SunTran strike impacts thousands of Tucson bus riders

Posted: Updated:
By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter
By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Thousands of morning commuters had to find a "Plan B" Monday morning after members of the Teamsters Local 104 voted overwhelmingly to go on strike.

SunTran buses are running today on just seven of a normal 40 routes.

The latest contract proposal from Professional Transit Management, the company the City contracts with to run SunTran, included no wage increase for the union members and only a promise of paying future insurance benefit increases.  This is the first transit strike in Tucson since 2001.

In a news release shortly after the strike began at midnight, SunTran General Manager Katrina Heineking said, "The union walked out on what we would consider a very fair offer.  I'm disappointed that we couldn't come to an agreement.  This strike will be particularly rough on the riders who depend on us every day for their transportation needs."

SunTran says it is maintaining some service on Routes 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, 16 and 29.  But even on those routes, riders may see a bus just once an hour instead of the normal pace of every 20 minutes or so.  And service is scheduled to end at 7 p.m.   Some routes normally have service until Midnight.

Fox 11 Reporter Carisssa Planalp found people waiting at bus stops this morning on routes not running.  When she approached one person on 22nd Street, normally served by Route 7, the person exclaimed, "Oh, no.  They went on strike, didn't they!"

At bus stops along major streets where buses are running, there were large groups of people waiting and overcrowding on many of the buses.

One looming issue for transit services in Tucson is a proposal to turn operation of SunTran over to the Regional Transportation Authority.  It's scheduled to be discussed at Tuesday's Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting at the Tucson City Council study session Wednesday morning.  Since SunTran operates outside city limits, proponents of the move say it makes sense for the RTA to operate and fund SunTran.  But some low-income activists are opposing the move, saying it will be easier for the RTA to cut routes and services and increase fares.  The group opposing the move of SunTran to the RTA has scheduled a midday Monday news conference at the Ronstadt Center in downtown Tucson.

The Teamsters is in favor of moving SunTran to the RTA.  That's likely because the RTA has fewer budget issues than the City of Tucson.  The City Council has balked recently on the move, but will have another opportunity to discuss it Wednesday.

SunTran is urging riders to call 520 792-9222 for the latest information.