Officials representing New Jersey Transit and rail workers unions met in Washington on Friday to try and avert a systemwide rail strike, with another session scheduled for Monday in New Jersey.

Passengers ride the NJ Transit train from New York Penn Station to Trenton, NJ on May 14, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The two sides met in front of the National Mediation Board as a strike deadline looms on March 13. Stephen Burkert, general chairman of SMART-Transportation Division Local 60, said both sides "moved a little" during Friday's meeting.

An NJ Transit spokeswoman didn't immediately comment on Friday's negotiations.

Unions representing more than 4,000 rail workers have authorized a strike if an agreement isn't reached, shutting down the nation's third-largest commuter rail system that provides nearly 300,000 passenger train trips daily.

On Thursday, NJ Transit painted a sober picture of what would happen in the event of a strike, such as commute times more than doubled for rail riders who switch to bus routes and 20-mile traffic backups at Hudson River crossings into New York.

The agency said even expanding bus service and opening up strategically placed park-and-ride lots to get commuters to ferry service and PATH trains would accommodate only about four in 10 displaced travelers.

About 105,000 people ride trains into New York from New Jersey each weekday, either on NJ Transit or on NJ Transit connecting with PATH trains run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Friday's meetings came after two emergency labor boards convened by President Barack Obama over the last nine months made recommendations on wage and health care increases that NJ Transit rejected.

The boards leaned toward proposals put forward by the unions' coalition and recommended annual wage increases of about 2.6 percent over 6 1/2 years. NJ Transit, which had sought increases of about 1.4 percent, said the increases combined with rising health costs would force the agency to raise fares.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

 

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