San Fran Bay Area transit workers go on strike

A couple discusses alternative travel plans upon learning that the Fruitvale BART station is closed due to a strike Monday, July 1, 2013, in Oakland, Calif.
AP Photo/Ben Margot

Last Updated 12:56 p.m. ET

OAKLAND, Calif. San Francisco Bay area commuters got out the door earlier than usual Monday and encountered crowded roads and public transit after Bay Area Rapid Transit train workers went on strike.

Weekend talks between the unions and management failed to produce a new contract by Sunday's expiration date, halting train service for the first time in 16 years.

The walkout promised to derail the more than 400,000 riders who use the nation's fifth-largest rail system and affect every mode of transportation. Transportation officials said another 60,000 vehicles could be on the road, clogging highways and bridges throughout the Bay Area.

Traffic leading up to the toll plaza of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was heavier than usual early Monday. People also lined up early to take buses that were leaving from a few Bay Area Rapid Transit stations.

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit buses into San Francisco were carrying more passengers, riders and bus drivers said.

"It's pretty crazy," said Young Choi, 34. "It's creating a pretty chaotic feeling in terms of the commute situation."

Choi, an architect at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP in San Francisco's financial district, got dropped off by a friend in Berkeley from Walnut Creek around 6:30 a.m. Monday so he could catch the bus after hearing about the strike.

Trafffic is backed up on Interstate 80 and 580 on approach to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge during morning rush hour on Monday, July 1, 2013, in Oakland, Calif., in the midst of a strike affecting the BART rail system.
AP Photo/Ben Margot

Normally, he'd leave later but was navigating a new route so he wanted to get an earlier start.

Still, early reports indicated a less chaotic morning commute than had been feared.

BART Strike Commuter Survival Guide (from KPIX)

The strike was called as Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 workers' contracts expired at midnight Sunday. Both the unions and management earlier in the day had said they were far apart on key sticking points including salary, pensions, health care and safety.

"I'm deeply disappointed it has come to this," ATU Local President Antonette Bryant told reporters at a midnight news conference.

Negotiations fell apart Saturday and the unions walked away from the table. California Gov. Jerry Brown's office had urged both sides to resume discussions Sunday with rush hour on the horizon.

But talks between the two sides came to an end Sunday night with BART accusing negotiators of walking away from the bargaining table, while the SEIU countered in a statement that management "threw in the towel."

"A strike is always the last resort and we have done everything in our power to avoid it," Josie Mooney, a lead negotiator for one of BART's two major unions, told CBS Station KPIX in an e-mail. "We are disappointed that BART's failure to bargain honestly and fairly means that hundreds of thousands of Bay Area commuters have to suffer."