Transportation News Items
AC Transit riders rallied against service cuts in downtown Oakland on Nov. 9 as agency officials announced an agreement in an ongoing labor dispute with bus drivers.
The decision halted planned December service cuts, that would have brought service to its lowest levels in 30 years, but there will likely be future service reductions.
In the past year, the agency has hiked fares and slashed service twice, as the agency was “hemorrhaging” towards fiscal insolvency. Meanwhile, bus riders have been paying more money for less transit service.
Riders, who launched a “Stop the Cuts” campaign, held “Rest in Peace” gravestones with the names of former bus lines and routes that were to be cut next month. Some signed a testimonial board, sharing that they would no longer be able to get to school, work, the grocery store, or to other services if there were more cuts.
Nearly 150 riders and supporters attended the rally, which grew as time progressed. Many said they arrived later due to crowded or late buses.
AC Transit riders took solace in the news on Tuesday that the agency plans to restore service that was cut twice this year after a labor arbitrator settled a contract dispute. Transit advocates worry, however, about the agency’s long-term solvency and have called on elected officials to develop significant revenue measures for funding buses in the East Bay.
The arbitration panel in the AC Transit labor negotiation reached a decision on a contract between the transit district and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, which represents 1,750 of its bus drivers and mechanics, saving the agency $38 million over three years. The binding decision calls for increased contributions from the members to their health and benefit plans, as well as work rule and holiday changes.
AC Transit had cut service in March by 7.8 percent, or $10.3 million in service hours and in October by 7.2 percent, or $11.4 million in service hours. Fare increases this year amounted to an increase of 25 cents per trip for local riders and $10 for the price of a monthly pass. Transbay riders have been paying an increase of 50 cents per trip and $16.50 for a monthly pass. Youth, senior and disabled riders saw a hike of 15 cents per local trip and 30 cents for Transbay trips.
Halloween was a scary day for bus riders in the East Bay. On October 31, the beleaguered AC Transit cut more than 7% of its service. That’s after the 7.5% the agency already cut back in March. More service reductions had been planned for December, but officials announced late yesterday that they wouldn’t have to make those cuts, thanks to a new agreement with the drivers union. But don’t breathe that sigh of relief just yet – even more cuts might be on the way next year.
These constant changes and threats of cuts are creating a lot of tension – riders feel like they’re being ignored, while officials say they have no choice but to balance the budget, even if that means less service.
KALW’S Casey Miner tries to bridge the communication gap and brings us this report.
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RUTH: My name is Ruth, I take the 49 bus from 9th and Ashby up to Ashby and Telegraph. It runs once an hour each way.
ARLENA BAIN: Hi, my name is Arlena, I work for the Oakland Zoo.
SANGRIA DONELSON: My name is Sangria Donelson. This is my first form of transportation. I ride the bus all day, every day.
MARLON HOLLIS: My name is Marlon. I ride the bus basically every day.
The agreement was reached through binding arbitration that began in late September and concluded last Friday. It takes effect immediately and doesn't need to be approved by AC Transit's board or by the members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192.
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