At rush hour, Lisa Smith is usually behind the wheel of a city bus, not picketing on a Pasadena Freeway overpass.
But a strike by bus drivers that has idled 2,000 buses, rail and subway lines in a 1,400-square-mile area has left few things untouched in Los Angeles County.
“These people should be on the buses,” said Smith, pointing to the freeway traffic mess below. “People who rely on buses need buses. We do care about the people. This is as stressful a time for us as it is for our passengers.”
Bus drivers and county transit managers agreed to meet today on the fourth day of a walkout that has forced nearly half a million commuters to search for new transportation.
The United Transportation Union, which represents 4,300 bus and rail operators, will have representatives at the meeting, but is not ready to resume contract talks, said spokesman Goldy Norton. Transit managers said they were ready to negotiate.
Scrounging for Rides
As the walkout moved into its first work day on Monday, hundreds of thousands of regular rail and bus riders scrounged for rides or got behind the wheel themselves, further clogging Los Angeles’ already crowded roadways.
Freeway traffic volume rose 5 percent during the morning commute on Monday, adding about 30 minutes to the drive, the California Highway Patrol reported.
“It is a substantial amount, but it didn’t result in a major headache like we thought,” CHP Officer Bill Preciado said.
It was a different story on surface streets, where cars snaked bumper-to-bumper through downtown with workers complaining that commute times had doubled.
MetroLink commuter trains, which aren’t part of the strike by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority system, arrived on schedule at downtown’s Union Station.
Most commuters, some of whom carried bicycles on the trains, scattered on foot and bike or waited to catch connecting rides with co-workers in cars.
“I may have to take vacation time without pay if this continues,” said MetroLink rider Donna Packard, 34, of Covina, who was stranded at Union Station.
The MTA said it faces a $438 million operating deficit over the next 10 years if it doesn’t cut costs or increase fares. The MTA has offered 2.7 percent raises per year for three years; the unions want 4 percent per year.