Editorial board: Capital Metro on right deal track

Check out Sunday’s editorial in the Austin American-Statesman:

Capital Metro on right deal track

Editorial Board

Sunday, August 28, 2011

If Capital Metro is going to become financially solvent and provide better transit services to Central Texas communities, then labor and management are going to have to work together. That requires compromise.

We believe the proposed terms the Capital Metro board is offering in its move to hire an outside contractor to run bus services strike the right balance for all parties. Monday approval by the board is likely.

The proposal does not give the labor union everything it is demanding, but it does treat bus drivers and others who are affected fairly, by requiring private contractors to continue a good wage and benefit system. The proposal by Capital Metro goes in the right direction, and now it’s time for the labor union to show good faith by moving toward a compromise. Continue reading “Editorial board: Capital Metro on right deal track”

Capital Metro Services Today

During the early morning hours this morning, Capital Metro bus operators and mechanics put down their tools and picked up signs instead, picketing outside Capital Metro’s headquarters in East Austin.

Nonetheless, Capital Metro got its planned, albeit limited, service out this morning and is operating a network of 10 core routes today from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

At 5:40 a.m. this morning, the first buses queue up to leave the garage.

By 7:10 a.m. this morning, 70 Capital Metro buses had rolled out of the garage to provide today’s service. Now the focus is on supplementing those routes to add frequency and alleviate crowding. An additional 19 buses have been added to 1L/1M, 3, 10, and 20. As more people cross the line, we will continue to put additional buses on the street.

Statesman: Transit Strike Will Hurt Riders and Union

The following editorial is running in Wednesday’s Austin American-Statesman:

Transit Strike Will Hurt Riders and the Union
Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Union leaders at Capital Metro aren’t doing their membership or the city any good by ordering a strike today. A strike is only going to make more people furious at the bus drivers, as riders were after the one-day strike three years ago.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091 has snubbed Capital Metro bargaining agent StarTran’s offer of a $1,000 bonus and a 10 percent pay increase over the next three years. The union did grudgingly accept a change in health care coverage that places union workers under a plan similar to the one that covers nonunion workers and top executives.

Thousands of people who depend on Capital Metro to get them to work, the doctor’s office and around town can’t understand the union’s resistance to a good contract offer or its determination to strike. The union wants a retroactive pay increase for last year rather than a one-time bonus payment and is willing to disrupt the city’s transportation system to get it.

Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez, also a member of Capital Metro’s board of directors, offered a compromise plan late in the negotiations. He proposed a 3 percent raise for last year and a 2.5 percent increase this year. Martinez also suggests an independent audit to provide revenue and expense numbers that both sides agree upon.

StarTran General Manager Terry Garcia Crews said what Martinez proposed for two years would cost as much as the company has budgeted for a four-year contract. And it sends everyone back to the bargaining table in only eight months. “The workforce needs stability,” she said.

Like other public entities, Capital Metro has been hit with unexpected expenses in a cataclysmic economic downturn. First came $4 a gallon gasoline, then a collapsing economy that hits the transit company square in the pocket book.

Cap Metro is underpinned by a 1-cent sales tax that provides most of its $185 million annual budget. But the reeling economy has reduced the sales tax by about 3 percent from last year’s numbers.

No one doubts that the union has bargained in good faith, but economic reality must be interjected into the contract discussions, too. These are hard times, and Capital Metro, through StarTran, is trying to manage its finances and still offer a good contract.

Capital Metro’s drivers and mechanics are among the best-paid in Texas, and their health care plan — even after the changes offered in the contract — is the best of any public entity in the region.

Union members found out in 2005 that a strike can shatter good relations with the public for years. That work stoppage occurred as a hurricane hit Texas and thousands of evacuees descended on Austin. This month is an even worse time to use a strike to gain public sympathy

Service Advisory

StarTran, Inc., service provider for Capital Metro, and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091 have not reached an agreement on a contract. The Union has rejected StarTran’s final contract proposal. Although a strike is possible, both parties have expressed a willingness to continue to negotiate.

In the event of a strike, Capital Metro is prepared to serve the public by operating a reduced level of service to provide coverage to the busiest routes and those that serve major destinations such as hospitals, schools, the central business district and areas with a high number of riders. If a work stoppage occurs, the following routes will operate from 6 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. daily:

1L/1M North Lamar/South Congress
3 Burnet/Manchaca
7 Duval/Dove Springs
10 South First/Red River
17 Cesar Chavez
20 Manor Road/Riverside
37 Colony Park/Windsor Park
101 N. Lamar/S. Congress Ltd.
300 Govalle
331 Oltorf

In the event of a strike, the following routes which are not operated by StarTran will run as regularly scheduled:

UT Shuttle Routes (open to the general public)
AISD Routes (open to the general public)
142 Metric Flyer
214 Lago Vista Feeder
990 Northwest Express (Manor)
Northwest Dial-a-Ride Service (Monday, Wednesday and Friday only)

Capital MetroAccess (formerly Special Transit Service) for passengers with disabilities will operate at a reduced service level from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays only. Reservation priority will be given to customers in need of dialysis or urgent medical appointments followed by riders needing transportation to work or school, if resources and capacity allow.

Capital Metro urges customers to review the limited service options available and to be prepared with alternate transportation plans such as carpooling if there is a strike. The very latest information on routes will be posted on capmetro.org and available by calling (512) 474-1200.

Capital Metro will add additional service as resources become available.