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UPDATED: Delays on All ART Bus Routes

by ARLnow.com June 13, 2011 at 7:53 am 4,068 82 Comments

Update at 4:15 p.m. — All evening ART routes are in operation tonight except the 61B. However, many routes will operate less frequently than usual. See the ART web site for more information. Arlington officials say that about 23 bus drivers did not report to work today.

Update at 8:45 a.m. — We’re told via Twitter and email that drivers are striking near the Courthouse Metro station.

Arlington Transit bus riders are being told to “expect delays on all routes” this morning.

The agency says the delays are “due to circumstances beyond our control.” ARLnow.com hears that bus drivers have called in sick en masse due to a wage labor dispute.

ART is also advising that the 61B bus is not in service, and that riders should use the 61A instead.

The Sun Gazette reported over the weekend that the County Board discussed “management-labor issues with the contractor that runs the Arlington Transit (ART) bus service.” Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey described the discussion as a “pander-a-thon” in favor of the bus drivers, who are paid less than their counterparts at Metro.

  • stevis

    Completely up my commute this morning. ART’s communication has got to be better–it’s not splashed on the website, just tucked in the transit alert, and “circumstances beyond our control” doesn’t explain whether it’s personnel availability or emergency road closures or what–there was not enough info to do reliable improvisation.

    • soarlslacker

      About 25 bus operators were holding posterboard signs and protesting on S. Eads St. near the ART bus depot/lot today. Their signs indicated that they were striking, the issue was pay and the signs ID their union.

      • doodly

        What was the union? Everyone on ARLNow has been talking like they have no union.

  • Rick

    The 53 buses were running, or at least they were parked on glebe road at 550 on my way to work this morning

  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more of this kind of thing happening. The management of many entities are using “the economy” as a reason to not give raises to keep budgets lower. While operating a lean well oiled machine is what is desired, it seems to me employees are taking the brunt of it. At least, that’s what I’ve seen with some of the entities I deal with and with some of the people I talk to at those places.

    • CW

      +1. Perfectly put. Companies continue to use the “well, at least you HAVE a job” mentality that has been pervasive since the start of the recession, and eventually, as we recover, their employees are going to get fed up with it.

  • nrny2arlva

    I had one of the Supervisors drive my bus this morning. Aside from having The Emergency Call 911 flashing on the bus, he was got us to Ballston in plenty of time, which is more than I can say for the regular driver.

    • BerryBerryCold

      That explains why the slow moving traffic blockades… aka art buses weren’t backing up traffic this morning (at least those running.)

  • CW

    For the record, it’s “en masse”.

  • Hikin’ the Pike

    It has to be frustrating for the ART drivers as they are not county employees rather employees of a contractor. I feel for them as they have to go through 2 layers of red tape to get more money.

    • BerryBerryCold

      They drive a freakin bus. Come on. If they don’t like it, they can quit. There are millions of people in the country that would be willing to work for those wages.

      • Would you drive a bus for their wages?

        • Rick

          If I had NO wage I would appreciate A wage…

          • doodly

            So if your boss cut your pay by 50% today, you wouldn’t complain, because it’s better than no wage, right?

          • CW

            Exactly. This is the same nonsense logic that companies are using to hold private sector wages hostage. That it’s “better than no job at all”. The problem is that it doesn’t help the economic recovery one bit. It just leads to further wealth consolidation. The people who really do the spending in this country – the middle class and below, get too scared and averse to doing that spending, businesses who depend on their spending continue to suffer, and the vicious cycle continues.

          • BerryBerryCold

            Did the bus drivers have their wage lowered?

          • doodly

            Everyone’s wages are lowered by inflation.

          • Hank

            No, I would complain. Right before I told him to shove it because I can do more than drive a bus.

          • CW

            While I’m sure that you personally can do “more than drive a bus”, I do think that it’s valid to point out here that it’s somewhat unfair that people are looking upon bus drivers as though it’s an unskilled labor job. This is not working at McDonald’s or stocking store shelves – it’s a skilled job that requires proper training, just like being a long-haul trucker or construction equipment operator. You see some of these drivers that have driven hundreds of thousands of miles without an accident, and have done so in a big, unmaneuverable vehicle in a city full of crazies. I think that commands some respect.

