Ahwatukee Foothills commuters who take the express bus to downtown Phoenix from the Pecos Road park-and-ride could see longer delays if a bus maintenance workers' dispute turns into a strike, city officials said Tuesday.

Veolia Transportation Services, the contractor which operates a third of Phoenix's 99 bus routes, this week declared an impasse in labor negotiations with Teamster union employees who service the buses. The company locked out about 60 union employees from work and replaced them with non-unionized labor.

The union has responded by filing an unfair labor practices claim with the federal National Labor Relations Board.

All of the potentially affected bus routes, with the exception of the RAPID I-10 East service - which runs from a popular park-and-ride northwest of 40th Street and Pecos Road in Ahwatukee Foothills to downtown Phoenix - are situated north of South Mountain. No local Ahwatukee routes would be affected.

However, Marie Chapple, Phoenix Public Transit Department spokeswoman, said if the union decides at some point to proceed with a labor strike, commuters who use the RAPID I-10 East service could see longer delays between buses.

"If it's impacted, it would have fewer trips," Chapple said. "All we know right now is that they're still in talks with Veolia."

Park-and-ride users already this year have seen an increase in the interval between buses. In July, city officials increased the interval during peak morning and evening hours to 10 minutes because of budget cuts. Previously, commuters had to wait five minutes between buses during those times. On average, the RAPID I-10 East service provides about 15,000 commuter trips per month, city officials have said.

For more information on which routes are affected, visit www.phoenix.gov/publictransit or www.valleymetro.org.

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