Robertson, like many members in the Bus Riders Union, wants the MTA to cut back on its rail projects and use that money to meet the drivers’ demands and increase the number of bus routes.
Contracts for the United Transportation Union, the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transportation Communications International Union expired June 30.
Work rules are the major issue in the contract dispute, and the two sides also disagree on wage and benefits increases. The MTA offered 2.7 percent raises per year for three years; the unions wanted 4 percent per year.
Striking bus driver Maria Avila says the drivers want to get back to work as soon as possible.
“We know our public, we’re the ones out there. We know them by name, we know their kids, and we want to get out there and serve the public again as soon as possible,” she said.
Customers Change Routine
For some area residents who usually depend on mass transit, getting around today meant getting started a bit earlier.
Jacqueline Campos, 19, a sophomore at California State University at Northridge, said she would have to hitch a ride with her aunt to get to class. But for both of them to be at their 8 a.m. appointments on time, they would have to leave at 5 a.m., she said.
Donna Packard, 34, was stranded at Union Station after taking a MetroLink train to the Civic Center. She usually takes the subway to Hollywood. MetroLink trains were not affected by the MTA strike. ”It affects me big time. I don’t drive downtown,” Packard said.
“My boss is on the way to pick me up. I may have to take vacation time without pay if this continues,” added the AT&T sales representative.
Outside Union Station, she waited with about a dozen other commuters waiting for rides from co-workers. Bus driver pickets were nearby, hooting at commuters as they marched outside the landmark transportation center.
Twenty-two small shuttles and eight full-sized buses were operating to help some subway passengers but Jager conceded it was a fraction of what a subway would normally carry.
Los Angeles drivers should be accustomed to a hellish commute. The Texas Transportation Institute estimates the city’s motorists spend more time in traffic than their counterparts elsewhere in the nation: an average of 82 hours a year.
Los Angeles relies on mass transit less than some of the nation’s other largest cities. In New York, 4.3 million ride the city’s subways on an average weekday and another 2.2 million ride buses.
In Chicago, 1.5 million trips are taken on mass transit on an average weekday.
In Philadelphia, where 435,000 commuters rely on bus and rail, 5,500 transit workers walked off the job in 1998. The dispute lasted 40 days.
ABCNEWS Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.