Amtrak strike would derail Caltrain service

A possible strike by Amtrak employees this month would shut down Caltrain service and flood other Bay Area transit agencies and roads with tens of thousands of extra cars, although officials are cautiously optimistic that the commuter nightmare will be averted.

Amtrak, which has never had a strike in its 36-year history, has been wrangling over wage and benefits increases with nine service unions for eight years. If a contract is not hammered out, a strike would begin on Jan. 30.

Caltrain would completely shut down if the strike takes place and service between San Francisco and San Jose would come to a halt. Amtrak supplies all of the commuter line’s operating employees — about 350 union members such as engineers and conductors. Only Caltrain’s management is not employed through Amtrak.

“We would have to shut down business until the strike is over,” said Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg, who added that he was optimistic that a strike would be avoided.

A shutdown would force Caltrain’s roughly 40,000 daily riders to flood other transit agencies, such as BART or SamTrans.

The roads most impacted would be U.S. Highway 101 and Interstate Highway 280, California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Davis said. If the strike lingers, commuters may begin to get frustrated with the extra traffic jams and search for alternative roads, which may affect traffic on Bay Area bridges, he said.

On a weekday on Highway 101, 199,000 cars drive through the freeway in San Mateo County; 156,500 cars in San Francisco, according to Caltrans figures. Roughly 121,000 cars drive through I-280 on a weekday in the county compared with 97,500 in The City.

BART lines that run parallel to Caltrain service would be affected, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said. SamTrans buses that stop by Caltrain stations would not be affected by a strike, Weinberg said. Commuters should strongly consider carpooling in the event of a strike, Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said.

Of Caltrain’s 25 stations from San Francisco to Gilroy, employees are only stationed at the San Francisco and San Jose stations and picketing would likely take place there, said union official Don Griffin. Other stations only consist of waiting platforms and ticket machines, Weinberg said.

Both Griffin and Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said they were “cautiously optimistic” that a deal would be reached before Jan. 30. Griffin, spokesman for the union called the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way, said a few unions met with Amtrak negotiators Wednesday for the first time in a while, and that others are returning to the bargaining table today.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocalTransittransportation

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Construction in the Better Market Street Project between Fifth and Eighth streets is expected to break ground in mid-2021.<ins></ins>
SFMTA board to vote on Better Market Street changes

Agency seeks to make up for slimmed-down plan with traffic safety improvements

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

From left, Natasha Dennerstein, Gar McVey-Russell, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Jan Steckel and Miah Jeffra appear in Perfectly Queer’s fifth anniversary reading on Jan. 20.<ins> (Courtesy photo)</ins>
Perfectly Queer reading series celebrates fifth anniversary

Online event features five writers, games, prizes

(Robert Greene/Tribune News Service)
As tensions grow over vaccinations and politics, California lawmakers face threats from public

Anti-vaccine speakers hint at gun violence during routine budget hearing at state Capitol

Most Read