Bay Area Rapid Transit trains are to start running by 6 a.m. The strike ended soon after investigators said an 'operator trainee' was driving a train that killed two BART workers Saturday.
By Lee Romney and Maura Dolan, October 21, 2013
Traffic backs up on Interstate 80 in Oakland at the San
Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as the Bay Area Rapid Transit strike snarls
the Monday morning commute.
SAN FRANCISCO — BART management and union leaders emerged from negotiations late Monday to announce an end to the four-day regional rail strike that sent hundreds of thousands of commuters scrambling to find alternatives to the 104-mile system.
The strike by Bay Area
Rapid Transit's two largest unions stung its weekday ridership of
400,000 more sharply Monday than it had Friday, as residents who had
taken a long weekend or worked from home scrambled for buses, ferries
and carpools — or sat for hours in gridlocked traffic.
The settlement, announced about 10 p.m., would get some trains
running by 6 a.m. and would ramp the system up to full strength for the
afternoon commute, said BART General Manager Grace Crunican.
"This offer is more than we
wanted to pay, but it's also a new path in terms of relations with our
unions," said Crunican, who declined to reveal details before union
leaders shared them with membership. "We compromised to get to this
place, as did our union members."
Union members must still vote to ratify it and the BART board must
approve it. Leadership praised it as a win for workers' rights.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan
had joined the bargaining teams in the Metropolitan Transportation
Commission offices in her city to urge a prompt end to the strike. Lt.
Gov. Gavin Newsom was there too.
"If there's any lesson learned, it's that this can never happen again," Newsom said.
Monday night's unexpected resolution came hours after federal
investigators disclosed that an out-of-service train that killed two
BART workers on the tracks Saturday was being driven by an "operator
Christopher Sheppard, 58, of Hayward and Laurence Daniels, 66, of
Fair Oaks were struck and killed by a BART train as they inspected a dip
in the tracks between Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill.
The tragedy seemed to add a new layer of urgency onto the stalled negotiations.
James Southworth, lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board,
confirmed in a Monday briefing that one of two "operator trainees"
aboard the train was at the controls. BART had been training some
managers as operators so they could run skeletal commuter service in the
event of a prolonged strike — a practice unions had opposed, calling it
Southworth said six people were aboard the train, which was on a
maintenance and training run. The operator was informed by radio that
the men were on the tracks and he sounded the train's air horn,
Southworth said, but he was unable to stop in time. The train was
traveling between 60 and 70 miles per hour.
Investigators will conduct a reenactment to study the train's braking system, he added.
"He was aware of people on the tracks," Southworth said of the
driver, who was among four employees interviewed for as long as 10 hours
NTSB investigators were shipping the train's video recordings to
Washington, D.C., and planned to continue with interviews Tuesday, he
The BART strike is the second to hamper travel and commerce in the
region since July, when a 4 1/2-day walkout was brought to a close by
the intervention of Gov. Jerry Brown, who later called for a 60-day cooling-off period.
The stop-and-start negotiations between management and its two
biggest unions — Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 — began in the spring.
The cooling-off period ended Oct. 10 and was followed by a
nail-biting series of strike deadlines that came and went last week.
Federal mediators flew in from Washington to press for resolution and by
all accounts brought the sides much closer together. But negotiations
nevertheless crumbled Thursday, and the strike was called.
The two sides agreed on pension and healthcare contributions and came
close on salary. But other issues, which included the length of the
workday and the amount of input workers have over changes in procedure,
thwarted a deal. Safety concerns over tunnel lighting, track clearing
and track signage were also among unresolved issues.
Federal mediator Greg Lim remained in the Bay Area after his
colleagues returned home, however, and by Monday afternoon management
and union representatives confirmed that negotiations had resumed with
his involvement. Both sides said that they were "hopeful" and that the
gap between the parties was narrowing.
Commuters found new ways to get to work, with varying degrees of frustration and good-natured adventurism.
Free BART round-trip shuttles running from seven of nine East Bay
stations were filled by 7:35 a.m. Packed buses from the Alameda-Contra
Costa Transit District — which is having its own labor discord — picked
up some of the slack, loading thousands of additional passengers for
standing-room-only express trips to San Francisco.
San Francisco Bay Ferry reported three times the passenger volume of a
regular Monday. People seeking to board at Oakland's Jack London Square
were greeted with long lines that moved remarkably fast, thanks to
extra vessels placed into service by Golden Gate Ferry.
Kim Walker, 56, a nurse at a school-based health center in San
Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood, was among tens of thousands of
workers unable to telecommute. On Monday, the Oakland resident rose
early, hopped on her bike and was in the ferry line by 8 a.m. reading a
"It's really a nice wonderful way to commute, on the bike and on the water," Walker said. "It just takes a long time."
Although the ferry crossing is more expensive than using BART, the
boats make for a luxurious ride to San Francisco's iconic Ferry Building
— with coffee, beer, wine and a full snack bar on board.
"There's no bar on BART," Matthew Meidinger, 33, of Berkeley said
with a mix of cheer and sarcasm. The restaurant manager had walked right
onto the ferry and grabbed a seat only 15 minutes or so after arriving
at the Jack London Square terminal — a big improvement over the delays
during BART's strike in July, he said.
Still, "the whole thing's a pain," he said, noting that Monday was
his son's first birthday and instead of being able to pop into the city
for a few brief meetings, transit issues would cost him the day.
San Francisco owes a hefty piece of its economic heart to its
tourists. Jon Ballesteros, vice president of public policy for the San
Francisco Travel Assn., said the industry — including hotels,
restaurants, retail outlets and attractions — supports 74,000 jobs in
town. For a number of those people, "it's been difficult to get in."
A Chipotle restaurant in the financial district that normally has a
lunch crowd spilling out the door was at light capacity at midday, and
manager Cory Shiflett said a number of workers had arrived "two hours
Ballesteros said San Francisco International Airport had taken strong
measures to ensure that travelers knew how to get to their
destinations. However, there were glitches.
Phoenix residents Gracie Snyder, 36, and her husband, Brian, 37,
found a shuttle to take them to Union Square when they arrived Saturday,
but they described the hunt as "difficult" and the price as steep. On
Monday they found themselves sitting in a long line for a bus in San
Francisco for an excursion to Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville.
"It's kind of hampered our sightseeing," Gracie Snyder, a laboratory technician, said of the travel mess.