As more than 400,000 people in the Bay Area scrambled for alternate ways to work during the first morning rush of the BART strike, the Mission’s tech workers lined up at 24th and Valencia streets, where a new round of private buses arrived every five minutes to transport them to their corporate campuses.
“I didn’t know there was a BART strike until you just told me now,” said Eric Zilli, an engineer at Facebook, waiting in line at the stop that draws employees from Apple, Google, Youtube, Facebook, Cisco and Yahoo. News reports estimate that some 35,000 tech workers a day are bused from San Francisco.
Gustaf Engstrom, a designer at Apple, said he rarely uses BART. “I haven’t really reflected [on the strike],” he said. “I guess I’m lucky.”
If employees that work in Silicon Valley were to take public transportation from 24th and Valencia to 1 Hacker Way in Menlo Park, the address of Facebook’s headquarters, it would take them one hour and 52 minutes, according to Google Maps. That same route takes 34-45 minutes by direct bus, depending on traffic.
Still, many of the tech workers supported the BART strikers and said they would be impacted in getting around the city if the strike persisted over the weekend.
“A strike in general is good if they haven’t gotten what they want,” Engstrom said.
Mark Loesel, a Cisco employee, added, “Overall, I feel that they have a proper need to be taken care of by their management.”
Loesel said his wife had been affected by the strike. Moreover, getting around the city will be difficult without BART, he said.
“It’s bad for my wife because she needs to get downtown,” he said. “Me? It’s not a big deal.” But that is only in getting to work. “We are still active in the city, and BART affects us very much locally. Muni is more crowded, you have to take a cab, or drive yourself to find parking. It’s not easy to get around town when BART is down.”
Several of the employees waiting in line asked that their names not be used, but others openly talked about the strike.
At one point, Jillian Stefanki, a PR person from Facebook, interrupted one commuter answering questions about his ride to work, and encouraged him to decline to answer further questions. She walked around directing all of the Facebook employees at the stop to stay silent until they boarded the bus.
After the Facebook bus departed, employees from other companies continued to talk.
When asked if he regretted not being able to use the BART excuse to stay home, Andrew Rostaing, a software engineer at Apple who lives in the Mission, doubted it would work.
“I don’t think people get to hang out [today],” he said. “People might not be being paid today because they can’t get to work.”
Jason Conn, an engineer in Silicon Valley who lives in the Mission, added, “I think it’s probably more frustrating to be stuck in an apartment because you can’t get to work.”
Conn said he uses BART four or five times a week to get downtown or the East Bay, but he always uses the corporate buses to get to work.
Riding a private shuttle, some said, did not mean they were unaware of what was happening around them. “I’m a citizen of this city, and it’s important to me,” said one rider who asked that his name not be used.