Think the first BART strike was bad? The encore is shaping up to be an even bigger pain.

With the second BART shutdown of the summer looming next week and daily negotiations apparently continuing to prove fruitless, regional transportation officials warned Tuesday that the overall number of drivers and transit passengers is projected to jump 10 percent compared with the first strike. And they've decided not to launch additional trains and buses beyond what was offered last time -- a decision that has sparked some criticism.

During the Fourth of July holiday week while BART was shut down, more than 90,000 displaced one-way BART riders -- or one-fifth of the agency's daily ridership total -- packed onto standing-room-only buses, trains and ferries. Tens of thousands of others clogged jammed freeways and bridges, extending drive times by 25 minutes or more on the Bay Bridge and freeways that parallel BART.

But it could have been worse: Many others stayed home or went on vacation.

This time, the region's transportation planners are expecting fewer people to be on vacation -- and even a small increase in the amount of cars on the freeway can extend drive times dramatically.


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In recent weeks, transportation officials had weighed whether to launch a new, temporary private shuttle line and further expand service on existing transit lines. Some transit leaders had even suggested using school buses that have been freed up during summer vacation to shuttle around displaced riders, or asking Google and other big tech companies whether they could share their buses.

There is plenty of money available: Of the $20 million the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved last month to respond to a strike, only $750,000 was used because the walkout lasted just 4½ days.

But some transit agencies, such as Caltrain, are already running at full capacity during rush hour while others, including AC Transit, say they do not have the workforce to operate much more than normal service. In addition, regional officials are concerned about plunking down nonrefundable deposits for new shuttle buses when a strike is far from guaranteed -- or stretching service on other transit lines too thin. So they decided to stick with their game plan from the first strike.

"It's kind of lather, rinse, repeat," said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "Basically everything that was in place in early July we can expect to be in place again."

The commission, which runs the 511 traffic and transit hotline and website, is continuing to urge travelers to carpool and talk to their employers about telecommuting or working staggered shifts. If all else fails, the commission will advise commuters to leave as early as possible.

But the decision to use the same strategy as last time has irked critics, who fear tens of thousands of BART riders without cars or alternative transit routes will have no realistic way to get around.

"We spent less than 10 percent of (the money approved) and left thousands of people without a way to get to work or to the doctor," said commission member Sam Liccardo, a San Jose councilman who is suggesting that the commission withhold regional grants to transit agencies that don't agree to significantly increase service during a BART shutdown. "We can do better."

As the region braces for the strike, BART and its two large labor unions resumed talks again Tuesday as they faced a Sunday night deadline to avert a shutdown that would begin Monday morning. The key issues are wages and contributions to health care and pensions.

BART announced Tuesday it had previously budged on health care, saying its latest offer -- submitted privately on July 2 -- had dropped from 16 percent to 10 percent the portion of the benefits that would be paid by employees. Workers now pay $92 a month toward medical benefits, or about 5 percent of the cost. The unions have not revealed their counter-offer and did not return messages seeking comment.

"I would disagree that we're getting nowhere," BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said. "This is real movement offering a fair deal."

Management also revealed it had eliminated a stipulation that nearly half of its pay increase offer -- which totals 8 percent over four years -- be tied to the agency meeting certain economic factors, saying that the entire wage bump would now be guaranteed. Unions had offered about 20 percent wage increases over three years. Current blue-collar workers make an average of $76,551 in gross pay, easily the highest among transit operators in the state.

BART's offer for workers to contribute 5 percent toward their pension remains unchanged. Workers currently do not contribute toward their pensions, and unions had offered to pay 3 percent of the cost.

Both sides, aided by state mediators, expect to meet daily at a neutral office in Oakland.

BART riders such as Oakland resident Claudia Ponath, who rides the train into San Francisco, are preparing for the worst.

Like last time, Ponath plans to telecommute. But "I'd rather be able to go to my office," she said. "I really hope that they can come to some agreement before Monday."

Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705 or mrosenberg@mercurynews.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.