          • doodly

            And if your boss said “lots of people would be happy to do your job for the same pay” what would you say? Go ahead and fire me?

            Then you can drive a bus.

          • BoredHouseWife

            That’s what they bank on.

          • Would you want to get on a bus driven by someone who just appreciates “a wage”, or someone who is paid based upon their driving record, safety record, and skill?

          • BerryBerryCold

            So you never take a metro bus or train.

            Because they certainly aren’t paid based upon that.

          • I rarely use Metro. When I do, I’m usually disappointed.

          • Arlwhenever

            Metro has killed 17 people, by negligent bus and train operation the last few years. As far as I know ART has killed none. Metro has billions of dollars of unfunded retirement liabilities related to its overgenerous compenstation packages, and has fallen behind on investing in safety. As far as I know, there are no such issues with ART. The idea that Metro is somehow safer than ART and that has paid for that safety with bloated wages is so far off the mark that it is ridiculous.

          • doodly

            ART is a much smaller, much younger system, and it doesn’t run trains. Comparing safety records like that is completely unfair.

            The proper way to compare safety is deaths per passenger-mile.

            You clearly know nothing about transportation safety or statistics.

          • erehwoN

            while based purely on the number of comments submitted, doodly is an expert on every subject and every article submitted on arlnow

          • Arlwhenever

            There is nothing unfair about insisting on safety first and calling out WMATA for perhaps the worst safety record in the nation.

            It’s not a train vs. bus issue. WMATA has killed with buses as well as trains – it has had a penchant for running down pedestrians in crosswalks. ART has not killed anyone – which translates to zero the last time I looked at a statistics text.

            The National Transportation Safety Board knows a thing or two about transportation safety and statistics; in a scathing report the expert agency found that WMATA suffers from “an anemic safety culture.” That culture developed and became ingrained in the system during the 15 years of “Mr. Metro” Chris Zimmerman’s disastrous leadership.

            The NTSB’s vice chair said on the release of its report “It was quite obvious that [at the highest level of management] there was not an emphasis on safety,”

            Before quitting Chris Zimmerman, leading like minded progressive colleagues, focused on lining the pockets of politically powerful WMATA unions. Until the release of NTSB’s scathing report, WMATA’s management scorecard did not include critical safety statistics like injuries and loss of life per passenger mile, and safety reporting to the board was sporadic to non-existent. Chris Zimmerman ran a safety last operation that no amount of union spending could obscure. And he left behind a financial mess to boot.

            So people want to give Zimmerman direct control over ART and make it a County operation? That’s a horrendous idea!

          • doodly

            It is unfair to compare two systems by raw numbers. Deaths per passenger-mile is the only fair way. And you can’t compare buses to trains either. Long screeds and rants don’t change that fact.

      • doodly

        If people just quit all the time, their wages wouldn’t be that high in the first place, would they, genius?

        Next time you get a raise, be sure to refuse it.

  • nrny2arlva

    Just released from ART:

    Arlington County contracts with Forsthye Transportation to operate ART. The job action taken by some bus drivers today is an action between Forsthye employees and management. It has caused delays in ART service and forced the cancellation of the 61B route during morning rush hour, inconveniencing ART customers.

    The County is closely monitoring the situation, and notes that Forsthye is required, under its contract, to make every effort to deploy full ART service. The company has deployed management personnel to drive buses and help continue providing service. County government regrets this disruption in ART service and urges riders to build in more time for their commute until this issue is resolved.

    We value our customers and appreciate your patience as we work to provide safe, reliable transit.

  • cyclist

    Sure glad I rode my bike today.

    • Stu Pendus

      Because you normally would have taken ART?

      • cyclist

        Sometimes, yeah, when it’s raining alot or freezing cold or I’m feeling lazy on a Monday morning.

  • Wayne Kubicki

    Lost in this conversation (and also seemingly lost at the County Board meeting on Saturday) – ART’s existence is due to several factors.

