Friday, July 31, 2009

BART Agreement Reached!

At least we know there will not be strikes. I wonder what concessions the unions had agreed to exactly? We'll find out soon, I'm sure.

The repercussions of this drawn-out negotiation process are the negative impressions of BART, the employees and unions left on the passengers. I am not the only one who now feels even more so that BART care little about passengers and that employees don't have much regard for passenger satisfaction.

This situation shed a lot of negative light on BART employees and management.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Will the BART talks end today?

In this case and at this point in the negotiations, I can't agree more with Linton Johnson's statement:

"The riders are already paying more, management has done its part by making painful cuts. It's time for the unions to step up to the plate."

There are more than plenty of people who would be willing to take on the jobs of the union members at a lower salary and slightly reduced benefits. Union members need to realize that their roles are replaceable. With some training, a new class of employees can take over their jobs and offer more energy and enthusiasm in most cases.

I just love those comments from BART employees about how BART system would fall apart without them!! I can't think of too many jobs that cannot be filled by someone with similar skills and the proper additional training. BART employees are well paid-- I'm not saying they don't deserve it, but at this point in time, in this economy, this very situation with the deficit and with passengers already paying higher fares, it really is time for the union members to be a little more flexible.

End this contract talks today.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fat salaries and irresponsible spending

Pasting below an article from SFGate on irresponsible BART management spending. This is absolutely irresponsible. Time for us BART passengers to consider carpool or AC Transit.

Source: SFGate, KTVU, Aileen Yoo

Over the past several weeks, amid BART contract negotiations and fears of a strike, much of the attention has focused on union salaries. Now, KTVU turns the spotlight on BART management in a report that not only examines costs for meals and traveling, but also reveals a method of record-keeping from the Dark Ages. Receipts for transit agency travel and dining expenses are apparently kept in cardboard boxes and stored at a warehouse. KTVU sorted through thousands of receipts, arranged them onto a spreadsheet and found that between Jan. 1, 2000 and December 31, 2008, taxpayer and rider dollars funded pricey restaurants, trips in the U.S. and around the world, and even rooms at Bay Area hotels. Over that nine-year period, management spent a total of $35,000 on dining and more than $2 mil on travel, according to records.

KTVU also highlighted the following costs:

*Meal for 10 managers at one of the most expensive steakhouses: $2,700

* Room at the San Francisco Westin "for staff to change into outfits for [the Gay Pride] parade" last year: $295.43

*Water at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco: $81

What that Gay Pride garb was exactly and how these costs stack up against other organizations, the report doesn't say. But you can check out PDFs of spreadsheets that list expenses by travel destinations, the biggest spenders and other categories.

Meanwhile, the agency says it's "bleeding money" and projects a $310 mil deficit over the next four years. As for the labor dispute, BART's three largest unions recently rejected an offer. They and BART have until July 30 to reach an agreement.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Survey question updated

I realized overnight that the question was way too black or white. It is now worded as "Does BART care enough about passenger satisfaction?"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How much do BART Employees make?

BART Police Officer: $135,464 including overtime **Go ahead, walk thru the gates w/o fare, I won't cite you

Train Operator: $120,122 including overtime **Huh? What station are we at?

Customer Service: $110,958 including overtime **What customer service?

Elevator Worker: $110,275 including overtime **Takes 2 weeks to fix an elevator and it breaks again in a week

Cash Handling Foreworker: $108,629 including overtime

Facility Maintenance Supervisor: 107,617 including overtime **Did they skip Civic Center in their maintenance efforts?

And the BART GM who has led BART into a budget deficit: $334,857

Full database of BART Employee Salaries from the CC Times.

Source: CC Times

New Survey Question: Do you believe BART cares about passenger satisfaction?

I'll tell you how I voted: No. They say they do but when it comes down to it, passengers considerations rank very low on their priorities based on their action and votes.

Rude people everywhere today

Where should I even begin? First, as I walked from the parking lot towards the platform, a women stops her car in the middle of the street to drop someone off, almost running me over along the way. Even worse, she stopped yet again 5 feet down to call back the dropped off passenger to chat some more leaving a string of cars waiting behind her.

The second rude incident was inside the train. I nicely said, excuse me, thanks, as I squeezed myself to a window seat. The man on the aisle seat was shaking his head, sighing again and again and looking annoyed when I said excuse me, as if he owned the 2 seater. He had an iced coffee and kept on slurping it over and over even when nothing was left. And I'm the annoying one??

