to tell reporters that he thought the tube was the safest place to be during a quake.
Johnson said if passengers who are in the tube need to be evacuated, at least they probably wouldn't have to walk very far to get out.
He said that's because "you can't stop on a dime" and trains in the tube probably would coast for a while before stopping, which would put them close to one end or the other.
Passengers would then walk in a tunnel to get out, he said.
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority spokeswoman Jayme Kunz said passengers on its buses should be aware that in the event of a significant earthquake it probably would shut down some service "and re-route significant portions of our service for safety reasons."
Kunz said Caltrans would need to inspect bridges and highway overpasses before the VTA could resume service over those structures.
She said officials at the light rail system the VTA operates would need to inspect its tracks "to make sure they're safe for continued service."
Kunz said that after assessing the situation, the VTA's operations control center would advise train operators whether they should remain stopped or whether they could go ahead at a slow speed.
Kunz said that if there's an earthquake in the middle of the night, passengers should be aware that there might only be limited service because it will be difficult for bus and train operators to get to work.
"Service could be seriously impacted" and staying at home and sheltering in place probably is the best option, she said.
Spokesman Clarence Johnson of AC Transit, which is the third-largest public bus system in California, serving 13 cities and adjacent unincorporated areas in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, said it would seek to keep service as close to normal as possible.
Johnson said if BART's transbay tube isn't operating and the Bay Bridge is shut down, AC Transit could try to fill the gap to some extent, but not completely. "We couldn't fill the void," he said.
However, Johnson said AC Transit could augment ferry service by taking people to and from ferries. The bus service also could take people to and from BART stations.
But he admitted, "All of this to some degree will be on the fly," depending on the severity of an earthquake.
Copyright ©2006 Bay City News. Published 04/07/2006.