A bus strike is dragging on even as the Teamsters Local 533 union and Keolis Transit return to the bargaining table to resolve disputes over a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The previous CBA was put into place by the company that was contracted to operate Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) buses before France-based Keolis was hired in 2019. It expired on June 30.
Bus drivers have been on strike since Sept. 27. It’s the second strike to take place during CBA negotiations. The first lasted for nearly two weeks in August, leaving the nearly 20,000 people who rely on bus transit to figure out their own alternatives during the height of stagnant summer heat.
The current strike was spurred over disagreements surrounding scheduling for drivers.
In a statement released the day after the strike started, RTC Chair and Reno City Council member Neoma Jardon said, “These repetitive strikes are harming those who can least afford it and rely on public transportation, especially during the pandemic. Although the RTC is not a party to the negotiations, we learned that during negotiations last week that all articles presented were accepted on Friday and all parties agreed to meet again on October 7 and 8 to continue negotiations.”
A protest march is planned for Oct. 16 in support of the bus drivers. It was organized by Nevada Disability Peer Action Coalition and the Northern Nevada Democratic Socialists of America. Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus is billed as the event’s emcee.
“We deserve a transportation network that delivers equitable outcomes for all Washoe County residents. Our profit driven bus system is a road to nowhere. Come join the call for reform!” reads the protest announcement.
Bus route reductions on the horizon
The RTC is reporting that it’s “anticipating potential transit service changes beginning in January due to unprecedented staffing shortages of drivers regionally and nationwide, a consequence of the pandemic.”
According to a recent press release, RTC RIDE operator Keolis and RTC ACCESS paratransit operator MTM are both lacking enough staff to deliver transit services at scheduled levels, which has caused missed trips and delays for passengers.
The RTC is seeking public input on the proposed service reductions. Transit passengers are encouraged to watch this video detailing the proposed service changes and send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (775) 335-1904.
“We hope that our transit-service contractors are able to hire more staff so that RTC does not need to implement these service modifications; however, we are planning ahead for potential transit service reductions to improve service reliability for our passengers in anticipation of a continuing labor shortage in our region,” said RTC Executive Director Bill Thomas.
The RTC is proposing the changes to bus routes based on rider data that would impact the fewest number of riders and shift drivers to routes with the most riders. The proposed changes, listed below, would take effect in January unless enough drivers can be hired.
RTC RIDE Fixed-Route Service proposed changes:
- Route 9: Eliminate three weekday trips between 5 a.m.- 6:36 a.m., six weekday trips between 9:56 p.m. – 1:21 a.m., three Saturday trips from 5 a.m. – 6:36 a.m. and one trip between 1 a.m. and 1:31 a.m., and two Sunday trips between 5:29 a.m. – 6:26 a.m.
- Route 13: Eliminate two weekday trips between 6:15 a.m. – 6:57 a.m.
- Route 16: Eliminate two Saturday trips between 6:15 a.m. – 6:39 a.m., and two Saturday trips between 7:15 p.m. – 7:40 p.m.
- Route 21: Eliminate two weekday trips between 4:20 a.m. – 4:54 a.m. and one weekday trip between 12:06 a.m. – 12:22 a.m.
- Route 26: Eliminate 16 weekday trips between 7:35 p.m. – 11:39 p.m., two Sunday trips between 6:05 a.m. – 6:35 a.m., and two Sunday trips between 9:05 p.m. and 9:34 p.m.
RTC ACCESS proposed changes:
- Modified reservation times from current hours of Monday-Friday 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. and weekends and holidays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., to proposed hours of Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and weekends and holidays 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Reduction of service to match legal ADA standards.
- Increase agreements with private providers, such as Uber and taxi companies, to provide additional options for non-ADA trips to reduce the burden on RTC ACCESS fleet.
RTC FlexRIDE proposed changes:
- Service hour adjustments to:
- Sparks-Spanish Springs FlexRIDE: Change hours of operation from current hours of Monday – Friday from 5:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. to proposed hours of Monday-Friday 5:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., and weekend hours of operation from current hours of 6 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. to proposed hours of 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- North Valleys FlexRIDE: Change hours of operation from current hours of Monday – Friday from 5:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. to proposed hours of Monday-Friday 5:30 a.m. – 9 p.m., and weekend hours of operation from current hours of 6:20 a.m. – 9 p.m. to proposed hours of 6:20 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Verdi-Somersett FlexRIDE: Change hours of operation from current hours of Monday – Friday from 5:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. to proposed hours of Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 9 p.m., and weekend hours of operation from current hours of 6:20 a.m. – 9 p.m. to proposed hours of 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Discontinuation of Incline Village-Sand Harbor Pilot Program, depending on driver availability.
Both Keolis and MTM have upped recruitment efforts to attract new applicants including offering sign-on bonuses.
For more information, or to see current bus schedules, visit rtcwashoe.com.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.