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Originally published July 2, 2013 at 7:23 AM | Page modified July 3, 2013 at 12:33 AM

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Weary commuters face 3rd day of transit strike

Weary San Francisco commuters faced gridlock for a third straight day as rail workers continued a strike that has caused chaotic commutes and, according to some estimates, millions of dollars in lost worker productivity.

Associated Press

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SAN FRANCISCO —

Weary San Francisco commuters faced gridlock for a third straight day as rail workers continued a strike that has caused chaotic commutes and, according to some estimates, millions of dollars in lost worker productivity.

Despite renewed talks, the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency 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 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 is the nation's fifth-largest rail system and carries passengers from the furthest 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.

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