Alexander, a regular MTA bus rider on a line that runs on Sunset Boulevard, said she watched the 11 p.m. news Sunday to see whether there was a strike, saw that it was still up in the air, then went to bed and rose to get to her regular bus stop at 6:45 a.m.
She waited 20 minutes. Then another rider, listening to the news on headphones, found out about the strike.
Alexander said she was mad that MTA had not provided any alternate bus service on Sunset, a main artery toward Downtown.
"I stood out there with a woman with a walker who was trying to get to a doctor. I don't understand what people think we're going to do--jump in our Mercedes? Call a friend at 5:30 (a.m.) and say, 'Pick me up?'
"People who ride the buses, we're already challenged--disabled people, elderly people, handicapped people, hard-working people who get up at 5 a.m. to get a 6 a.m. bus. To stand out and get treated like this because we don't own a car--in a city where no one should own a car--is ridiculous."
In West Los Angeles, Santa Monica office manager Joyce Cohan waited 20 minutes at a bus stop before she learned of the work stoppage.
"It's going to be a problem," she said. "I have no other way to get to work."
After waiting an hour in Wilmington for a bus that never arrived, Holson Chang Lee walked 4 1/2 hours before he reached his Crenshaw home.
The security guard, who got off work at midnight, reached home at 5:30 a.m. At 8 a.m., he again waited for a ride, this time to take him to the bank so he could withdraw $1,600 to purchase a car.
In the San Fernando Valley, riders waited patiently and impatiently for buses to appear. By 7:45 a.m. more than 50 people crowded three stops at Van Nuys and Ventura boulevards in Sherman Oaks, a major transfer point.
At the corner of Van Nuys and Roscoe boulevards in Panorama City, a man waiting at a stop shouted to a friend in a passing car: "Come on, man, I've been waiting three hours!"
Laura Rios, 20, of Van Nuys, kept checking her watch, now edging up on 9:30 a.m.
"I have to be at work at 10," said Rios, who was waiting with others at the bus stop at Sepulveda and Roscoe boulevards in Van Nuys. She works at a McDonald's restaurant in North Hollywood, on Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Victory Boulevard.
She said she hadn't heard about the strike.
"No wonder there's no bus," she said in Spanish. "I've been waiting here since before 9."
After learning of the strike, she said, "I'm going home."
Lou Cline and his wife finally gave up waiting and started to walk home from the stop on Sepulveda and Vose Street.
"Every day we take two buses to the senior center at Victory and Coldwater," said Cline, 85. "We have our friends there, have a little fun, a little entertainment. Thank God I feel good enough to want to go to the center."
Instead, the couple must stay home until the buses begin running again.
Pedro Ocampo was at the pay phones at Saticoy Street and Sepulveda telling his boss he was not going to be able to work Monday.
"I work in San Fernando, and I don't have a way to get there," said the 37-year-old gardener. "I'll just have to see about getting a ride there tomorrow."
Searching for Alternatives
Commuters left stranded by the strike were desperately calling taxicab companies in unprecedented numbers, often from bus stops and street corners. Some taxi dispatchers reported their business was double that of a normal workday.
"Well, (the strike) might be bad news to the bus riders, but not to the taxi drivers," said Belinda Esnayra, a public service agent for Checker Cab Co., whose business shot up 40% during the morning commute. "It's amazing how many people depend on the bus."
Still, the wait for a taxi was often more than an hour during rush hour, and cab fares were a far cry from $1.10 bus rides.
"We are very, very busy," explained Mae Caringal, a secretary at United Independent Taxi who was helping out with dispatching Monday morning because of the extra workload. All 231 drivers were on the road Monday instead of the usual 100 at a time, she said.
People on street corners even tried to flag down the Skycar service, which mainly drives travelers to LAX, said dispatcher Tylee James.
"There are a lot of very desperate-sounding people who've got to get to work, got to get somewhere and don't have buses to do that," James said, adding that his drivers are trying to help out as much as they can.
MTA board member John Fasana asked employers to be tolerant.
"We're urging all employers to cut a little extra slack for their employees today. It may be a little difficult for them to get to work," he said. "We're asking everybody to try to help each other out over these next few days."
Riders on the regular MTA buses were charged 50 cents Monday. Passengers on school buses rode for free because the buses have no fare collection equipment.