Bring Back the Buses

For Chrissakes... Milwaukee's got public transit. (Omaha, too.)

 

Sherri, age 43, collector

How does the bus strike affect me? I bought a car, which will put me back $300 a month. I miss the buses, which were kind of a neighborhood get-together. Everyone would talk about daily, weekly events. Other bus riders helped me with major decisions in my life. I hate driving to downtown Minneapolis or St Paul and parking prices are astronomical. I wish the buses would run, so I could gaze out those windows again.

 

Natalie, age 42, disabled

This transit strike has given me more mental issues than I thought I had. I have had to cancel all doctor appointments, as I have no way of getting to them. Obviously, there is no end in sight and no one--not the governor, the metro council, or the union representatives--seems to be in any hurry to get this strike over. What really sickens me is when I read comments from people who own cars and think that everyone should be able to afford a car and that we should do away with public transit. They complain about the taxes they pay. We all pay taxes in various forms. It seems everything inevitably comes down to taxes.

 

Bryan, age 26, office worker

Because I take the time to drive someone to work, I'm losing 40 dollars' worth of pay every week.

 

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I live in northeast Minneapolis. I teach Spanish to health care professionals at Hennepin County Medical Center, Fairview University Medical Center, and North Memorial Medical Center. I am currently finishing my master's degree in English as a Second Language at Hamline University in St. Paul. I have managed to engage in all of the above work and school activities without owning a car. I am an educated and concerned citizen who doesn't want to contribute to the consumption of world resources and the contamination of the world with a car. In the wintertime, I take the bus often. I see disabled people on the bus. I see mothers and fathers and children on the bus. I see people taking bags of groceries on the bus. I see and know people who take two and three buses to get to their places of employment. The bus is their lifeline to work, to day care, to hospital appointments, to meeting basic daily needs, and to social events. I am extremely disappointed in this government, whose representatives say, "There seems to be no need for public transportation."


Are You Ready to Give Up Yet?
The transit strikers are hopeful, anxious, and broke--and they're waiting for management to fold

By Cecile Cloutier

If it's Wednesday, it must be payday. Once again I'm at the Labor Center in northeast Minneapolis, waiting for my check. A driver saunters out of the room, where they're handing out $150 strike paychecks from Amalgamated Transit Union International, clad all in black. A buddy ribs him about the color scheme and he retorts: "I'm in mourning. My job died."

But it's kind of true. Having been out of my clerical job at Metro Transit for a month, I'll agree that striking can feel like a grieving process. People handle the experience differently. Some are fearful, some focused and resolute. More frequently, though, it's an all of the above situation.

Many of my assumptions have been turned topsy-turvy by this strike. It seems like the folks with the most at stake are the most determined to see this through. But nobody takes his or her job for granted, not anymore.

Driver Farah Gelle's family keeps asking when he's going back to work. His normal monthly salary is consumed by food for a family of six, car payments, and $1,500 in rent. (Once that was a figure associated with luxury apartments, but not anymore.) The Somali native, a five-year veteran, figures he'll drive cab, or take an over-the-road trucking job.

In his tidy driver's jacket and coat, Gelle looks ready to punch his timecard. But he's not rushing back to the garage, not unless there's a decent contract. At Tuesday's rally at the Hennepin County Government Center, he holds a sign asking, "Is this Pawlenty's vision for Transit?" with pictures marked "Before" and "After." "Before" shows a Transit bus; "After" is a motorized cart with a Transit symbol. "I don't want to come back and drive this," he says, pointing to "After." "That's no good."

Mary, one of several people in this story who'd prefer not to give her last name, is a clerk at the Heywood Facility (home to both the Heywood Garage and Transit administrative HQ). A gentle, doting grandma, she tells me at the rally that she has two months before she has to find another job. Her spirits were deflated by the failed talks on Monday, March 22, between ATU Local 1005 and the Metropolitan Council at the Bureau of Mediation Services. She worries about the end of her career. "I was real depressed," she says. "I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to retire on time. I'm planning to retire in four years [when she'll hit 30 years of service], and it's sad."

Traci, a clerk-floater at Heywood, shivered in front of the Government Center after a rally last week--the wind punishing us for having chosen fashionable leather over warm down. She felt "crushed" by Monday's stalemate. With three teens at home--she looks more like their older sister than their mom--she's held onto her part-time job at the Marriott-Depot complex. "I work twice as hard for half of the money," she says of her efforts there.

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