by ABC7 Newstaff
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Bay Area Rapid Transit riders and union members are trying to figure out what to do now that BART has put a take it or leave it contract offer on the table. But local leaders are urging the transit agency to take it back and resume negotiations.
"Normally I get up about 5 a.m., if you want to find out if there's a strike or not, you're getting up at 4 a.m., because you're going to hit the road a lot earlier. So, the yo-yo effect is not real enjoyable right at this moment," Steve Hookey of Danville.
Monday morning, Metropolitan Transportation Commission workers handed out flyers instructing people to use 511 to make alternate plans in case a strike takes place tomorrow.
"I don't know, it's kind of nerve-wracking or whatever, because it's been taking so long," said one BART rider.
"I need an MRI and I need an appointment with my pain clinic right now but until I know what the settlement is going to be, I won't schedule," said Michelle Rousey of Oakland.
BART management made its last, best and final offer Sunday afternoon. It includes a 3 percent wage increase per year, over four years. But workers will have to pay 4 percent more for their pension and 9.5 percent more for medical insurance.
"It's time to bring this to a close. The Bay Area is tired of going to bed at night and not knowing if BART is going to be open or not. And we need to bring this to a close. It's been long enough," said BART General Manager Grace Crunican.
Union leaders and some lawmakers were disappointed by the final offer, saying it did a lot of damage to the negotiation process. Union negotiators want the proposal rescinded and if they don't reach an agreement by Monday night, they say they will strike Tuesday.
"We have given the district at least four different extensions, trying to get this deal done. At some point you have to say, 'enough is enough.' You have to let people know; look we can do the deal if you don't want to do it. You're pushing us into a corner, that's where we are," said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant.
"It would be preposterous for both sides at this stage when you're getting this close to put, at risk, your reputation and the economy of the entire region," said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
George Cohen, who was appointed as head of the federal mediation service by President Barack Obama, arrived here Sunday afternoon. He brought his chief deputy from Washington DC. They're joining the federal mediator who's been overseeing these talks now for months.
For BART riders, it was another stressful Sunday.
"I think the BART thing is just a reflection of what's happening in the government," BART rider Sandra Coleman said. "I mean, it seems to be all the thing to just disagree and see how long we can disagree."
BART rider Frank Baker adds, "You can't reach a deal in 60 days? You got most people can do it in 30. You got most people do it in 10. It's past 60 days. Come on man, get it together!"
Transit workers having the right to strike isn't sitting well with some people. Orinda City Councilman Steven Glazer is one of them.
He was at BART's Rockridge station in Oakland Sunday, trying to persuade riders to sign his petition banning transit strikes. He says the few shouldn't have an impact on the lives of so many.
"If they can't work it out, my feeling is they shouldn't take it out on the riders of the Bay Area," Glazer said. "There's too much at stake for hundreds of thousands of people that use BART every day to have a breakdown at the bargaining table affect all of us."
Glazer's petition is available online.
New York City, Boston, and Chicago are just a few of the major cities that do not allow transit strikes.
BART management began negotiating on April 1 with the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represent which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and ATU Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers.
Workers went on strike for four and a half days at the beginning of July but returned to the bargaining table at the request of Gov. Jerry Brown.
When a strike again seemed imminent, Brown sought a 60-day cooling-off period, which expired last week. The unions announced late Thursday night that they would postpone a potential strike, but issued a 72-hour strike notice.
Transit agencies, commuters prepare for potential strike
Commuters who haven't made alternative plans are searching for a new way to get to work.
BART has chartered 200 buses. That's almost three times the number it had on hand for the July walkout.
They'll run from these nine stations -- El Cerrito, Concord, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, West Oakland, Dublin/Pleasanton, San Leandro, Hayward, and Fremont.
"Last time they went on strike I didn't have to go into work at all that Monday through that Friday," BART rider Mike McCarthy said.
He's among the lucky ones. McCarthy is a programmer. And, just like last time, wont' be going into the office if there's a BART strike.
"It's more convenient in a way," the Berkeley resident said. "But by the end of the week I did want to see my coworkers again."
For those who can't telecommute, San Francisco Bay Ferry will be expanding service. 12 boats will be in operation, instead of the usual eight.
AC Transit will also increase bus service as needed, especially on its transbay lines.
BART riders aren't thrilled about the prospect of taking the bus.
"I've never taken the bus to San Francisco, so we'll see," Berkeley resident Rupa Subramaniam said. "I don't know how that works."
But those who experienced it in July remember long lines, crammed buses, and short tempers.
"That was bad because we were waiting for like an hour for the bus at a time so I guess we'll be taking the bus," Berkeley resident Shay Micole said.
Casual carpool was another popular option last time, and is expected to be again if BART trains stop running.
With so many more cars expected to be on the freeway, car pool lanes will be enforced all day from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Interstates 80, 880 and 680.
All of the uncertainty is too much for Michelle Rousey, whose doctors are in San Francisco.
"I need an MRI and I need an appointment with my pain clinic right now," the Oakland resident said. "But until I know what the settlement is going to be I won't schedule."
If BART workers go on strike, gridlock is expected to be worse than it was during the last strike in July when school was out and many people were on vacation.
Stay with ABC7NEWS.COM for updates on the looming BART strike and information on how to get around if the trains stop running. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and download our news app for the latest news whenever and wherever you want.
Bay City News and ABC7 News reporters Matt Keller, Sergio Quintana, Cornell Barnard, and Lilian Kim contributed to this story.