BART ridership drops Friday after a close call on strike 

click to enlarge BART ridership was down sharply Friday, the day after the transit agency threatened to be shuttered by striking workers. BART said that riders likely made alternate transportation plans since labor talks went late into the night Thursday. - JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES
  • Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • BART ridership was down sharply Friday, the day after the transit agency threatened to be shuttered by striking workers. BART said that riders likely made alternate transportation plans since labor talks went late into the night Thursday.

BART ridership dropped sharply Friday as commuters bracing for a second possible strike made alternate travel arrangements, agency officials said.

Ridership on Friday was down by about 20,000 passengers compared to recent Fridays, with transbay trips down by around 11,000, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.

Many riders who feared a strike would start Friday morning had presumably already planned to stay home or work from home, or arranged for carpools or other alternate transportation, Trost said.

Union officials announced around midnight that they would not go out on strike Friday at the expiration of a state-ordered 60-day cooling-off period, but issued a 72-hour notice warning of a possible strike Monday.

"We were hoping the unions would announce much earlier than they did that there wasn't going to be a strike so that people wouldn't have to stay up until midnight," Trost said. "They waited until the last possible minute."

Bay Area transit officials are warning riders to be prepared for a strike Monday, which means many will again be seeking alternate forms of transportation.

BART employees previously went on strike for four and a half days in July but returned to the bargaining table for another 30 days under order by Gov. Jerry Brown.

When the second round of talks failed, Brown asked for a 60-day cooling-off period, which a judge ordered. That period ended at the end of the night Thursday.

BART management began negotiating on April 1 with Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers.

The drop in ridership Friday was noticeable at Orinda's BART station, according to City Councilman and state Assembly candidate Steve Glazer.

Glazer, who was at the station Friday morning gathering signatures on a petition calling for a legal ban on future transit worker strikes in California, said he spoke to newspaper salespeople there who said business was around half the level of a normal Friday.

"A number of people I spoke to said they had to get up at midnight to see if the trains were running the next day," Glazer said. "There were some bleary-eyed folks saying they'd lost sleep over this."

Glazer said thousands of people had signed his petition, which calls on state legislators to pass a strike ban similar to those seen in other cities such as New York City and Chicago.

"If they are unable to reach agreement they should keep working it out, but they shouldn't strike and create huge impacts on the people in the Bay Area and our economy," Glazer said.

The strike in July cost commuters and the regional economy more than $219 million in lost productivity, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce officials said Friday in a statement.

In addition, it contributed to traffic delays from extra cars on the road and added around 16 million pounds of extra carbon dioxide to the air, chamber officials said.

The chamber called for a prompt agreement to avoid another strike.

"A repeat strike will be damaging to commuters, employers and the economy," said Wade Rose, co-chair of the chamber's public policy committee.

The Bay Area Council, a regional business-sponsored advocacy group, recently released a survey that found 63 percent of residents in counties served by BART think employees should accept BART management's latest contract offer.

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