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O.C. transit officials plan rider strategies for strike

With no talks scheduled with drivers, OCTA managers offer free bus rides and will drive a key route. A union official predicts `long, hot July.'

July 09, 2007|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Orange County bus riders and transit officials were bracing for turmoil that could descend today as the strike by 1,100 transportation workers continued into the workweek.

If the drivers and Orange County Transportation Authority managers don't reach agreement soon, said Patrick Kelly, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 952, "it's going to be a long, hot July."

No negotiations between the drivers union and the agency are scheduled.

As the first bus strike in the county in 21 years threatened to drag on, companies sought ways to help workers with their disrupted commutes.

Disneyland, the county's largest employer, set up a carpool hotline for employees who have no transportation to work. By midday Sunday, spokesman Bob Tucker said, the line had received calls.

"We are working closely with our cast members and deploying various resources to make sure they can travel to and from work in a safe and sufficient manner," he said in a prepared statement.

OCTA workers spent much of the day staffing a customer-service call center, which received more calls than usual, and posting fliers announcing the strike at major transportation centers and along major routes. "We want to notify as many people as possible," OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik said, "so they can make alternative arrangements."

Beginning today, he said, the agency will be posting "transit ambassadors" aboard buses that are running, as well as at hubs, to give out information.

For the duration of the strike, Zlotnik said, all bus rides will be free of charge.

"We think it's going to have a significant impact on riders," he said of the strike. "There are 225,000 people who depend on our buses every day, and we feel very badly that they have to be inconvenienced by this."

The strike began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday after union leaders rejected a salary increase and a 30-day contract extension for the drivers. At issue is whether the raises -- bringing hourly wages to between $14.27 and $23.87 -- should apply to drivers with less than five years' experience, which the union opposes.

Zlotnik said that 31 of the authority's 81 usual routes will be running and that only one of those -- Route 43, connecting Fullerton to Costa Mesa via Harbor Boulevard -- is a major route. Route 43 is being driven every 30 minutes between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays by OCTA managers who are licensed bus operators. The other routes, operated by a subcontractor, serve as rail feeders or station links or cover short routes.

"We are ready to talk at any time" to end the strike, Zlotnik said. "The union walked away from the table and went on strike. We will meet with them today, tonight, tomorrow -- any time they want." Said Kelly: "We're hopeful that the OCTA board will give its negotiator a little more flexibility so we can get this thing wrapped up."

The board was expected to meet today, Zlotnik said, but did not have the strike on its agenda.



(Orange County Edition)

Bus strike information

A bus riders advocacy group, the Transit Advocates of Orange County, has established an online message board where riders can post requests to share rides.

* The group's web address:

* For transit information, www.octa.netor (714) 636-7433.

* For carpool info: (800) 266-6883 or

* For cab companies: (949) 654-8294 or

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