The strike is over, and BART service in the Bay Area has slowly made its return.

BART trains began running limited service Tuesday at 5:42 a.m. -- nearly two hours later than promised when Monday night's labor deal was announced -- with initial delays of 30 to 45 minutes. The delays were down to 20 minutes system-wide by 8:10 a.m. and full service was running just in time for the afternoon commute.

BART officials said it took longer than expected to get the rail line's 2,300 union workers back on the job to open stations early in the morning.

In the morning, riders at the Walnut Creek BART station were relieved but remained frustrated.

BART riders use the system’s limited service at the West Oakland station Oct. 22, 2013, the morning after BART unions and management announced a deal
BART riders use the system's limited service at the West Oakland station Oct. 22, 2013, the morning after BART unions and management announced a deal to end the strike. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)

"The inconvenience to the region and to all the people displaced because of the strike was just awful," said Brett Nehringer, an underwriter who works in Oakland who said he uses the trains daily. "I'm angry with the unions. They received a great contract offer, they have great benefits, but they got greedy. It's too bad that this agreement had to come at such a great cost, especially when you consider the two families who lost loved ones and whose lives will never be the same," he said, referring to Saturday's fatal accident involving a train being operated by an employee in training to become an operator.

Janae Gleason, 23, a student at San Francisco's Academy of Art University, said the strike caused her to miss class on Monday.


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"I'm just relieved it's over," she said. "The commute was ridiculous Monday, and it would've been a nightmare if that's what we had been forced to deal with for a long time. I understand wanting to fight for things that are important, but in this case, there's so many people to consider, and they would've been really hurt by this had it dragged on."

Jerod Armstrong, who lives in San Francisco and works as an auto mechanic in Oakland, went to bed Monday night unsure if he would have to spend almost two hours to catch a ferry and bus to his job, or whether he could get there with a 20-minute BART commute.

He was glad to be on BART Tuesday morning but said "I have a very jaded point of view against BART employees."

He opted to take BART after hearing on the news that the strike was over but wasn't sure how many trains would be running for the morning commute.

"It was a gamble," he said before the train stopped at the 19th street station in Oakland.

Vera Counce, who lives in San Francisco and works in the mortgage banking industry in Concord, heard that trains would be running on a 10 p.m. news broadcast and decided to drive to the Daly City station. While she too was glad to be on BART, she said both labor and management were at fault.

"I blame both of them for being greedy," said Counce, who was able to work from home on Friday and Monday.

She said the financial package offered by management was fair "especially with the economy."

"I think the unions we're asking for way too much," but, she added, "When it comes to safety and working conditions (management) could have done a little more."

The slow-going wasn't confined to the train tracks. A 45- to 60-minute delay was reported at the Bay Bridge toll plaza in the morning, due largely to a motorcycle accident on the incline to the eastern span that prompted a traffic alert, but traffic began flowing freely after 10:20 a.m. An injury crash on northbound Interstate 880 at Broadway in Oakland blocked three lanes and further snarled traffic.

BART management and union negotiators finally reached a deal Monday night after more than six months of talks, two shutdowns and a half-dozen more threatened strikes. BART said it would be able to restart limited train service after 2,300 union workers get back on the job, fire up dormant systems and run test trains to ensure they are safe.

Details of the settlement were not immediately released. The BART Board of Directors and the members of the agency's two large unions still need to approve the tentative contract agreement.

"This offer is more than we wanted to pay," BART General Manager Grace Crunican said. "We compromised to get to this place, as did our union members."

Appropriately, before the deal was announced, commuters had to sweat out one last late-night showdown.

Monday marked the 10th strike showdown since late June that came down to the last minute, and the seventh since the 60-day cooling-off period ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown ended on Oct. 10. In the last two weeks, the announcements on whether a strike will take place the following morning came after 10 p.m. each night. That infuriated commuters who grew just as angry over losing sleep keeping up with the drama as they did with the stalled trains and heavy traffic.

The labor dispute also struck a chord with many in the Bay Area who quickly took sides.

In one camp were many who thought the workers were overpaid and should just be happy for what they have. BART union workers already make an average gross pay of $76,500 -- the best among California transit agencies -- do not contribute toward their pensions and pay $92 monthly for health care. The new contract is expected to give workers at least a 12 percent total raise, start a 4 percent pension contribution and increase the medical premiums by about $50 a month.

On the other side were Bay Area residents who sympathized with workers who had not received a meaningful raise in four years. BART employees were adamant that they were fighting not just for themselves but for all blue-collar union workers who risked seeing their jobs weakened or lost altogether to new technologies.

Staff writers Rick Hurd and Eve Mitchell contributed to this report. Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him on Twitter @MarkMgomez.