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January 14, 2016

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Jon as an old Union guy I support clean restrooms and rest stops and safety issues. However today and for years I have watched empty busses go down the streets. Seldom do I see a bus with more than 5 people. Regarding safety many drivers could use refresher courses on driving these monsters. Particularly to lane changing and speed for conditions. But the scariest bus drivers in the valley are School bus drivers.

Community Transit operates the 500 series Sound Transit Express routes to Everett and Snohomish County, which are contracted out to First Transit.

Note Tim has a question posted under illusions.

Jon - Thanks for digging deeper into the bus strike and the underlying issues and presenting some context and of course, your thoughts.

I read the Arizona Republic's coverage of "the issues" (linked above) and one thing is abundantly clear to me in the responses TransDev has given to the Union in regards to their nine points of contention:

TransDev knows the right thing to do is to meet the nine points, but they are disuaded by money concerns--"Transdev said in a statement that those [nine Union demanded] changes would cost the company millions of dollars."--and the desire for doing things how they want to and not in the best interests of their employees.

(I almost wrote "dissuaded by greed", but a business has to make money if it wants to survive. As Cal Lash commented before me: "For years, I have watched empty busses go down the streets. Seldom do I see a bus with more than 5 people." Still, when you unpack TransDev responses to the Union, what they're not saying overtly comes to the surface.)

Notice that in each TransDev response to demands by the Union, their reponse is not concerned with making things right for their employees, but with doing things as they've always done and not changing because they just don't want to. Their responses are in passive voice and all about miss-direction of the issue at hand. (A bit of my background as an expert in this area is relevant: I've been a professional ghostwriter since 2002 for innovators and highly successful entrepreneurs. Two former clients since then have turned out to be not at all what they looked like from the outside and the first clue to their deception was in how they spoke.)

* "[Bathrooms] has not been an issue in the past."

My take: Well, it's an issue now.

* Transdev leaders say the one-year difference in reaching the top wage [which is 5 years for some employees and 6 years for others] is minimal.

My take: If it's so minimal, then change it so all employees reach the same pay at the same level.

* [TransDev] said the contract includes reasons for termination and that [though the Union wants a "just cause" provision included in contracts] it's "a given" the company wouldn't fire someone without cause.

My take: If it's "a given" like TransDev says, then it won't be a problem for them to add the "just cause" provision into the contract.

* The [existing] contract says Transdev could grandfather employees receiving paper checks and offer direct deposit or a payment card to new employees.

My take: That's because sending paper checks is more expensive than electronic payments or payment cards that are simply refilled electronically. Of course, TransDev would want to curb this expense, but if the vast majority of bus drivers are in lower income brackets and perhaps not as tech-savvy or don't have checking accounts...? Not that I'm right on this aspect, but my point is really this: How a company pays the majority of its employees should be based on how those same employees cash their paychecks.

* Transdev [has a current] policy to stop any email communication between the two groups, instead relying on face-to-face meetings for labor management and routine meetings.

My take: ...Because then they can't be held as accountable for what they put in writing. Of course they'd want to stick with face-to-face only. It allows them to interpret what was said in those meetings as they see it, not based on what was actually said.

I was about to write, "I'm glad they've got someone to fight on their behalf", but then I looked up Rev. Jarrett Maupin, the civil rights activist working with the Union. Holy crap: This guy's as unclean as they come, a former felon, with a history of lies and half-truths. (https://ballotpedia.org/Jarrett_Maupin)

But I digress....

Empty busses are sad, but the result of never learning to be a good kisser :-)

The "empty buses" phenomenon has a couple of major roots. As I alluded to in the column, some routes are based more on politics than demand — or they lack the frequency and hours to generate demand.

Second, some buses run empty at certain times in any system. That's necessary to sustain the system, e.g. make connections, deadhead equipment, build demand in new areas.

My experience in the city is quite different. I see people using buses, even full ones, despite the lack of frequency and shamefully early shutdowns on some important routes.

