Passengers walk toward a San Francisco Bay Ferry leaving for Oakland at the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. San Francisco Bay area commuters endured another tough morning commute on Tuesday, as a strike by workers for a heavily used train system entered its second day. Lines for ferries and buses appeared even longer than on Monday, and BART said charter buses it was running at four stations reached capacity before 7 a.m. and could not accommodate additional passengers. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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OAKLAND, Calif. —
Weary San Francisco commuters faced gridlock for a third straight day Wednesday as rail workers continued a strike that has caused chaotic commutes and, according to some estimates, millions of dollars in lost worker productivity.
Two sides ended a marathon negotiation session very early Wednesday morning with talks scheduled to reconvene at 1 p.m.
"We made some progress tonight," said union negotiator Josie Mooney as she left the talks. "The mediator has asked us not to speak to the press. We worked very hard and we're going to continue to work starting at one o'clock tomorrow."
Bay Area Rapid Transit spokeswoman Alicia Trost called the fact that negotiations went until 3 a.m. "a good sign."
"That's what the Bay Area wants from us -- negotiating until the wee hours of the morning," she said. "That's what they got last night. That's always good. I understand there was progress made."
Trost said once an agreement is reached it would take 12 hours for the BART system to get back to its normal schedule.
But despite the renewed talks, BART and its two largest unions representing train workers failed to reach a labor agreement, setting the table for a third straight day of no train service on the nation's 5th largest rail system.
Talks resumed Tuesday after political pressure mounted for a settlement. The governor sent two of the state's top mediators -- the chair of the Public Employment Relations Board and the chief of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service -- to facilitate further talks.
A letter from Democratic state officials said the strike has caused "widespread personal hardship and severe economic disruption," and it noted they were disappointed "about the lack of productive proposals and counterproposals in the days leading up to the strike."
Commutes in the region were thrown into chaos when the strike began early Monday after talks with management broke down. BART carries passengers from the farthest reaches of San Francisco's densely populated eastern suburbs to San Francisco International Airport across the bay.
Freeways have choked to a standstill. Lines for ferry service tripled, boats were crammed to standing-room only and ridership on Caltrain increased.
Buses were stuffed with riders who felt fortunate to be on board as many commuters were literally left in the dust when buses zoomed by without as much as a honk or an explanation.
BART, with 44 stations in four counties and 104 miles of lines, handles more than 40 percent of commuters coming from the East Bay to San Francisco, said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
Transit authorities have made accommodations to help during the strike, including longer carpool lane hours and additional ferries and buses. BART doubled the number of buses serving West Oakland to 36 on Tuesday.
The striking unions and management reported being far apart on key issues including salary, pensions, health care and safety.
The unions, which represent nearly 2,400 train operators, station agents, mechanics, maintenance workers and professional staff, want a 5 percent raise each year over the next three years.
BART said union train operators and station agents average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers also pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.