Trains Start Rolling Again in Bay Area as Transit Strike Ends



Commuter trains here started running again Tuesday morning, after labor unions representing striking workers reached a deal with the Bay Area Rapid Transit system on Monday night.
The agency told riders to expect limited service with delays of between 30 and 45 minutes throughout the system until normal operations could resume later in the day.

The tentative strike agreement Monday night brought an end to a four-day walkout — the second in three months — that had spawned massive traffic jams and paralyzed travel for hundreds of thousands of increasingly angry daily commuters.

“This offer is more than we wanted to pay but it is also a new path in terms of our partnership with our workers,” said Grace Crunican, general manager of the transit system, known as BART. “We compromised to get to this place, as did our union members.”

Ms. Crunican, flanked by union leaders and politicians, including Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, said no details of the agreement would be released until the unions had a chance to present it to their membership.

The rancorous labor dispute, which had simmered since an earlier four-day strike in July, boiled over on Thursday, when negotiations broke down over disputes about wages, work rules and safety issues. On Friday morning, employees took to the picket lines and commuters began scrambling for alternative transportation, some lining up for charter buses at BART stations in Oakland as early as 3:45 a.m.

On Saturday, a BART train struck and killed two workers on a stretch of track in the East Bay, and the picket signs were exchanged for candles as both sides grieved the workers’ deaths. Talks resumed quietly on Sunday evening and continued through the day on Monday, with both sides hinting that an agreement was imminent.

The announcement came just after 10 p.m., more than four hours later than forecast, adhering to a ritual of late-night suspense that had become familiar in the days before the strike, when many Bay Area residents stayed up night after night to find out if trains would run the next morning.

“I am here to announce that we have reached a tentative agreement with BART, but I don’t want it to be forgotten that two lives have been lost,” said Antonette Bryant, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, one of the two unions representing 2,400 train operators, station agents, mechanics, clerical workers and others.

The agreement must be approved by BART’s board of directors and ratified by the unions’ membership.

BART, the Bay Area’s main commuter railroad, carries 400,000 passengers daily between San Francisco and the East Bay.

Mr. Newsom, who before the strike had been among the government officials pleading with both sides to compromise, said, “This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.”

“I’m grateful we’re here,” he said. “But if there’s any lesson to learn, it’s that this can never happen again.”

While the strike might be over, the investigation into the workers’ deaths is likely to continue for some time. In a news conference on Monday afternoon, Jim Southworth, lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, which is overseeing the inquiry, said a trainee was operating the train at the time of the accident.

The two workers, Christopher Sheppard, 58, a BART employee, and Laurence Daniels, 66, a contractor, were inspecting a section of track between the suburbs of Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill for a reported dip in the rails.

“The operation of the train was for training and maintenance purposes,” Mr. Southworth said.

He said that at the time of the accident there were six people on board the train, which was traveling at about 60 to 70 miles per hour.

BART had said that it would train managers to operate trains to provide limited shuttle service during the strike. The unions had warned that allowing inexperienced drivers to operate the trains was dangerous.



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