Then, saw a similar situation not too far from me where the aisle passenger made a huge deal about the window passenger needing to exit at 12th street. NOTE: If you want to take the aisle seat, then be prepared to make room for people to enter or exit the row!!! URGH!

Something must be in the air because I saw 2 homeless people fighting over a portable cart. The screaming match was ugly.

I left my iPhone at home today and had no magazines with me. I had plenty of time to observe behavior!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

While the BART unions reject the contract, let's talk about something else for the moment

I don't quite believe the current poll results from the first survey question on whether people give up their seat to the deserving while seated in the disabled designated seats. Based on the survey, a whopping 97% of us graciously give up our seats?? Hmm...based on daily observations throughout the many years as a BART commuter, I would have to say it seems more like 50% of us do and the other 50% pretends to be asleep or intensely engrossed in their reading material or device. Or maybe it's because those who actually care to read BART Musings tend to be the ones who know the difference between right and wrong?

As for the 2nd question on whether BART should enforce the no food/drink rule? I've been told by readers that this is a poorly worded, trick question. They would like BART to keep the no food/drinks rule only if they actually choose to enforce it. Right now, the rule exists but BART doesn't care enough to enforce it by issuing warnings or fines to those who choose to bring in their meals and beverages. BART lets it happen and as a result, more people feel that it's OK to bring in a coffee and bagel, or at times, pizza and beer on the weekends.

The survey closes in 2 days. Get your vote in!

As for the negotiations, Amalgamated Transit Union member unanimously rejected the contract and Service Employees International Union is expected to do the same today.

So much for progress. This will likely drag on until end of summer.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hearse racing down 680

I have meetings in SJ today so I drove down instead of taking BART to SF. On my way down 680, I saw a hearse driving at 85+ mph. It was even weaving in and out of lanes to continue at its fast speed. I'm certain it was "unoccupied" but even so, it was a bit weird seeing a hearse cruising at such a fast speed.

I was behind the hearse for quite some time. It was in the fast lane and at times going nearly 90 mph, definitely faster than I can keep up. Maybe it was late picking up a coffin at a funeral home? Sure seemed like the driver was in a huge rush to get somewhere!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Clock is ticking..BARTcontract expires midnight

If there is no agreement, we at least have 72 hours notice before workers go on strike. Start thinking of commute alternatives but let's hope this gets resolved before the deadline.

Oakland Airport Connector Hot Button in BART Talks

I had just written about how much I disliked the AirBART-- mostly because of the terrible experiences I've had waiting and dealing with the unsafe surroundings. Again, maybe I've just seen the worst of it. I will always prefer to drive to OAK from Orinda unless there is a major pile-up on 880 or Caldecott Tunnel.

Personally, I don't feel the need for direct BART access to OAK. It would be GREAT to have, like the SFO connector, but when it comes down to it, is it necessary for me? No. But perhaps passengers living in Dublin, Concord, Pittsburg, and especially those at the other end of 80 freeway in El Cerrito, might find it very helpful as it will help them skip the major traffic pain points.

I've been very negative about the Coliseum BART station but let's focus on the positive for a moment. There is no easier way to get to an A's or Raiders game. I only wish it was that easy to go to a Giants and 49ers game. The MUNI connection going to AT&T Park is not terrible but it is a cluster ****.

Will a BART OAK extension increase ridership? I can't say but I sure hope BART has done their research and are certain that this is a project worth pursuing.

Friday, July 03, 2009

BART Unions Facts and Figures

Some of you may have seen already and are aware of the figures. I've had a chance to read through it tonight and found a few facts disturbing but not surprising.

We've all heard by now that the average salary and benefits for union members is $114,466 for FY 09 and $116,237 in FY 10; more than double the average salary of a passenger. But have you seen the nearly ridiculous labor rules?

Now, it is my personal opinion that unions contributed to the downfall of the American auto industry, at least that is what I've come to believe after reading numerous news articles and case studies. Hence, I have to admit that I've never been a fan of unions but understand and respect (not necessarily agree with) what they seek to accomplish.