    One is the ability to run smaller buses, which Metro (with its standarized fleet can’t do).

    But another is the fact that it avoids Metro’s union contract (and the costs that go with it). The ART drivers make far less. This is the main reason for the ART routes that effectively replaced previous Metro bus service – it’s simply cheaper for the County.

    • CW

      Well, look like that one’s coming home to roost. Time to pay the piper.

      • Wayne Kubicki

        CW – maybe. I’ve no idea exactly how the County pays the operator, or what the operator’s deal is with their employees. More info would be needed to opine as to who may be “right” or “wrong” here.

        • Right or wrong, if there is a massive sick-out the employees feel they are being “wronged” in some manner. Pay would seem to be the logical issue, but it could be something else we don’t know about.

          • NPGMBR

            And just how do you supposed the Contractor would support the increased wages of its employees? You can almost bet it would come as an increase in fares if the contract with the County would allow it.

          • Well, that depends. You could have a point. What I have witnessed in the region is a willingness to shift spending from personnel to other items such as infrastructure. Bidding for infrastructure is very competetive right now, so it is “cheap” to construct, make purchases, etc. Companies seem to be shifting their expenses because they feel they can get infrastructure cheaper now than in a few years. But they are doing it on the backs of their employees. I don’t know if this is the case or not, but ART could be spending more money on a newer fleet now rather than spreading it over a number of years because they think in the long run they make out. If they are doing that at the expense of staff salary, they won’t be alone, and they won’t be alone in my criticism either.

        • CW

          No opinion on right or wrong in this case – I don’t have enough facts. People can argue for contractors or for unions, people can point out the flaws and waste in Metro’s unionized system, etc. But at the end of that day, if an ART bus driver looks at a Metro bus driver and says “Hey, we both drive a bus (sometimes even very similar routes!), why is he or she making more?”, then, on the personal level, that’s a fair logic.

    • doodly

      Thanks Wayne. But isn’t ART providing a service that Metro wouldn’t be anyway? It’s a supplement to Metro, not a replacement. The county doesn’t pay for Metro service through a contract and doesn’t get a certain amount of service in return for it’s payments to Metro, does it? With ART, it chooses what routes will be served. So it’s hard to compare the two.

      • Stu Pendus

        ART has replaced Metro bus routes. 22B for example. Also, the Metro bus that used to run up Williamsburg to EFC Metro is now ART.

        That’s the whole point behind Arlington trying to save money by paying for fewer Metro bus routes and contracting out.

        • doodly

          But the 22B was discontinued by Metro unilaterally, right? The county didn’t say “Metro, we’re no longer paying you for that route, instead we’re using ART”?

          Localities don’t pay Metro for specific routes or decide what routes will be served by Metro, as I understand it.

          • Stu Pendus

            No, the 22B was ended so that ART could take over the route. Simple revenue swap. Do you really think Metro could justify just ending a major route like that with no replacement? The county would have probably sued Metro and the Secretary of Transportation for minority disenfranchisement.

            And there is a definite formula or allocation protocol in place so that jurisdictions pay for their share for bus routes. You pay proportional to the service. If you want more Metro bus routes in Virginia, Maryland does not want to hear about having to pay more money, for example.

          • doodly

            So conceivably a county could just end all Metro bus service and substitute it’s own?

          • Stu Pendus

            In coordination with WMATA, and if the routes only run within the county boarders, it’s conceivable.

  • Steve

    How’s that “car free diet” working out for ya?

    • cyclist

      Awesome, thanks.

      Rode past Courthouse today.

    • SoArlRes

      All good for me, too! Thanks for checking in, Steve!

    • doodly

      The smoke free diet is doing great too! Healthy and smellin’ fresh!

  • Dave

    Scott McCaffrey should really be looking into a job with the Examiner. ARLNow.com has made him obsolete anyway.

