Commuters fretting possible BART strike

June 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Both sides are asking for mediation from the state, but until that happens, the unions representing Bay Area Rapid Transit workers are inching closer to a strike.

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One transit agency estimates it would take 7,888 buses to carry BART's daily ridership of 360,000 passengers. Even if that many buses were available, none of them would be able to move like one BART train, carrying 1,200 passengers at 70 miles per hour through the Transbay tube.

BART says it is focusing on getting an agreement, not getting ready for a strike.

"Certainly we're preparing, but there's not really much BART can do, if we don't have the train operator, than we can't operate a train," BART spokesperson Linton Johnson said.

Two of BART's three unions have authorized if necessary, the third will vote Thursday.

"It takes 15 weeks to train a train operator, we can't just pull one off the street; BART will come to a halt," Johnson said.

The unions say they are willing to work past the deadline, under an extension. BART has asked the governor to deny a cooling off period if the unions ask for one.

"It's been BART that has said they don't want a cooling off period and they don't want extensions," SEIU spokesperson Larry Gerber said. "We don't want to play chicken with the riders and I think that's exactly how I characterize what BART's doing to the ridership and the public."

The Metropolitan Transporation Commission will put information on alternate transportation agencies on the 511 Web site, but so far those agencies have not submitted strike plans. In these budget times, they do not have a lot of options.

"It's not like the bus operators have got 100 extra buses and 100 extra drivers standing at the ready to ferry folks across the bay," MTC spokesperson John Goodwin said.

Golden Gate Ferry has 30 percent capacity left on its ferries, but parking could be a problem at all Bay Area terminals because their ridership is only a fraction of BART's.

"I want to drive but I hear they were talking about the gridlock and how horrible it would be, that it could come to a standstill on the Bay Bridge, that won't be any fun," BART rider Jennifer Ilja said.

Many BART riders are unaware a strike could be less than a week away.

During the six day strike in 1997, the driving commute increased by 30 minutes, according to the MTC. Since then, BART ridership has increased by 100,000 daily, which means the daily commute by an hour coming into the city and 30 minutes going out.

LINK: 511.org

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