OAKLAND — Representatives of the San Francisco Bay Area's transit rail system and its striking unions returned to the bargaining table Monday, raising hopes among the region's frustrated commuters that a four-day work stoppage that has gridlocked highways and doubled travel times is about to end.
Bay Area Rapid Transit officials hoped to have an agreement in place by Monday evening so trains could begin running on the system's 104 miles of track by Tuesday, BART spokesman Rick Rice said. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant confirmed the talks but declined to comment further.
ATU represents station agents, train operators and clerical workers who walked off the job early Friday along with mechanics and maintenance workers represented by the Service Employees International Union. Contract negotiations had broken down over work rules for scheduled hours and overtime.
Area residents who endured long lines for crowded buses and ferries into San Francisco on Monday offered differing opinions on which side bore more blame for the impasse, but they were unanimous in the view that the public was being unfairly hurt and that the strike had to end.
"We need BART to be running right now," Karen Wormley said as she waited for a bus at a BART station in the East Bay city of Walnut Creek, where the line was at least hundred-people deep before dawn. "I need to get to work."
Federal investigators, meanwhile, were searching for clues to a weekend train accident that killed a BART worker and a contractor who were struck by an out-of-service train while inspecting an above-ground section of track in Walnut Creek.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator James Southworth said Monday that the BART employee who was operating the train was a trainee.