  • charlie

    this is a disgrace.
    Arlington contracts with Forsythe to avoid wage issues and worrying about treating employees well.
    A true LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC County would NOT contract out this work. These would be COUNTY JOBS (not Metro) that would have a living wage and allow people to have good careers with the government (and all us liberals would accept the extra cost — because it is THE RIGHT THING TO DO).
    Just like all the jobs laying brick in the courthouse plaza — those should also be JOBS.
    Because JOBS=a good economy=votes.
    why do i have to keep spelling this out.

    • Wayne Kubicki

      As far as I know, Forsythe (as a county contractor) would be subject to the County’s “living wage” requirements.

      Arlington contracts out the ART operations (the County owns the buses, BTW) to avoid Metro’s very high bus driver costs (most of Metro’s drivers are long-timers at the very top of the union wage tiers), which is part of the reason there is ART service where you could not justify the cost of Metro service.

      The arrangement also avoids Arlington having to actually run a small bus company on a daily basis.

  • Sunny617

    So THAT’S who was striking at Courthouse this morning. Nothing on their signs said who they were. I assumed they worked in one of the buildings.

  • 4Arl

    The county has shifted to ART to lower costs at the expense of labor, same way they contract out lower paid positions like custodial. This allows management to keep cushy benefits since the county does not have to pay the same costs for contractor employees. The disparity is likely to result in problems like the one they are having today.

  • NOVApologist

    Given the frequency with which Metrobus drivers are threatened, spat on, or otherwise assaulted, they probably deserve a hazardous duty premium over the drivers on the more genteel ART lines.

    Also, I think running a bus service is probably harder than most people realize. Look at Falls Church (granted, not a perfect comparison) – they got their fleet of buses for free through a federal grant and still couldn’t make the service work.

    • Greg

      I frequently ride the bus and agree with the first paragraph here. Driving a Metro bus seems like a much tougher job to me. It’s just anecdotal, but I’ve never seen anyone threaten to kill an ART driver, and I’ve seen that threatened on a Metro bus. I don’t know how large the pay disparity is, but somewhat lower pay for ART does make sense.

  • Lou

    Without knowing what exactly the issues are, I can’t really take sides. Just that they don’t get paid as well as Metro isn’t enough for me. Since Metro is union, I would expect some differential. But I would still want them to get a fair wage and benefits package, as these are people who are entrusted with the safety of their commuters, and their experience and track records are valuable. Has something changed in their conditions that is prompting this action?

    • More than likely, it is what is being seen elsewhere. A lot of entities are going on 3 or 4 years without raises. After a while, that gets old when you hear “the economy”. I’d rather they strike than have one of them go off the deep end while driving and do something to hurt passengers.

  • Custom Name Here

    @ArlNow — I know the “Related Posts” are auto-generated, but it’s really confusing to see that there are delays on I-66 because of an airport van crashing or “lengthy delays” on yellow and blue lines and then finally see that those stories are from 2010. Is there some way to change this?

    • You should be able to see the date of the article next to the article link.

      • CustomName Here

        Yes, I do see those – after I think “Oh, no, I-66 is closed!”

  • Tabby

    For the most part, I like the ART drivers. There was one woman driver on the 77 who tried to start a fight with (us) passengers. Probably should have reported it but basically she accused us of giving her the stinkeye for being late. I don’t know if anyone did give her a look or not, but really–calm the &^% down.

  • ART Lover

    As a County employee I depend on the ART 77 bus to get to Courthouse. Hopefully there will be back up plans for future disruptions. As least with a real union situation commuters usually have some advance notice of a potential disruption.

    Thankfully I could catch a Metro bus and the Metro and get to work (albeit later than normal). But the County needs to do more than simply act as a bystander.

    Why wasn’t the Arlington Alert system used to notify us of this?

    The shame is that my ART bus is usually much more dependable than anything in the Metro system.

    • Tabby

      Most of the routes just do a loop. They really should NOT be late. For example, the 77 is supposed to leave Shirlington on the hour and half-hour. So why does it show up at my door anywhere from 7 minutes after the hour to 25 minutes? There’s no traffic jam on Walter Reed.

    • NrNy2ArlVa

      I received an alert from [email protected] at 6:33am.

    • cheeseeater

      The 77 came on time today for me, so I don’t think it was affected.

