San Francisco's notoriously tough commutes are about to get a lot harder as the Bay Area is waking up to a transit strike that will mean a day without trains. The contract for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 expired at midnight and the group elected to go on strike, effectively shutting down the Bay Area Rapid Transit system just in time for rush hour.
City officials in Oakland, San Francisco, and surrounding towns are already bracing for snarled traffic, overcrowded buses, and a lot of late employees. According to the Contra Costa County Times, BART trains make 400,000 trips every weekday, with more than half bringing riders back and forth across the large bay. Many of them have no cars, and thus no alternative transportation. Those that do are expected to clog highways that already feel overloaded on good days.
Even worse, the contract of a related union that represents city bus drivers has also expired, and while they haven't declared a strike yet, a spokesperson said they would be watching on Monday to see if there is a "safety risk to bus drivers and passengers" because of overcrowding. If they decided to walk as well, the city would lose its two biggest public transport options.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee asked the two sides to keep trains running while they continue negotiations. However, the two sides remain deeply divided over proposed pay increases and benefit payments, which the BART says are overly generous compared to other public service workers. This is first transit strike in the Bay Area since a 1997 strike that last for six days.