Transit strike cancels bus routes, delays other service - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Transit strike cancels bus routes, delays other service

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Posted: Monday, March 12, 2012 4:35 pm | Updated: 4:05 pm, Tue Mar 13, 2012.

Many parts of the East Valley’s bus service remained disrupted Tuesday, with some routes cut back to hourly service or cancelled in the wake of a drivers’ strike.

The strike’s impact changed throughout the day as replacement drivers were brought in, said Sue Taaffe, a Tempe spokeswoman. Still, 50 Valley Metro routes were affected Valleywide.

The strike began late Saturday as negotiations between Tempe and Phoenix drivers with Veolia Transportation Services broke down, and union drivers began a work stoppage. The two sides resumed talks resumed Tuesday afternoon.

Until a resolution is reached, Veolia will replace striking drivers with employees from its other markets, Taafee said.

“They’re just trying to get as many people in and trained as they can,” she said. “Our hope is that it gets better each day.”

Bus service in part of Tempe had been as low as 16 percent of its normal capacity early Monday, but it improved to about 55 percent citywide on Tuesday. Some Phoenix routes were cancelled, and some operate on delays of 40 minutes to four hours.

Valley Metro is asking transit users to get updated information at www.valleymetro.org. The transit agency’s phone lines have been flooded with calls, Taaffe said. The average time it takes to assist callers has risen from two minutes to five minutes as operators provide information.

Valley Metro hasn’t posted signs at affected bus stops because the strike’s impact isn’t known until each shift begins, and transit officials then learn how many union drivers are taking part in the strike.

The strike is primarily affecting routes in Tempe and Phoenix, with some impact as routes from those cities enter Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert.

The strike led to the cancelation of Orbit routes in Tempe, though Orbit Earth was restored Tuesday. Also, the FLASH shuttle in downtown was restored Tuesday.

There is no service for East Valley Express routes 520 and 521. Many routes run on Sunday schedules, including Mill Avenue/Kyrene Road, McClintock Drive, Baseline Road and Elliot Road.

The strike does not affect Metro light rail, Southern Avenue, Broadway Road, University Drive or Apache Boulevard in Tempe.

The strike is the result of a labor dispute dating to June 2011, when the collective bargaining agreement expired between Veolia and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433. The union first threatened to strike March 2, but called the strike Saturday after talks broke down over union allegations of unfair labor practices and demands for improved pay and benefits.

It’s unclear when the strike will end. A complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board will be heard by a judge on April 3.

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