Tuesday, November 23, 2010

VTA's new hybrid buses

Earlier this month VTA rolled out its new hybrid buses. The new buses can be found on route 66.

The hybrid buses look pretty much like the older buses VTA bought 8-9 years ago. In comparison, SamTrans new buses come with a new style and paint scheme. VTA actually has a pretty good paint scheme for the small community buses, but for some reason it is keeping the old scheme on the hybrids.

The hybrid buses have a "hump" on the rear end.

The new buses are noticeably different from the older buses on the inside. The new buses have new wheelchair tie-ins to reduce driver workload, along with new seats.

The new buses also have a wider rear door.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

AC Transit and union reach agreement, prevent weekend cuts

Today AC Transit announced that an arbitration panel has reached a decision between the agency and the union representing the agency's drivers and mechanics. The decision finally ended the labor dispute that began in summer which resulted in lawsuits, driver sickouts and a threat to discontinue most of overnight and weekend service.

The binding decision essentially requires union members to contribute to their health and retirement plans. The decision also require changes to work rules. Overall it would cut AC Transit deficit by $38 millions over three years.

Given the declining state and local revenues, AC Transit sought savings from the new labor contract. After an unsuccessful effort to reach an agreement with the union, AC Transit board voted to impose the contract. The union fought back by bring the issue to court. The court agreed with the union by striking down the new contract. Meanwhile the drivers informally staged a sickout, which caused missed runs and more crowded buses.

If AC Transit were not able to realize labor savings, AC Transit would have to further reduce service to cut costs. After two major service cuts earlier this year, AC Transit was planning another cut in December, which would cut most overnight and weekend service. After this decision, AC Transit cancelled the December cuts but warned that additional cuts may be required sometime next year.

In this economy, it is counter-productive for transit unions refusing to make concessions to protect service and jobs. In San Francisco, where Muni drivers' pay was set by the city charter to be the second highest in the country (which essentially meant automatic pay raises regardless of the economy), city voter overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure last week to remove the wage provision from the city charter. Earlier in the year, Muni drivers twice voted down proposals to increase employee health and retirement contributions while maintaining charter mandated pay raises.