OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Thousands of commuters searched alternative transportation Friday as Bay Area Rapid Transit workers walked off the job for the second time in four months.
The strike began midnight Friday morning after a marathon bargaining session between BART and its unions, stretching over 30-hours, broke down Thursday afternoon.
Bay Area commuters scrambled for another way to get around the region Friday. However, while much of the early traffic concentrated on approaches to the Bay Bridge, other routes into San Francisco such as the Golden Gate Bridge saw normal to light traffic.
The unions said they agreed with BART on economic, health care and pension issues, but that the parties still differed on work rule issues. They said they asked BART to take the remaining issues to arbitration but management refused.
BART General Manager Grace Crunican said the sticking points related to management’s proposed work rules, which she said are essential to maintaining BART’s effectiveness.
“I’m sorry, I’m regretful,” Service Employees International Union Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez said at a news conference outside Caltrans offices on Grand Avenue in Oakland where negotiations had been taking place.
Federal mediator George Cohen said the two sides have reached agreements on “a number of very significant items that have previously separated them” but that sticking points remain and no one was budging.
The three-person federal mediation team decided there was “nothing further we were able to do,” he said.
Although trains were not picking up passengers, a limited number of trains were running along the system Friday for maintenance and security reasons, a BART spokeswoman said.
The trains were running to make sure the tracks do not rust and everything is in working order, BART spokeswoman Luna Salaver said.
“The trains are running around the system to keep the tracks in good shape,” Salaver said.
She advised passengers who see trains working to not falsely expect to hop on.
Salaver said keeping the system active also helps with security.
Usually with trains cruising throughout the system, there is “an extra pair of eyes” monitoring BART property, she said.
With the work stoppage, parts of the system that are usually bustling are empty and therefore more vulnerable to security breaches, Salaver said.
She said all maintenance and security work was being performed by a small group of non-union staff members.
Traffic on Bay Area freeways was crawling in the commute directions early Friday, and buses provided by BART filled up quickly. Commuters began lining up many hours earlier than normal to ensure they get a seat on ferries and buses going into San Francisco from the East Bay.
According to the CHP, commuters who planned to drive across the transbay bridges were encouraged to pick up casual carpoolers and use HOV lanes. Vehicles must have FasTrak to use the HOV lanes.
A commute-crippling strike in July lasted for four days.
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