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The Metropolitan Transportation Commission began offering $5 gift cards for Peet's Coffee and Tea to drivers willing to pick up passengers at "casual carpool" locations near the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and a few of BART's estimated 400,000 commuters over the weekend began posting online ads asking for -and offering - rides downtown.

"Anyone driving to the city today hit me up please," tweeted a user named Heaven Haile on Sunday. "This bart strike is gonna kill me."

"BART sucks!" readEmily Pharr's Craigslist ad. Pharr, 42, a program manager who works in Palo Alto and lives in Oakland, was offering rides downtown in her Dodge Caravan from the North Berkeley BART station, starting at 5:30 a.m. Monday.

"It's just really crazy," she said of the rail strike, which threatened to enter its fourth day. "Half a million people can't go to work without a hassle - and it's not a little hassle, it's a huge hassle."

Pharr was asking prospective passengers for "a kind donation of $10 to cover my gas and my time." She offered to take the special high-occupancy HOV carpooling lanes clear to Palo Alto, south of the city. By midday Sunday, she had filled two of five available seats in the minivan.

Amalgamated Transit Union 1555 President Antonette Bryant over the weekend said she planned to take a final contract offer before members for a vote, but she expected it to be rejected. "It's our hope we can get it to members this week," Bryant told the Associated Press. She expected the vote to be "a resounding no."

Union officials said there was general agreement on some economic issues, but the two sides came to an impasse over work rules, including the length of the workday and when overtime pay kicks in.

Despite the strike, two workers inspecting tracks in Walnut Creek were hit and killed by a BART train Saturday afternoon as it returned from routine maintenance, transit officials said. The four-car train was being run in automatic mode under computer control at the time, said Paul Oversier, BART's assistant general manager. The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the fatal accident, the first for a BART employee in five years.

By Greg Toppo

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