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BART Prepares for Its Return to the Rails

September 15, 1997|Associated Press

OAKLAND — The San Francisco Bay Area's commuter rail system prepared to whisk riders to work this morning despite lingering bitterness from a six-day strike that crippled last week's commute.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit trains were scheduled to begin running at 4:30 a.m. today; the first BART service since Sept. 6.

BART officials and unions representing 2,600 transit workers reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract early Saturday.

Return of the service couldn't come soon enough for tens of thousands of commuters who had to endure mammoth traffic congestion during the walkout. Commute times doubled and tripled for many riders as they tried to find a way into San Francisco.

In fact, many commuters vowed to stick with buses and carpools once the strike ended. It was unknown just how many of BART's 275,000 daily rides would use another form of transportation.

Margaret Pryor, president of the BART board of directors, apologized to riders in a message roadcast on radio Sunday.

"We know the strike was a terrible inconvenience to the people and businesses of the Bay Area," she said. "BART is proud of this agreement we've reached with our unions because it will help us hold the line on costs, maintain a high level of service and is very fair to BART employees."

Under the tentative agreement, employees would receive a $3,000 lump sum payment the first year of the four-year contract. They would then receive 4% raises in the second, third and fourth years.

Employees of the two unions--Service Employees International Union Local 790 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555--will vote on the tentative agreement Friday. The nine-member BART board votes the following week. Approval is expected to be a formality.

The strike was the longest in BART's 25-year history since a three-month BART walkout in 1979.

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