Transit talks continue to threaten students’ commutes

SF State students and faculty, along with the rest of the Bay Area, anxiously await the outcome of the BART negotiations as labor talks continue to drag on and commuters consider alternate transit options.

Meanwhile, the University continues to make contingency plans for students caught in the middle of the transit labor struggle.

“Knowing the experience with the unpredictability of the BART talks we were looking to aid students in the event of an eleventh hour decision,” said Corinne DaCunha, associate director of business continuity at SF State.

The Parking & Transportation department advertised their emergency services in the event of transit strike by email on Oct. 9. Services included overnight accommodations for students like 18-year-old biology major Khalil Lucas.

“I would have trouble coming back home,” Lucas said. “Friday it would affect me going to school because I have to take BART to school on Friday and I take BART home every day.”

The school is offering a mattress and linens in a community room from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. on a first come first serve basis for students affected by the strike. Additional parking locations, bus services from the East Bay and web conferencing are also offered as contingency plans. Details on the locations are determinant on acceptance.

“We’ve gotten good feedback,” DaCunha said. “The proof is that students have utilized it.”

Tuesday night, BART and union negotiators were still bargaining along with a federal mediator but remained deadlocked.

The 60-day cooling off period that prevents BART workers from striking expired last Thursday at midnight and workers have kept the trains running while negotiators from both sides have been engaged in marathon talks.

The transit agency, which normally moves about 400,000 commuters a day, has been in negotiations with their unions since July over pay raises, pensions and health care contributions.

Union officials set a deadline of midnight Tuesday to avoid a walkout. This was the fourth such deadline that has been set and ignored as both sides found common ground.

SF State isn’t the only organization preparing for gridlock, however, as regional transportation officials are planning on using additional busses and ferries to move Bay Area commuters.

There is some good news, however, as students who commute from the East Bay probably won’t be forced to contend with an AC Transit strike as the governor is expected to institute a 60-day cooling off period to stop a walkout.

The bus line serving the East Bay has been in contract negotiations with their unions since March and their working contract expired in June.

“We’ve been preparing managers to make sure that we were consistent with what’s available to us through CSU and through state employees and in trying to get people ready,” said SF State President Leslie E. Wong. “Our students, they’re going to make an A+ effort to make their exams, to get their papers in.”

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