Wednesday, April 05, 2006

VTA proposes to bring shuttle operations in-house

As a new add-on item to the agenda for the VTA board meeting this Thursday, the board will decide whether to amend the labor contract to include a new classification of shuttle bus drivers and mechanics. Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents VTA's drivers and mechanics, have approved the agreement last week.

Under this agreement, new employee classifications would be created to operate and maintain a fleet of smaller shuttle buses with fewer than 28 seats. These shuttle drivers and mechanics would be paid at a lower wage than the drivers and mechanics of larger buses.

VTA would operate these shuttle buses as a part of the community bus program, to primarily serve outlaying communities and provide connections to mainline bus or light rail service. Currently, VTA runs two community bus routes (48 and 49) in Los Gatos under contract with Parking Company of America, which was ruled last year in violation of the labor agreement with the ATU. If this agreement is approved, VTA is expected to convert these lines into in house operations in the next few months.

In addition, the agreement would also bring light rail shuttle operations in house, including the Great America shuttle, River Oaks shuttle, and the Downtown Area Shuttle. These shuttles are currently contracted to New Century Transportation.

ACE shuttles and shuttles contracted by Caltrain will not be affected.

With the approval of this agreement, VTA would be able to hire 100 to 120 shuttle bus operators. VTA plans to replace standard buses with small buses on low ridership routes, which may include 76, 13, 44, and other feeder routes in the south county. VTA expects a reduction in cost on direct labor as well as fuel, due to the lower fuel consumption of smaller buses.

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