MTS purchased 31 minibuses and 46 paratransit buses fueled by propane. Photo courtesy MTS.

As a work stoppage continues for multiple bus divisions of the Metropolitan Transit System, there is now a $1 million proposal to get buses back on the road.

Numerous MTS bus routes out of South Bay and East County divisions, as well as minibus and paratransit, have been running on limited service for weeks, MTS Board Chair Stephen Whitburn said in a statement Thursday.

To address the stalled negotiations between MTS contractor Transdev and the Teamsters, Whitburn called for an item to be added to the board’s June 15 agenda to provide an additional $1 million in funding for the current contract. Service, though, must be restored no later than June 23.

“While MTS is not part of the negotiations, we know this impasse is causing a great inconvenience to our riders that rely on these services to get to jobs, school, health appointments and so much more,” he said. “Our number-one goal at MTS is to get service up and running again, and back to the standards expected by our riders.”

That $1 million is in addition to the $21 million in new funding that the MTS board authorized in January for a $2/hour wage increase paid to all bus operators employed by Transdev at the East County and South Bay divisions through June 30, 2031.

“We recognize the growing challenge to hire and retain bus operators,” Whitburn said. “It’s a high cost of living in San Diego, and a job market that has seen unprecedented wage increases. This has made attracting new and retaining current bus operators extremely difficult. But we need to find a resolution from both sides of the negotiating table. Our riders depend on it.”

Transdev, a multinational conglomerate, has been in contract negotiations with its bus operators, represented by the Teamsters, since October 2022. The work stoppage has been ongoing for several weeks, with more than 600 drivers affected.

Jose Puga, vice president of local Teamsters 683, criticized the company’s approach to negotiations.

“Workers are on strike because they want sanitary bathrooms and safe places to take breaks, and Transdev has refused to bargain in good faith to address these conditions,” he said. “Workers have been subject to these grotesque conditions for longer than the six months we had been in negotiations. We are on strike because Transdev has refused to offer workers a fair new contract and has failed to address these appalling conditions.”

Transdev released a statement rebutting the claims of union leaders.

“Transdev is actively negotiating with the Teamsters 683 and remains hopeful that we will come to an amicable resolution soon with minimal disruption to the riding public,” the statement reads. “We have been engaged in negotiations with the union in good faith, with the goal of reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement that addresses the interests of both parties.

The MTS website is tracking affected bus routes out of the South Bay and East County divisions and for the minibuses for riders.

Passengers may contact MTS Information & Trip Planning for assistance at 619-233-3004. MTS Access riders can call 888-517-9627 for recommended alternatives.

The Imperial Avenue Division, Kearny Mesa Division and Trolley System are all running normal service, MTS said.

– City News Service