BART workers on strike after contract talks fail


"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 have been taking place.

"The employer has been unwilling to reach an agreement or to settle these disputes without a strike," Sanchez said.

A marathon bargaining session between BART management and its two biggest labor unions -- SEIU Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 -- began Wednesday morning, lasted all night and continued today, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said earlier Thursday.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican has participated in the talks, along with three federal mediators.

Negotiators also participated in lengthy bargaining sessions earlier this week. Talks that began on Monday didn't end until 5:30 a.m. the following day, and talks that began on Tuesday afternoon last until about 1 a.m. Wednesday.

The federal mediators announced they would be returning to Washington, with George Cohen saying there was "nothing further we were able to do."

The key issues in the contract talks are wages and employees' contributions to their health care and retirement plans.

BART workers previously went on strike for four and a half days at the beginning of July, after their previous contract expired, but they have been at work since then as negotiations have continued.

Oakland mayor reacts to negotiation breakdown

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan released a statement in response to the impending BART strike after negotiations fizzled out.

Quan expressed appreciation for the effort put forth by BART management and the unions' hard work, but went on to declare that "now is not the time to give up."

"As to the issue at hand, I ask that BART management reconsider and allow these negotiations to move into arbitration for the unresolved work rules issues. An agreement that is fair to both parties is within reach," the mayor said.

She added, "If the sides cannot reach that agreement at the negotiating table it is time to move to arbitration on these issues to avoid further hardship to BART riders and the greater Bay Area community."

Bay Area business leaders blame unions

A group of Bay Area business leaders is casting blame on union leaders for not accepting a deal put forth by BART management to avert a strike that is now expected to start at midnight.

"This will be a catastrophe for the Bay Area that is completely unnecessary, unjustified and will cause untold hardship for the hundreds of thousands of working people who rely on BART every day," said John Grubb, chief of staff of the Bay Area Council, a local business-sponsored advocacy group.

Riders plan for alternate commutes

BART will provide a limited number of free roundtrip charter buses at nine East Bay BART stations starting Friday morning.

Buses will pick up ticketed passengers at El Cerrito del Norte, West Oakland, Concord, Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Dublin/Pleasanton, San Leandro, Hayward and Fremont stations starting at 5 a.m.

BART officials said there will be five to 15 buses at each station.

The buses will drop off passengers at San Francisco's Temporary Transbay Terminal.

On the return trip, riders will board buses between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the terminal. Those buses will go to West Oakland, where transfers can be made to other buses heading to various East Bay destinations.

If the strike continues into the weekend, BART will provide three buses at the same nine East Bay stations and offer limited roundtrip direct bus service into San Francisco in the morning and evening.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees the regional transit system, is advising those who are opting to get behind the wheel that bridges and roadways will be congested.

In an attempt to alleviate the crowded roadways, carpool lanes will have expanded hours starting at 5 a.m. Carpooling, along with casual carpool pick-ups, is encouraged.

Parking lots at 33 BART stations will remain open during the strike and be free to use. However, some parts of the parking facilities, such as elevators, may be closed because of the strike.

Most bus service on AC Transit buses will be on a regular schedule, however there will be additional transbay buses which will provide additional seats across the Bay Bridge.

Some bus stops located at East Bay BART stations will move to nearby streets.

San Francisco Municipal Railway service will be beefed up on "high priority corridors" which includes the 14-Mission bus lines and buses along the Caltrain station near Fourth and Townsend, and in the downtown and Financial District area, and on the J-Church Metro line.

Additional taxi stands will go up at four locations: the Temporary Transbay Terminal; on Folsom Street between Main and Spear streets; in front of the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero; and at the San Francisco Caltrain Station.

The San Francisco Bay Ferry will operate 12 boats instead of its usual eight during the week. Two of the boats are on loan from the Golden Gate Ferry, which is running on a regular schedule from Marin County into San Francisco.

With the additional boats and more departure times, the ferry service will be able to carry up to 20,000 passengers instead of its average 6,000 per day.

At San Francisco International Airport, free shuttles will take passengers between the SFO BART station at the International terminal and the Millbrae Caltrain station and the San Francisco Bay Ferry dock in South San Francisco.

SamTrans will continue to run buses which will take passengers from the San Francisco Temporary Transbay Terminal to SFO.

AC Transit buses will connect passengers between the Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART station and Oakland International Airport. There will not be the usual AirBART bus shuttle available during the strike.

SamTrans buses will stop at all San Mateo County BART stations, while Caltrain service will stay on a normal schedule.

Caltrain officials said if trains reach capacity, more service may be added, if possible.

The MTC is also advising commuters to talk to employers about arranging flexible work schedules or telecommute for the day.

Stay with ABC7NEWS.COM for updates on the looming BART strike and information on how to get around if the trains stop running. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and download our news app for the latest news whenever and wherever you want.

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