Nightmare Commute As BART Strike Begins: Muni, Ferry And AC Transit Helping “To The Extent Possible”

BART workers have begun a strike that will bring train service to a screeching halt and is expected to paralyze commutes throughout the Bay Area this morning.

The strike – the agency’s first since a 1997 action that lasted six days – began with an announcement at midnight from representatives from BART’s two largest unions, Service Employees International Union 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 155.

A midnight announcement confirming the strike came as the unions’ four-year contracts expired following days of failed negotiations with BART management.

“A strike is always the last resort and we have done everything in our power to avoid it,” SEIU Local 1021 spokeswoman Josie Mooney said. Unfortunately, BART seems intent on forcing a strike.”

BART officials, however, have said they offered a pay raise amounting to more than 8 percent over four years in their latest contract proposal but have met with repeated resistance from union negotiators.

“We’ve sweetened the deal by $6 million, we doubled our wage proposal, and they came down half a percent – that’s where we are right now,” BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said Sunday.

Mooney other union officials apologized early this morning to the roughly 400,000 riders who rely on BART daily and said they hoped to resolve the labor dispute as quickly as possible.

More than a dozen workers began picketing at the Lake Merritt BART station a short time later, and remained at the station as of 1:30 a.m., according to SEIU Local 1021 spokeswoman Cecille Isidro.

More were expected to join the picket line at that station and others system-wide throughout the morning, she said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of commuters are left to figure out other ways to get to work.

AC Transit announced early this morning that workers represented by Amalgamated Transit Union 192 would not strike today, even after missing their own midnight deadline for a new labor agreement.

“We are gratified that the talks are continuing and our operators and mechanics are showing up for work,” said AC Transit Board President Greg Harper.

“We have great concern and respect for our ridership and this action by the ATU shows that the union does, too.”

In a statement last week, AC Transit officials announced they would provide some additional transbay service this morning “to the extent possible.”

Additional AC Transit buses are expected to run during peak commute hours from the 20th and Broadway station in Downtown Oakland to the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, and BART will offer limited bus service from its West Oakland and Embarcadero stations.

Muni spokesman Paul Rose said last week that the agency would focus on providing additional service along major routes including Metro lines N-Judah and J-Church, as well as the 49-Van Ness and 14-Mission bus lines.

San Francisco Bay Ferry is expected to offer extra boats today from Oakland, Vallejo and Alameda.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission officials are urging workers to telecommute if possible or to seek alternative forms of transportation such as carpooling.

Carpool lanes will be open throughout the day.

For the best information on alternate routes, commuters are asked to check or call 511. The transit trip planner on the site will offer options excluding BART.

Laura Dixon, Bay City News

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