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Bus drivers' strike woes

After negotiations broke down Friday, nearly all of the county's bus service halted, causing a commuting nightmare.

July 08, 2007|By Michael Miller and Yvonne Villarreal

Richard Meredith dedicates much of his life to helping people obtain rides. As of Saturday morning, he'll be providing many of those rides himself.

The 57-year-old Costa Mesa resident, who runs an assistance group for the homeless called Christian Volunteers, was among those affected Saturday by the Orange County Transportation Authority's bus drivers' strike.

After negotiations broke down around midnight on Friday, nearly all of the county's bus service halted, and Meredith prepared to place the burden on his car.

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"This is just a total catastrophe for so many people," he said.

Newport-Mesa's affluent neighborhoods will likely feel little impact from the strike, but the area's poorer residents — many of whom rely on buses to get to work or even to run simple errands — may have a tougher time getting by. Fifty of the county's 81 bus routes went out of service Saturday, with only one of the fixed routes set to resume on Monday: Route 43, which covers Harbor Boulevard between Fullerton and Costa Mesa.

The bus drivers' strike marks the first of its kind in Orange County since 1986. Transit Authority officials said they offered the union a 14.6% wage increase over the next three years, but the union rejected the offer.

At a press conference Saturday, Transit Authority Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy said the union wanted to boost salaries only for experienced employees.

Patrick D. Kelly, the secretary-treasurer for the union, did not return calls seeking comment, but posted a message on his answering machine calling the authority's demands "unreasonable."

Ed Fawcett, the president of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, said businesses could be impacted if the strike prevented workers from showing up.

"There are a number of people who rely on bus services to get to and from their work," he said. "It will have the worst consequences on the people who can least afford it."

John Poptanich, a staff member at the Orange Coast Interfaith Shelter in Costa Mesa, said nearly all of his clients use the bus and that the shelter had no other transportation to provide them.

"It's going to make their lives a lot more difficult," he said.


  • MICHAEL MILLER may be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at michael.miller@latimes.com. YVONNE VILLARREAL may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com.

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