BART strike snarls traffic for second straight day

Transit workers went on strike after talks broke down with management Sunday

By Associated Press
Published July 2, 2013 6:46PM (EDT)

San Francisco Bay area commuters endured another tough morning commute on Tuesday, as a strike by workers for a heavily used train system entered its second day.

Hundreds of thousands of commuters who rely on Bay Area Rapid Transit -- the nation's fifth-largest rail system -- had to find alternate routes to work. Traffic heading to San Francisco on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was jammed.

Lines for ferries and buses appeared even longer than on Monday, and BART said charter buses it was running at four stations reached capacity before 7 a.m. and could not accommodate additional passengers.

Tolu Adeoye, 19 watched as an Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District bus cruised past his stop in Berkeley. It was full, leaving him and more than 20 others stranded and looking for other options to get to San Francisco.

"I guess I'm not going to work today," said Adeoye, a Santa Clara University student who works for Xerox.

Workers representing two of BART's largest unions went on strike after talks with management broke down on Sunday. No new talks have been scheduled.

The striking unions and management reported being far apart on key issues including salary, pensions, health care and safety.

"Our members aren't interested in disrupting the Bay Area, but management has put us in a position where we have no choice," said Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555.

The unions, which represent nearly 2,400 train operators, station agents, mechanics, maintenance workers and professional staff, want a 5 percent raise each year over the next three years.

BART said union train operators and station agents average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers also pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.

BART spokesman Rick Rice said the agency had upped its original offer of a 4 percent pay increase over the next four years to 8 percent. The proposed salary increase is on top of a 1 percent raise employees were scheduled to receive Monday, Rice added.

The transit agency also said it offered to reduce the contribution employees would have to make to pensions, and lower the cost for health care premiums.

BART, with 44 stations in four counties and 104 miles of lines, handles more than 40 percent of commuters coming from the East Bay to San Francisco, said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Transit authorities have made accommodations to help, including longer carpool lane hours, additional ferries, and extra buses. BART doubled the number of buses serving West Oakland to 36 on Tuesday.

Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, a nonprofit organization focused on public transportation and walkable communities in the Bay Area, suggested employers allow workers to telecommute.

"Truth is, on a nice summer day, it's good to telecommute," he said. "Hopefully this won't go too long. It if continues into a non-holiday week next week, we're going to find a lot of people settling into new patterns, finding carpools."

BART Strike: San Francisco Walk-Out Strands Nearly Half A Million Commuters

Associated Press

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