I do believe buses serve a purpose, but unfortunately for most of us it's quicker to drive than take public transit. I think that's one reason our ridership is lower (in addition to the sparsity of bus stops...be prepared to walk up to a mile, sometimes more, to get to your stop, particularly in less-traveled areas). I do support bus drivers, in general, because it is a hard job and one of the least safe jobs around due to all the assaults they suffer, much less the daily verbal abuse and stress of dealing with a small percentage of the passengers who are problematic.

I do think buses can serve a purpose even if ridership isn't that high. I once rode public transit from Napa, California up the valley to a stop between vineyard-country towns. I thought that was pretty cool, and there were 5-10 people doing the same thing, too. It was a lot cheaper and more interesting to me than taking a taxi and paying a 75 dollar fare. Granted, frequency of buses is quite low on those more rural routes, but it was still neat to be able to get where I needed to go for a couple bucks.

I know in New York City there are a lot of wildcatters / unlicensed "taxi" / bus services than run routes using vans ... I wonder if such a model would ever work in the Valley.

Also, I refuse to use Uber and Lyft, etc., out of principle because I feel it's unfair to the taxi drivers / owners who have to pay for their medallions, licenses, and so forth, while any yahoo with a car can run a taxi himself through Uber/Lyft. That legislators allow this is ridiculous. It needs to be one or the other. The government cannot in good conscience continue to blithely collect revenue from taxis the way they do, and then turn around and claim "yay free enterprise" for Uber/Lyft and let them get by with no qualifications or licensing at all. It's ridiculous.

R.C.-I regret your use of the word "scabs"This only inflames the issue and takes away from the fact that as long as Az. is a right to work state,they are only doing what the law allows.As long as a candidate for president . says he is only taking advantage of the bankruptcy laws and he would be stupid not to,I can hardly blame the non union bus drivers for doing the same thing.I do support the union but they are playing against a stacked deck in this state.I never thought I would say this but I long for the day when candidates didn't use 4 letter words regularly.

Jon, the bus on Campbell was discontinued due to low ridership. Sad. Most buses on major lines are PACKED. At ends of some lines, some of the buses have few passengers and at certain times of day some lines are sparse. Not many passengers on 44th St through the town of Paradise Valley except when the paid help need to get to the mansions.
I know the drivers have been complaining about bathroom breaks for more than 30 YEARS. They are not suppose to leave passengers on the bus when they have to pee. The schedules do not include any pee breaks. Many convenience stores or gas stations do not like freeloaders using their toilets. The management was not very helpful in getting drivers permission in using toilets.
The system needs to reinstate early morning runs to help construction people get to work. Hard to get around before 6 a.m

I see a lot of empty buses on Thomas and Indian School from I-17 to the 101. Particularly after dark. And in my travels i see few riders on 7th Avenue and on 7th street except at 7th street and Thomas going North and South. And the east bound bus stop at Central and Thomas and the South bound stop at 32nd Street and Thomas appear to have a large number of riders.

Well as a regular rider of the buses, you begin to know when they will be full (crowded) and when they will not. During the school year, afternoons are difficult. But an astute rider figures it out. So during this strike, which was a pain, I got a lot more exercise walking to the light rail (.6 mile each way) versus the one block to my stop. Still, my only complaint is that bus drivers are not required to apologize for errors (e.g. failing to stop when you are standing at a posted bus stop; being rude, etc.). That smacks of poor public service to me. And I had a supervisor apologize, but the poor driver got off in my book. Hours are suppose to increase on many routes starting in Oct. according to my sources. I'd like them to run later too so I could actually have an evening social life. Yes, I do have a car, but I prefer not to use it on principle along with wanting to avoid the scary auto drivers. Poor bus drivers I report.

In other transportation news - Las Vegas is currently proposing light rail from theairport to downtown along the "strip". They are touting the success of Phoenix as a model. WBYIB 2?

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