AC Transit Approves Weekend, Weeknight Cuts

Third Major Cut to Service to Begin in December, Expected to Save District Roughly $11.1 Million

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In response to an $18.9 million deficit, the AC Transit District board of directors voted unanimously at a meeting Wednesday night in favor of cutbacks that would reduce services on weekends and weeknights beginning in December.

This is the third major cut to services following a 7.8 percent cut in March and a 7.2 percent cut effective Oct. 31 that was postponed in August because of labor contract disputes. The delay cost the district about $4.6 million, according to Chris Peeples, AC Transit director-at-large. The most recent cuts will save the district about $11.1 million.

Over 70 general and administrative staff positions have been eliminated, AC Transit spokesperson Clarence Johnson said.

December's cuts - which will eliminate 39 of 56 weekend routes - will impact about 25 percent of weekend riders, a decision AC Transit Director Jeff Davis said was "very unpopular."

Several people spoke out against the cuts at the meeting Wednesday, calling the decision "ridiculous" and an outcome of "years of fiscal irresponsibility."

"This is preposterous," said Celia-Faye Russell, an AC Transit rider. "What am I going to do on the weekends to get to church?"

Ann Boyd, a bus driver and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 member, said AC Transit is unfairly blaming the union for the cuts.

"I think (the decision) was very unfair," Boyd said in an interview. "The district is basically holding the public hostage and using ATU to do it."

AC Transit is currently in arbitration with the union after their contract expired in June. Johnson said the district asked for $15.7 million in labor cost reductions, but the union has only offered $6 million.

The new contract - which the union refused to enter into - would change work rules affecting overtime, retirement plans and medical co-payments and premiums but would not affect salaries, Johnson said.

Davis said work rules have a "huge impact" on the district.

"They're somewhat complicated, and sometimes the union makes them overly simple," he said.

In addition to voting on the cuts, the board motioned to continue discussion on outsourcing paratransit services, which provide transportation for people with disabilities or certain health conditions. Contracting out would save AC Transit about $760,000 annually, according to Johnson.

He said the board could vote on outsourcing the services as early as their next meeting.

"We may have to do it because of the amount of money it saves, but I think there's a good deal of skepticism about it," Peeples said.

He added that the board will "consider everything" to reduce the district's deficit but that the solution does not lie in cutbacks.

"It's a major policy shift that has to take place locally and federally," he said.


Contact Mary Susman at [email protected]

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