Mayor Lee Cuts Asia Trip Short In Wake Of BART Strike, Deaths

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has come home early from an overseas trip to Asia and this afternoon called for a resolution to the BART labor dispute that has wreaked havoc in the Bay Area.

Lee, who was part of a San Francisco delegation visiting China and South Korea for a trade mission, said he returned home after hearing about the two workers killed on the BART tracks near the Walnut Creek station on Saturday.

See all Appeal coverage of Saturday’s fatal BART collision here

“Everyone on the trip was very concerned, so I immediately decided to cut the trip short and come back here,” he said.

Lee had initially postponed the start of his trip when BART’s unions threatened to strike last week, but ended up leaving for Shanghai just before the work stoppage began on Friday.

The mayor urged BART management and its unions to come to an agreement. The two sides reached a stalemate last Thursday over sticking points related to work rules, but the unions submitted a contract proposal to management Sunday that union leaders said offers some flexibility on those rules.

See all Appeal coverage Of BART’s second strike of 2013 here

“They’ve got to settle today,” he said. “They have a close enough proximity, those issues can be settled.”

BART spokesman Rick Rice said management would be meeting with union leaders this afternoon to resume face-to-face negotiations. He said that if there is a contract deal by 6 p.m., BART trains will be running Tuesday.

Lee met this afternoon with San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director of transportation Ed Reiskin to discuss the strike’s impact on the city’s streets and transit system.

Reiskin said the SFMTA has added 16 buses and two light-rail vehicles to supplement Muni service along the heavily traveled Mission District corridor; at connectors to Caltrain stops; and on the J-Church and N-Judah lines.

Those lines saw an extra 11,500 riders this morning—a 22 percent increase compared to an average weekday, Muni spokesman Paul Rose said.

Reiskin said the extra service, which requires bringing in workers for overtime, is costing the city at least $100,000 per day.

“It’s not sustainable,” he said.

The extra cars on the road as a result of the strike have also slowed down Muni service, especially during the afternoon commute as East Bay-bound drivers fill the streets leading to the Bay Bridge.

Reiskin said traffic control officers will be at many downtown intersections this afternoon to keep the lines of cars moving.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan today released a statement saying she is “optimistic” a deal can be reached today.

“I strongly encourage them to resolve the final issues on the table,” Quan said. “I have been in regular contact with both sides and I’m hopeful the trains can be running tomorrow, and BART management and employees can return to providing the critical public service they have always provided.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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