The Daily Californian Online

AC Transit Meeting Scheduled to Decide Service Reductions

By Gabby Fastiggi
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Category: News > Parking and Transportation

AC Transit officials are set to decide how to make up $15.7 million in added costs at a meeting Wednesday. A judge's ruling invalidated the agency's attempt to save that amount by reducing employee benefits.

Forced to revert back to a costly union contract, AC Transit officials will decide at a meeting Wednesday which service reductions are necessary to combat $15.7 million in added costs for employee benefits.

At the meeting, officials are expected to propose cutting more than half of the weekend bus lines - including the 1R, 7 and 52 - and all late-night lines except for the 800 and 801 beginning in December.

This summer, AC Transit officials adopted a new contract concerning employees' overtime, pensions and co-pays for health care that would have cost $300,000 per week less than the previous union contract that expired June 30, according to Chris Peeples, a member of the AC Transit board of directors.

However, in an Aug. 2 ruling, Superior Court Judge Judith Ford invalidated the new contract, ruling that AC Transit must return to the now-expired union contract after being sued by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, which represents bus drivers, maintenance personnel and other AC Transit employees.

Peeples said the board was not anticipating the ruling and will now have to take unprecedented measures to fill the gap in its budget.

"We were really thrown for a loop by Judge Ford's order," Peeples said. "We've already had to make a lot of cuts, and now we have to spend around $15 million a year more than what we had planned on."

To make up the difference in the contracts, AC Transit will now make the most service cuts it have ever made in the past 20 years, Peeples said. The cuts will affect approximately 32,000 riders on Saturdays and about 24,000 riders on Sundays.

Peeples said the new contract - as approved by the board but rejected by the court - would not have changed employees' pensions or wages. He added that the new contract would have limited employees' overtime opportunities.

Union representatives were not available for comment Tuesday.

Peeples added that the schedules of 1,600 employees will now have to be reworked, which "will prove a lengthy process."

AC Transit will appeal the court's decision as soon as possible, Peeples said, but in the meantime, the board of directors will meet Wednesday to discuss various ways to comply with the union contract and still be financially solvent.

The drastic cuts to popular night and weekend lines are near unavoidable at this point, Peeples said.

"Limiting the weekend bus services even personally affects me, but we need to make cuts so that our checks don't bounce," he said.



Article Link: http://archive.dailycal.org/article/110175