  • james davis

    Get rid of ART! Let them ride METRO.

  • ART Lover

    Thanks for the tip on Commuterpage.com alerts. Now signed up. I was counting on the Arlington Alert emergemcy system, but Commuterpage seems more focused.

  • William

    My name is William Alston I am the current driver of the year for Forsythe Transportation Co.Who contracts through the county to drive the Art Bus. I was reading the comments and wanted to add my 2 cents,on why we are on strike. I have been at Forsythe for 2 years. My current pay rate is $15.42 per hour. I have recieved 1 50cent raise in the 2 years Forsythe has had the Art contract this the same for all my fellow drivers in violation of our contract. We are also on strike for how female drivers are treated. Our operation manager has three sexual harrasment claims lodged against him those are the one we know of, check the article thats going to be the examiner. We have a general manager that came from metro accsess,she brought with her 4 people made them supervisor even though none of them has CDL license(legally they can’t drive a bus.) My fellow drivers, and I love serving the people of arlington county and I might add good at what we do, we just won the Golden Bus Award.All my fellow drivers and I want is to be treated fairly and do our job with dignity and respect.

    • Tabby

      Thanks for the info, William.

      • Stu Pendus

        I would like Arlington to initiate an investigation of their contractor to ensure that all of the supervisors who substituted as drivers yesterday had the proper licenses to operate the buses. If not, the County needs to look at finding another contractor to operate ART.

  • Charlie Brown

    William’s being too modest. He’s not just an ordinary driver, he’s the ART operator of the year.

    He’s my family’s regular driver on the temporarily out-of-service 61B. In his absence, the driver we had this morning was not just impolite, but surly–toward my 3yo son. William told me when we got off at CourtHouse Metro that she was one of the managers. How comforting.

    Clearly, not every ART operator is as great as William (and Ryan, who shares the route with him); some need some remedial training on smooth driving, or starting without gunning it. But they shuld have a better situation than this.

    Disturbing to me is the apparent non-involvement of AFSCME 3001, which is the local that was on the flier William gave me this morning. Their web site has no mention of the ART situation at all, but maybe they are doing something out of public view.

    • CW

      Well, I don’t know anything about the union involvement besides what has been posted here, but it seems a bit odd that members of a private contracting firm would belong to the American Federation of, State, County, and Municipal Employees. If they are, as said flyer apparently indicated, then I’d imagine the union would be in a bit of a hard spot, seeing as to how it would be county employees (which is the “C” in AFSCME) controlling the funding to Forsythe. So I would imagine the union to have conflicted interests.

  • John Andre

    I’m already having problems…the ART 75 bus has only ONE bus on the route…normally they have two! I had to wait until nearly 6 pm to get a bus home!

    Why was no one forewarned over the weekend about this impending job action??? They did the same thing to the previous contractor, Veolia, a few years ago.

  • BerryBerryCold

    As Donald would say — “You’re fired!”

    Now the question is, to all of us who said there are plenty of people (in this country at least) who would be willing to drive buses, how long will it take to fill the spots?

    In this area, maybe not so many. But people are very mobile (or used to be before they got suckered into the American “dream” of owning a house — upside down.)

  • Jonathan

    ART alerts were not accurate at all today. ART said that the 61B would not be running and only the 61A would be running. What actually happened this morning was that the 61A did not run, and the 61B was running once every 30 minutes. Unacceptable, Arlington needs to get their info straight so we know what bus to catch or settle this strike!!

  • It was basically a courtesy meeting for new school board members. It was the same information we presented to the board back in June.

  • RANDRAND

    AS THE MANAGERS FIRE MORE WORKERS TO TRIM THE BUDGETS-THEY WILL FIND EXISTING WORKERS LESS AND LESS WILLING TO PLUG THE GAPS FOR LESS AND LESS PAY AND BENEFITS. IT WILL SINK THIS KIND OF OUTSOURCING MANAGEMENT IN IT’S OWN TIDAL WAVE OF GREED AND STUPIDITY AND DISRESPECT OF LABOR-GOOD GODDAMNED RIDDANCE!!!!!

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