The BART strike set to hit Friday could wreak havoc with Marin's roads, in particular the already sluggish northbound evening Highway 101 commute.
"We have traffic backing up the entire length of Marin County in the afternoon and early evening," said Dianne Steinhauser, executive director of the Transportation Authority of Marin. "This will just make it worse."
In particular commuters, parents driving children home from school and people taking local trips already produce virtual gridlock from the Richardson Bay Bridge to the Greenbrae Interchange during the evening commute on Highway 101.
Making matters worse is ongoing road deck work on the Richmond side of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. In recent weeks that has served to back up traffic across the span to Marin and Highway 101.
The morning commute coming off the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is more dispersed and the July BART strike didn't cause many headaches. That strike occurred, however, when students were out of school and families were on vacation meaning fewer cars on he road, Steinhauser noted.
"The only thing we have going for us is that it is Friday and maybe people can work from home," Steinhauser said. "I would advise people not to make those discretionary trips."
Exasperated BART union leaders announced they would shut down trains Friday morning after a breakdown at the bargaining table Thursday, setting the stage for the second Bay Area commute nightmare in three months.
Although union leaders have been threatening strikes for the past week, they sounded much angrier and more direct this time, and talks ended altogether.
"Unfortunately, yes — we are on strike as of midnight," Antonette Bryant, president of the local Amalgamated Transit Union, said after the end of an epic bargaining session that began about 30 hours prior and left negotiators wearing day-old clothes.
As of 8:30 p.m., no deal had been reached and it was unclear if negotiations would resume. It would take a "miracle" to reach a contract agreement in time for the start of Friday service at 4 a.m., said Josie Mooney, chief negotiator for the local Service Employees International Union.
Both sides were inching closer on the main economic issues that had separated them for more than six months but were still about 4 percent apart on total wage increases. And unions said they were fed up after management tried to impose new work rules to limit overtime and other costs.
"This isn't the end of it — it's the beginning," BART General Manager Grace Crunican said, taking the microphone after Bryant went back inside the negotiating office in downtown Oakland. Some union members lingering around began to heckle her.
"It's not management that asked for the strike — it's the union," Crunican said.
Crunican said BART was continuing to propose its latest four-year offer. That includes a total 12 percent pay increase on top of union workers' average gross pay of $76,500 — the highest among California transit agencies — changing pension contributions from zero to 4 percent, and bumping up monthly health care payments from $92 to $144.
Unions had agreed to the pension and health care offers but wanted a 15.9 percent increase in pay, BART said.
The other big remaining issue is BART's refusal to let a neutral arbitrator give the final ruling on various perks that workers want to keep but which management says are inefficient.
Among the work rules BART wants to change: Currently, union workers can call in sick, work four days and get paid overtime on the fifth day; employees can leave projects in the middle of a job to go work on something else; and employees can receive paper paycheck stubs instead of electronic notices.
Contact Mark Prado via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.