The Bay Area is struggling through the second day of a four-county BART strike that has put transbay and downtown San Francisco traffic in gridlock, as well as creating commuting nightmares for many of the 400,000 commuters who take BART daily. Bargaining between union and management on the "key issues of the key issues pensions, health benefits, salaries and safety" had halted on Sunday night, when the strike began.
KCBS reports from various locations, including Jeffrey Schaub on the status of the charter buses (mostly full) at selected BART stations in the East Bay on Tuesday morning (audio and podcast).
Reporter Jeff Bell has an "in-depth" discussion with Steve Heminger, director of the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to get insight into the strike and its relationship to Bay Area transportation, and also problems with the construction of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.
“BART has had a very difficult and tension-filled relationship with its unions", he states.
BART is irreplaceable - there aren't enough alternatives to carry 400,000 riders, and certainly not at the same speed. "BART is a faster trip across that Bay than a ferry boat is”, he adds.
One surprise in the interview was his statement on BART priorities, determined not by MTC but by BART, though all funding goes through MTC.
Instead of focusing on outward expansion of the existing transportation network, Hemminger said the focus should shift to the reinvestment of the core capacity of the BART system; meaning getting more trains through the Trans-Bay Tube with a computer system.
They said part of the problem is bigger than wages and benefits. "They point the finger at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for funding BART extensions, instead of focusing on improving the existing system," Goebel says. "They point to big capital projects like extensions to the Oakland Airport and to Livermore, things they contend BART can't really afford." Advocates say these big projects have soaked up money that could have been used to update systems and service.
The strike is not just impacting the lives of commuter and the region's traffic, but the region's economy as well. According to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the daily toll in lost worker productivity alone is $73 million.