It's time for the Bay Area to prepare for a BART strike.
More than half the 60-day cooling-off period has elapsed. It's hard to see how a deal will be reached before it ends.
The BART board already offered more than it should have. It can't go further while meeting its responsibilities to keep sufficient numbers of trains running reliably. As it is, more tax increases are planned.
For their part, BART workers, who already receive great compensation, haven't budged. They continue to perseverate about side issues while maintaining absurd salary and benefit demands. Union leaders have ratcheted up expectations to such unrealistic levels that workers don't appreciate the sweet offer already on the table.
Train operators, for example, already place among the top-paid in the nation. Employees contribute nothing toward their generous pensions. And health insurance costs most of them just $92 a month, no matter how many dependents they have.
BART is offering a 10 percent wage increase over four years, while asking that workers contribute only minimally to their pensions and allowing them to keep the $92 health care deal. Yet, that's not enough for the unions.
If the board stands firm, as it should, and labor leaders continue their intransigence, workers will probably strike Oct. 11.
There will be gridlock.
So, start making plans to carpool or, if possible, work from home. Plan to travel outside commute hours. Stock up on household supplies to avoid unnecessary trips. Schedule virtual conferences rather than meeting in person.
Finally, resist the temptation to blame BART directors. For your sake, they can't give anymore. Caving to absurd labor demands will only buy short-term peace at the expense of long-term financial insolvency.
It would be great if there were an easy way out. There isn't.
Some fantasize that state and federal money will once again provide the financial backstop. Those days of free-flowing funds are over. BART needs to put more of its own money toward capital costs, leaving less for salaries and benefits.
Some state lawmakers talk of banning transit worker strikes in exchange for binding arbitration. It's hard to imagine pro-labor legislators cutting collective bargaining rights, especially lawmakers from Southern California unaffected by a Bay Area strike threat.
Moreover, binding arbitration takes key financial decisions away from elected representatives and turns them over to unaccountable lawyers or retired judges.
It's the BART directors' responsibility to balance labor costs against billions of dollars of unmet capital needs. For too long, they have let politics trump financial reality. That must end, even if it means enduring a strike.