SF Bay area transit strike snarls commute again

Associated Press
Commuters board a San Francisco Bay Ferry leaving for Oakland as passengers arrive from a ferry from Alameda at the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. 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. 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. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Monday was bad, but Tuesday was even worse on San Francisco Bay Area commuters who endured a second day of tough, frustrating commutes after a strike by train workers shut down the region's transportation backbone.

Commutes in the region were thrown into chaos when members of the two largest unions representing Bay Area Rapid Transit workers went on strike early Monday after talks with management broke down. No new talks have been scheduled.

Freeways have choked to a standstill. Lines for ferry service tripled, and boats were crammed to standing-room only.

Buses were stuffed with riders who felt fortunate to be on board after many commuters were literally left in the dust when buses zoomed by without as much as a honk or an explanation.

BART said charter buses at four stations reached capacity before 7 a.m. and could not accommodate any more passengers.

About a hundred people waited single-file at the downtown Berkeley bus station. Some had watched multiple, full F buses cruise past for hours.

"It's already starting to wear on people," said Hilary Hartman, who arrived at San Francisco's Transbay Terminal at 6:45 a.m. Her boss sent her home to work an hour later when she was unable to get on a bus.

"You see the buses trickling in from the East Bay, and it's standing-room only, and people's faces are not super happy when they're getting off," Hartman said.

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. If it continues into a non-holiday week next week, we're going to find a lot of people settling into new patterns, finding carpools."

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 and additional ferries and buses. BART doubled the number of buses serving West Oakland to 36 on Tuesday.

BART is the nation's fifth-largest rail system and carries passengers from the furthest reaches of San Francisco's densely populated eastern suburbs to San Francisco International Airport across the bay. It also serves Oakland International Airport and drops baseball fans within walking district of the Oakland A's home stadium.

"A large number of our fans do take BART to the games," said A's spokesman Bob Rose. "In light of the strike, we are encouraging all fans to carpool to the games and all of our lots will be available for parking."

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

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.

__ Associated Press writers Mihir Zaveri and Martha Mendoza contributed to this report.

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