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Bay Area transit overcrowded with train strike

OAKLAND, Calif. -- San Francisco Bay Area commuters sweated in crowded buses, shivered on loaded ferries or inched through crowded freeway traffic yesterday after hundreds of train workers demanding higher wages went on strike and the region's heavily used rail system ground to a halt.

The walkout derailed hundreds of thousands who use the nation's fifth-largest rail system each day, forcing them to find other means of transportation in the second-most congested region in the country.

Morning rush hour did not come to a standstill as feared, however, and some travelers who used carpool lanes and other options added relatively little time to their commutes.

"It's been an absolute nightmare for some commuters, but we didn't see total gridlock," said Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, a nonprofit focused on public transportation and walkable communities. Two of the largest unions representing Bay Area Rapid Transit workers went on strike after their contract expired Sunday night. It was their first strike since a six-day walkout in 1997. No new talks were scheduled.

Theresa Tramble, 23, and Antanisha Thompson, 24, who usually ride together from Oakland to San Francisco, usually enjoy a $5.85 round-trip on a line deep beneath the bay on the quiet, cushioned seats of BART trains. Instead, they rode the bus, a noisy, jerking ride that cost $4.20 one way, almost doubling the price of their commute.

How was the ride? "Super crowded, super hot," groaned Thompson. -- AP

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