Bus strike may have underlying goal - Tucson News Now

Bus strike may have underlying goal

By Bud Foster - email

"RTA - RTA - RTA," the chant among dozens of striking bus drivers and mechanics in downtown Tucson.

The chants were meant to drown out a press conference being held nearby, organized by community activist Brian Flagg.

He feels if Sun Tran falls under the RTA umbrella, the poorest riders would not be protected from fare increases.

But others feel it goes deeper than that.

"It's a power play and the Teamsters union and ridership are getting squeezed," says Andy Marshall, a union official.

RTA has been trying to convince the city for the past 18 months that it should give up control of Sun Tran and transfer it to the RTA. That way RTA can move it towards a regionalized transportation system which would include Oro Valley, Marana and unincorporated Pima County.

The city of Tucson is having budget troubles but the RTA says it has enough money to operate Sun Tran for the next five years.

That's attractive to union workers who are concerned the city may lay-off some drivers or mechanics as a result of a dire financial picture..

They believe they have a better chance of job security with the RTA.

Officials at the RTA agree they are in a better financial situation.

"We believe that's a good solution, solves many problems," says Andy Gunning of the RTA. "We feel it would be beneficial to the bus riders, the taxpayers and would save the city money.

The RTA says the poorest riders would be protected for at least five years. It plans a comprehensive study of the transit system, including fares, next year.

The city of Tucson pays a nearly $36 million subsidy annually to fund Sun Tran operations.

The Tucson City Council and the RTA have reached a memorandum of understanding over the transfer. The council takes up the issue Wednesday morning during its study session.

The RTA believes if the city approves the MOU, it can complete the transfer in the next few months.

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