http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/07/05/bart-strike-has-less-impact-on-pleasanton-in-first-week-of-shutdown


Pleasanton Weekly

News - July 5, 2013

BART strike has less impact on Pleasanton in first week of shutdown

Independence Day week vacations soften crunch

by Jeb Bing

Pleasanton commuters who rely on BART trains to get to work have been bracing through the Independence Day week for worsening travel conditions if the strike continues into Monday.

Major freeways remained crowded as the strike continued although the strike did not have the major impact on commuters that was feared. That could change Monday when the thousands who took part or all of this week off head back to work.

Especially in Pleasanton, because of quick action by city officials in tandem with BART and other agencies to handle morning traffic, commuters had it easier than in other locations. Buses serving BART's alternative commute service, referred to as "bus bridges," were at the East Dublin/Pleasanton station by 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and were moved out regularly, sometimes even with a few empty seats. By mid-morning, buses were sitting empty along Owens Drive waiting for passengers.

Pleasanton commuters also benefited by BART's decision Tuesday to add more buses to serve the East Dublin/Pleasanton station and the two other East Bay stations where the bus-bridge service was offered. That meant that 36 charter buses served the three stations, double the numbers that were available Monday.

Even though commuters and car-poolers could park free in both Dublin/Pleasanton station parking lots, there were plenty of empty spaces at both lots during the week.

Officials said many commuters took the suggestion of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and handled office work by telecommuting from home or simply stayed home this week.

Many companies closed Friday as well as yesterday for the Independence Day holiday with many employees also taking the first days of the week as vacation time.

Pleasanton police will be back at the BART stations Monday to monitor traffic and assist in any strike-related issues.

At least one bargaining sessions was scheduled between BART management and representatives from Service Employees International Union Local 1221 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 since midnight Sunday when the union contracts expired. The key issues in the talks, which began April 1 but broke off last Sunday night, are pensions, health benefits, salaries and safety.

The strike is the agency's first since a 1997 action that lasted six days.

"A strike is always the last resort and we have done everything in our power to avoid it," SEIU Local 1021 spokeswoman Josie Mooney said. "Unfortunately, BART seems intent on forcing a strike."

BART officials, however, have said they offered a pay raise amounting to more than 8% over four years in their latest contract proposal but have met with repeated resistance from union negotiators.

"We've sweetened the deal by $6 million, we doubled our wage proposal, and they came down half a percent -- that's where we are right now," BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said before a new negotiating session got under way.

The BART strike has cost the region $73 million a day in lost labor productivity, according to the business advocacy group, the Bay Area Council. Its figures are mostly based on estimates of lost hours and productivity from longer commute times due to traffic delays or taking alternate public transit.

"The Bay Area Council and our 250 members companies implore the BART unions to end this damaging strike and return to the bargaining table, and we urge both sides to reach a fair and reasonable agreement," Bay Area Council president and CEO Jim Wunderman said.

According to the council, the economic impact of the strike could in fact be much larger if considering the costs of workers not spending money by staying home or otherwise altering their routine, increased fuel prices because of clogged freeways, and that workers telecommuting may not maintain the same level of productivity.

For updated information on the BART strike, sign onto our daily news service at www.pleasantonweekly.com.

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