Take a look at these rules below (excerpts taken from They are similar to other union labor rules...inflexible but serve to (over)protect members. My goodness-- no wonder the train, stations, lots are in such poor shape. No wonder an escalator does not get fixed for days! No wonder certain critical elevators don't operate regularly!! Meanwhile, we actually thought our email complaints will make a difference in the quality of customer service?? What was I thinking? Sure, this website is managed by BART and not the unions but these facts and figures are validated. If someone from the unions would like to dispute these facts or publicize figures around BART management, please feel free to do so! We want and NEED to hear both sides.

Here are some rules:

Changing a Seat at BART – Not So Simple

Last year, BART installed new seats in 205 train cars as part of a major upgrade of the interior amenities of our system. While we hope the changes are a comfort to our riders, they may be surprised to know that it takes two employees at BART to change out a seat cushion and backing under current contract rules.

The contract allows a utility worker to unfasten the snaps that hold a seat cushion in place. But the two screws fastening a seat back can only be touched by a journeyman mechanic. BART changed some 26,000 seat cushions last year. As a result, we think it would be more efficient if one employee was authorized to service the entire portion of a seat. It would result in freeing up mechanics to perform more important, skilled work.

Paperless Pay Stubs Now Back To Paper:

In an effort to save money and reduce the amount of paper BART uses, we moved to an electronic pay stub format for employees two years ago. Most of our employees use direct deposit and under a new system they could access their pay stub information via secure computer login. In recent months, the Amalgamated Transit Union filed a grievance over the paperless system and an arbitrator has upheld the protest – meaning BART will now have to go back to paper pay stubs.

Station Maintenance – Walk the Line

Perhaps nowhere are work rules more arbitrary than when it comes to the “drip line” rule regarding maintenance at BART stations. Under this rule, one classification of worker – a patio worker — is allowed to clean the outdoor areas of a station up to the station’s drip line, essentially a rain gutter. Another type of BART employee – a System Service worker – has authority to clean only the interior spaces of a station.

This two-tier maintenance system leads to the irregular or partial cleaning of stations and is exacerbated by the fact that patio workers work only Monday through Friday while System Service workers are assigned to shifts seven days a week.

Beneficial Past Practices No Longer Benefiting BART:

A major reason that BART’s contract is stuck firmly in the past is the concept of “beneficial past practices” – a principle that has helped strengthen workers’ rights and protections but at BART has been manipulated to preserve outdated work rules.

Over the years, a series of arbitration rulings has allowed the unions to keep wasteful contract provisions. If BART operated in a certain way in the 1970s, the concept of beneficial past practices dictates that we must continue to do so today. This is no way for any business to survive and endure in today’s challenging economy.

Beneficial past practices impede our efficiency as a transit agency in a variety of ways. For example, BART is required to allow a certain number of employees to work on holidays at the rate of double time and a half. The number of holiday shifts is not tied to any particular need for staffing on any individual holiday. Instead, it is pegged to an average of workers operating on holiday shifts from the late 1980s.

Similarly, BART is required to staff certain facilities and certain operations units at levels dating from decades ago whether they are needed or not in 2009.

Building a Better Contract:

BART believes that many of the contract rules benefit workers and make our agency a safe and convenient transit option for riders. But clearly there are work rules now decades old that no longer make sense and serve only to limit efficiency and flexibility when they are needed now more than ever in our system.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Now that the contract negotiations have been extended for 9 more days, the potential strike day is now July 13. Most of the passengers I've spoken with feel indifferent at this stage. Everyone is ready to either bear with the traffic or telecommute. Some have even scheduled their vacation in mid/late July.

Since these negotiations began, I have to say that I've become spiteful and bitter towards BART. It's not a comfortable ride but yet we pay a good amount each day. It's not exactly the most reliable ride either but we deal with it because it is the lesser of two evils. Most of the employees we encounter are rude and indifferent (but there are some that actually make an effort to help passengers...I want to be fair and point that out). And for clean freaks like me, it is 30 minutes each way of enduring smells, stains, germs, dander from all over. Suddenly, driving isn't that terrible of an option anymore, especially during summer when traffic is light. I actually drove to work a couple times recently and arrived in SF within 20 minutes, in the comfort of my own car, with coffee and a breakfast bar, and the liberty to listen to news radio continuously and talking on the phone.

I'm tired of all this. Shouldn't BART employees feel grateful that they have a decent job in this economy? And shouldn't BART management have better sense than to vote in favor of raises for themselves and to have the foresight years ago to better managed the budget so it wouldn't reach this desperate stage?

I'm sick of this. Maybe it's time for me to load some new tunes on my iPod and get ready to drive.