Bus strike could affect Phoenix students

FIND A NEW ROUTE: Downtown campus commuters could soon be affected by a Phoenix bus strike. Many employee transit unions may conduct a labor strike if a negation is not reached. (Photo by Annie Wechter)

A potential Phoenix bus strike could affect Downtown campus commuters in the near future.

Several employee transit unions may soon conduct a labor strike as ongoing contract negotiations with Veolia Transportation Services continue without progress.

Veolia is a company that operates 33 percent of the Valley Metro bus routes.

The frequency that Veolia-controlled bus routes run in Phoenix could decrease by 70 percent if a strike were to occur, according to the city’s website.

“I would anticipate [affected] routes most likely to be ridden by students would be those close to the Downtown campus,” said Matthew Heil, a Phoenix Public Transit Department spokesman.

Heil said the Metro bus routes closest to the Downtown campus that would be affected by a labor strike are Central and 7th avenues, Washington and 7th streets, and Jefferson Street.

Other affected routes are located in Glendale, Peoria, Scottsdale and Sun City.

Twenty negotiation sessions have been in progress for the past several months, said Val Michael, Veolia’s director of corporate communications.

Despite the multiple attempts to find an agreement between the three unions and Veolia, one wasn’t established by the designated time — Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

Two of the unions, the Operating Engineers 428 and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433, are still negotiating, according to the city of Phoenix’s website.

However, the Teamsters’ Local 104 maintenance union has been locked out of negotiations and 50 of its employees have been denied working privileges since Monday morning, according to the city of Phoenix’s website.

Teamsters’ officials requested an extension on negotiations until Oct. 10, but Veolia denied the request.

Journalism senior Patrick O’Malley said if the labor strike occurred, it would affect his transit to class.

“It wouldn’t be the end of the world, [but] it’d be tough,” O’Mally said. “I’d have to get a light-rail pass.”

If a labor strike occurs, one of three possible emergency operations go into effect. Implemented plans would reduce service production to 30, 45 or 60 percent of the current transit capacity, according the city of Phoenix’s website.

“It may be that we are able to start right away with a higher level of service, 45 or 60 percent,” Heil said. “Or we may need to ramp up to that as it becomes clear how long of a strike we may be dealing with.”

These reductions could double wait times from 30 minutes to an hour on weekdays. If buses are on a 30 or 45 percent contingency plan, they will only run for a fraction of their current timeframe.

“In the first two levels of service, the 30 percent and the 45 percent contingency plan, there is not a full day’s schedule,” Heil said. “It’s kind of rush hour morning and rush hour evening.”

Heil warns students who combine use of the Metro light rail and bus system to be cautious of their time constraints.

“Students making any sort of connection [between] bus routes [and the] light rail would want to be aware because the frequency would change … and students will not be able to make their usual connections,” Heil said.

O’Malley said if he can still navigate the schedule, the labor strike wouldn’t affect his daily life too much.

“I guess it could be worse,” O’Malley said. “If I knew the exact time I could get back and forth, or I would just end up getting a light-rail pass.”

If a strike does occur, only the bus routes operated by Veolia Transportation Services would be affected. The light rail will remain unaffected.

Reach the reporter at tdmcknig@asu.edu