A protester carries a sign at the Lake Merritt Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) station as striking Oakland city workers and 2,400 employees of the BART commuter rail system went on strike in Oakland, California July 1, 2013. Commuter rail workers went on strike on Monday in the San Francisco area for the first time in more than 15 years, triggering gridlock on highways and headaches for thousands trying to get to work. (Photo : REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)
Transportation agencies in the San Francisco Bay area are "preparing for the worse," as BART, the country's fifth largest rail system, is threatening to go on strike this Monday.
On Thursday, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) workers gave the California Bay Area transit agency a 72-hour notice threatening to strike if a new labor deal isn't reached by a Sunday midnight deadline. Since then, the two sides have not reached an agreement and remain far apart on the issues of wages, pensions and healthcare.
As a result, more ferries and buses will be put into operation to get San Francisco Bay area commuters to work Monday, reports the Associated Press. Carpool lanes will also be open all day Monday and drivers who pick up riders will be rewarded with gift cards for coffee.
Nonetheless, Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin said travelers will still experience difficulty if a strike is called. "The inescapable fact is BART's capacity can't be absorbed by the other transit agencies. We're still hoping for the best, but it's time to prepare for the worst."
However, some lucky commuters will have the option to avoid the long lines for buses and ferries and traffic jams all together by working from offices called "co-working spaces" in the Bay Area, like NextSpace in San Francisco. In addition, the main library in San Leandro will open a huge hall with free Wi-Fi access and work space for two days, reports ABC.
Bay Area Rapid Transit and its union were holding weekend-long labor talks in hopes of reaching an agreement by a midnight Sunday.
The unions went on strike early in July, shutting down BART service for four days. The strike ended after unions were granted a 30-day contract extension that is set to expire on Aug. 4.
The unions, which represent nearly 2,400 train operators, station agents, mechanics, maintenance workers and professional staff, are requesting a 5 percent raise each year over the next three years. However, BART said union train operators and station agents average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. BART says it needs to save money on benefits to help pay for system improvements.