Hundreds of bus drivers went on strike Thursday in several Phoenix suburbs, shutting down service to some 57,000 riders daily in the affected suburbs and on routes to other cities.
The Valley Metropolitan Regional Transit Authority said the strike affects service in Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe, as well as express routes from those cities to Phoenix and Scottsdale.
The strike by a union that represents nearly 400 drivers affects 40 routes, 18 of which connect to Phoenix routes. The strike will not affect light rail.
The strike is a result of a labor dispute between the Amalgamated Transit Union and First Transit, a company that operates part of Valley Metro’s system. First Transit is not under a city of Phoenix contract.
The union said drivers overwhelmingly rejected the company’s proposal because it would increase their health care contribution and weaken contract provisions on job security. Dozens of drivers carried signs saying “We Are One” as they picketed at a First Transit operations center.
“We are fighting to keep our jobs,” driver Regina Davis said.
First Transit said it regrets the strike’s inconvenience for passengers and said it made several offers that were fair and equitable “especially considering current economic conditions.”
Company spokeswoman Jen Biddinger said the company will contact a federal mediator to determine why the union rejected a last-minute proposal by the company.
The routes shut down by the strike represent approximately 40 percent of Valley Metro’s route system.
Valley Metro said riders should seek out carpools, telecommute if their jobs allow it, and ask friends and family members for rides. It wasn’t feasible to offer reduced service in the affected areas, Valley Metro said.
In Ahwatukee routes 56, 156 and 522 will be affected by the strike.
The East Valley routes impacted are: FLASH, MERCURY, VENUS, EARTH, MARS, JUPITER, BUZZ, LINK-Main St., LINK-Arizona Ave., 30, 40, 45, 48, 56, 61, 62, 65, 66, 72, 77, 81, 96, 104, 108, 112, 120, 128, 136, 156, 184, 511, 514, 520, 521, 522, 531, 533, 535, 541 and 542.
There are routes traveling into Phoenix (30, 45, 48, 56, 61, 72, 77, 514, 520, 521, 522, 531, 533, 535, 541, 542) and Scottsdale (EARTH, 72, 81, 511, 514) that will also be affected.
To help passengers understand what routes continue to operate, the city of Phoenix has posted an overview map of affected bus routes, a list of those bus routes, and suggestions for alternate routes and travel options in Phoenix at http://phoenix.gov/publictransit/index.html.
• AFN reporter Allison Hurtado contributed information to this story.