BART is back.
And -- if the Bay Area has its way -- permanently, never to go away again.
The region's most vital public-transportation network is expected to resume service at 4 a.m. today, after officials representing the railway and its striking union workers announced Monday night that a tentative agreement to end a six-month-long labor fight has been reached.
"We will go back to work and continue our efforts to keep the Bay Area moving," said Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents BART train operators and station agents. "We did not want to strike -- and we're glad to have a tentative agreement that will work for all parties."
Details of the agreement were not made available Monday night -- and the agreement must be approved by the union rank-and-file this week in order to take effect.
But tentative or not, any deal that brings the four-day BART strike to an end is good enough for Bay Area commuters weary of the nightmarish traffic that accompanied no BART service.
At least some trains will begin running at 4 a.m. for normal service, with the hope of full BART service throughout the system in time for the afternoon commute, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.
"Come to BART like you normally would," she said.
The deal ends an ugly and ill-willed fight that's dragged on since April 1, when negotiations between BART and its more than 3,000 union workers began on a new labor contract. Two BART workers were struck and killed Saturday by a train operated by management preparing to ferry passengers during the latest work stoppage.That stretch of track has been cleared for service by the National Transportation Safety Board, Trost said.
BART's workers had been on strike since Friday morning, following the collapse of talks with management. That four-day stoppage followed a July strike that ran from July 1 to July 5.
While agreement details were not released, BART General Manager Grace Crunican did say it was "more than we wanted to pay" -- but last week the two sides had reportedly come to an informal agreement over an economic package that promised 3 percent annual raises for the next four years.
Under that agreement, BART employees will also contribute 4 percent of their paychecks toward their pensions, and see their $92 monthly health care contributions rise 9.5 percent.
A last-second spat over work rules -- hundreds of pages of detailed instructions on how to carry out job tasks -- led to Thursday's strike, but the two sides also came to terms on "innovation" in the workplace, according to John Arantes, BART chapter president for Service Employees International Union Local 1021.
Numerous politicians, including Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, were on hand for the announcement, having arrived at Metropolitan Transportation Commission headquarters earlier in the evening for a long-anticipated announcement that came shortly after 10 p.m. -- an end to an exercise that will hopefully never be repeated, the officials promised.
"This has got to be the last time this happens," Newsom said. "I think everyone is fed up. And no one wants to see this ever happen again."