Frustrated BART riders are asking this week what can be done to get trains back up and running if management and workers can't work out a deal to resume service -- and there aren't many options.
The most realistic alternative may be for BART's board to impose new terms and conditions of employment and hope the unions, fearful of getting a raw deal, agree to a settlement. That's the strategy BART officials used to avert a strike during the last round of labor talks in 2009.
But BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the agency remains focused on reaching an agreement through negotiations.
"Right now that's the end game -- negotiating a fair contract," Trost said.
Some frustrated commuters, perhaps in a moment of desperation, have suggested firing all the BART workers and hiring a fresh staff or bringing in "scab" workers to cross picket lines and get trains moving.
"It's really not an option, unfortunately," Trost said. "We can't bring in outside train operators because there are very strict Public Utilities Commission regulations. Everyone who drives a train has to go through a certification process."
Of course, workers could simply go back to the job and would receive pay and benefits under the terms of the old deal, as AC Transit employees have done since their labor agreement expired late Sunday. But workers have signaled no willingness to do that, saying they are fed up with their current working conditions and need to make a stand.
Gov. Jerry Brown has power to issue a 60-day cooling off period to delay a strike, a tactic used by past administrations in 2001 and the 1990s. But Brown, wary of a strike during the potential Bay Bridge shutdown during Labor Day weekend and eager to see both sides resolve their issues now, has declined that option. Plus, Brown on Tuesday sent in two of the state's top mediators to assist.
Still, some commuters want a more urgent solution.
"I think that once it gets to a certain point the state really needs to step in and take control. This affects everybody," said Stephanie Baker, 29, whose commute into San Francisco has taken twice a long boarding a bus in Oakland.
Other than that, there aren't many options outside the bargaining table. Influential politicians have intervened to help both sides reach a deal during past contract talks but so far several Democrats lawmakers have only chimed in from the sidelines.
"I can understand the frustration of the public," Trost said. "We want to bring the workers back as soon as possible."
Staff writer Brittny Mejia contributed to this report. Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.