Transit and the ‘Big One’

Bay Area transit agencies employ rigorous protocols to ensure they’re prepared for the next major earthquake.

1 minute read

October 11, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Californians know they should always be ready for the next earthquake—and that includes the state’s transit systems. In the San Francisco Bay Area, when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck in 1989, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system persisted with minimal disruptions. Ricardo Cano of the San Francisco Chronicle explains how the system prepares for major earthquakes.

“BART’s earthquake early warning detection system alerts the system to pending quakes and automatically signals trains to slow down at higher seismic intensities,” Cano writes. “Following an earthquake, [BART spokesperson James Allison] said, BART trains will stop (except for trains in the Transbay Tube and Berkeley hills tunnel) until it is determined it is safe to move the train to the nearest station, where riders will get off. Trains in the tube or tunnel move to the nearest station and then hold.” Staff are also trained and retrained regularly to respond to various levels of intensity. 

San Francisco’s other major transit agency, Muni, and the ferry operator, San Francisco Bay Ferry, have similar processes in place. “Like BART, Muni personnel would assess damages and inspect the system’s infrastructure to determine how soon Muni service could continue. Motor buses would replace electric trolley buses and streetcars if an earthquake damaged the system’s power lines.” 

Thursday, October 6, 2022 in San Francisco Chronicle

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