San Francisco transit strike causes gridlock

2013-10-21 14:41

Oakland — Investigators searched for clues to a weekend San Francisco Bay Area transit train crash that killed two workers as commuters girded for gridlock with a major transit strike underway.

With no indication that striking Bay Area Rapid Transit workers would be back on the job Monday, the region was prepared for another day of traffic snarls on freeways, and bridges clogged with commuters who would ordinarily be traveling by train. BART, the fifth-largest U.S. commuter rail system, has an average weekday ridership of 400 000.

Meanwhile, a federal investigator said Sunday that even though the train that killed the two workers didn't have a front-facing video recorder, interviews, inspections, audio recordings and camera footage from the train's cab should provide enough evidence to determine a cause.

Jim Southworth, the National Transportation Safety Board's railroad accident investigator-in-charge, said the BART train wasn't carrying any passengers when the crash occurred Saturday because of the labor strike, which has shut down the system since Friday.

Whether the work stoppage by members of the system's two largest unions or the way BART management deployed non-striking workers during the shutdown played a role in the fatalities will not be known for weeks or months, Southworth said.

BART's assistant general manager has said that the four-car train with several employees aboard was returning from a routine maintenance trip and was being run in automatic mode under computer control when it struck the workers who were inspecting a section of track in the East Bay city of Walnut Creek.

Southworth said it is too early to know how fast the train was going or if workers saw or heard it coming. He and a colleague hope to interview the person who was operating the train and BART dispatchers as soon as Monday.

On Sunday evening, transit workers, many of them dressed in their uniforms or union T-shirts, held a candlelight vigil for their colleagues.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said Sunday that transit officials and labor leaders have been in contact over the weekend, but the two sides did not have any plans to return to the bargaining table.

BART presented what it called its last and final offer to its unions a week ago but is open to restarting the negotiations if that is what the federal mediator overseeing the process wants, Trost said. The system's directors plan to hold a special closed meeting on Monday, she said.

Amalgamated Transit Union local president Antonette Bryant said over the weekend that she would take BART's final contract before members for a vote this week, but expects it will be rejected.


Cone reported from Fresno.

Read more on:    san francisco  |  travel  |  travel international

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