BART strike: Union, transit officials make offers


After a sluggish morning commute that drew region-wide gripes, BART general manager Grace Crunican said they had reached out to the mediator and were "ready to resume negotiations at any time."

Hours later, as the evening commute was underway, union president Roxanne Sanchez held a news conference with their own offer: sign off on pay, health care and pension issues, and send the remaining sticking point - work rules - to arbitration. But BART officials later said they would be willing to send the entire contract to arbitration but not the work rules alone.

Thus, with no deal in place, residents were heading into a weekend without BART service, complicating vacation plans and making it tough for fans heading to events including a music show on Treasure Island and art exhibits throughout San Francisco's Open Studios.

San Francisco Bay Area rapid transit workers are on strike for the second time since July, scrambling the morning commute for hundreds of thousands of workers who were up before dawn to clog highways, swarm buses and shiver on ferry decks as they found alternative ways to the office.

Six months of on-again, off-again negotiations have brought agreement on key issues such as raises, health care and pensions. But there remained a snarl Friday: a package of work rules involving when schedules are posted, whether workers can file for overtime when they've been out sick, and how paychecks are delivered.

The labor details were meaningless to Marsha Smith, who watched the sun rise as she rode toward her office in a crowded bus. Like many commuters Friday, Smith left her house while the moon was still shone brightly to be sure to make it in on time.

"I am so tired. I am so frustrated and I'm so over it," the court records supervisor said.

Getting home was no better.

Lines were long for charter buses on Friday afternoon as riders usually dependent on Bay Area Rapid Transit waited to board, and traffic maps show jammed roads in San Francisco that lead to eastbound lanes of the Bay Bridge. Cars were backed up for at least 10 blocks along streets downtown, waiting to cross the bridge.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system carries a ridership of 400,000 daily through tunnels under the bay and into the region's urban core of San Francisco from four surrounding counties, relieving what would otherwise be congested bridges.

In an effort to alleviate delays, many of the Bay Area's other 27 transit systems added bus, ferry and rail service Friday. Carpools and rideshare programs were also busy, and more cyclists took the streets.

But traffic was sluggish nonetheless, and lines at bridge toll plazas were backed up for miles.

Passengers touching down at San Francisco International Airport were warned that trains weren't running, and it could take twice as long to get into the city.

Many simply avoided the hassle, telecommuting instead.

The strike could drag through the weekend and into next work week, although both sides indicated interest in finding a solution.

Discussions fell apart late Thursday after a marathon 30-hour negotiation with a federal mediator that put representatives from both sides at dueling news conferences, rumpled, unshaven and angry.

But the transit agency countered that it needed to control costs to help pay for new rail cars and other improvements.

Waiting for a ferry in Oakland, retail worker Mary Nelson said both sides should be able to come to an agreement.

"I don't understand why they're holding a lot of hardworking people hostage," she said.

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