Summit Stage lays off 14 drivers among changes for summer service | SkyHiNews.com

Summit Stage lays off 14 drivers among changes for summer service

Robert Allen
summit daily news

FRISCO – Some 14 Summit Stage bus drivers received notice Wednesday that they would be laid off May 1 as the bus service reverts to its summer schedule in the coming weeks.

Cathy Brosius, bus driver and president of the local transit union, said that many of these drivers “were told they’d be laid off” when they were hired, as the system no longer hires seasonal employees.

“The main reason they’re doing the layoffs is because of funding and the fact that they’re shifting to hourly service” during the mid-day, she said.

The 22 percent reduction in drivers from 65 to 51 won’t affect the summer schedule, which is to remain intact from 2009, according to Summit Stage director John Jones.

Last year, 12 drivers were laid off at about the same time.

Ridership through February this year was down about 20 percent compared with 2009. The bus system lost $1.14 million – or 14.5 percent of its budget – in countywide sales tax revenue last year.

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Drivers share angst over schedule changes

Several bus drivers came to the Summit Stage board meeting Wednesday morning to share complaints about looming work-schedule changes and offer some alternatives.

While last year’s summer schedule for passengers will remain the same in 2010, driver schedules have been changed to save about 113 hours per week, or about $160,000.

Brosius said at the meeting that upon seeing the summer schedule, bus drivers were “angry, appalled, some felt sick to their stomach, others were incredulous.”

Brosius and about four other drivers Wednesday voiced frustration with requiring five-day work weeks – they’ve worked four days per week since about 1991 – and the requirement of some drivers to commute to and from Leadville without compensation.

Assistant Summit County manager Thad Noll said the county’s “goal is to keep four-day schedules.”

“We will do everything we can to get back to a four-day schedule come winter,” he said, adding that board members couldn’t discuss some of the drivers’ issues in open forum because they’re part of negotiations with the union.

Brosius said in an e-mail that the average Summit Stage driver makes $17.85 per hour, which isn’t enough to qualify one person for HUD low-income housing.

Trevor Seymour, a Summit Stage driver for 12 years, said he’s “incredibly grateful” to work for the bus service but is concerned about financial impacts to drivers who will be required to work five days per week.

He said that with a commercial driver’s license they are restricted to at least one day off and working no more than 60 hours per week.

Seymour said he’s worked at Target part-time for extra money, but that with CDL limits the five-day week “puts a damper on people being able to find a second job.”

He said increased commuting and child care expenses will also result.

Summit Stage board member Kent Willis said the concerns are understandable but that “budgets are what they are.”

“We appreciate (your) concern,” he said. “I don’t think we’re trying to alienate or punish anyone, but there may be adverse consequences.”

Cara Camping, whose husband Bruce drives for Summit Stage and sits on the board, presented an alternative plan that she and some drivers said would cost the taxpayers less while helping to maintain schedules the drivers prefer.

Jones said after the meeting that Camping’s suggestion will be taken “under advisement” but that “we were confident what we put forth.”

“You can take any piece of data and beat it to death with statistics and get what you want,” he said, adding that he’s been involved with transit for 34 years.

Leadville route becoming burdensome

Bus routes connecting Summit County to Leadville began in January through finances from Lake County ($35,000), and state and federal grants ($200,000 and $80,000, respectively). But most of the routes usually include five or less passengers.

“We could easily carry the passengers in a van,” Brosius said at Wednesday’s meeting. “We wouldn’t have to rent a garage in Leadville, and the operating cost of the vehicle would be significantly less.”

Jones said later that vans would be an option if vans were available, as there aren’t finances available to purchase new vans.

“I’m not averse to it. I’m certainly open to the suggestion, but we don’t have any,” he said. “We are discussing using some of the smaller buses for it.”

Jones also said at Wednesday’s meeting that four bus engines had to be replaced last month costing $16,000 each – totaling $64,000.

“Part of it is premature wear,” he said later, adding that they’re looking into the issue, “and the other part is I got 10 buses over here pushing half a million miles.”

Bus drivers have expressed concern that with the county not offering a vehicle for access to the Leadville bus, commutes are extended by 30 miles or more in each direction.

In addition, many of the drivers don’t own personal vehicles or vehicles reliable enough for the trip. Concerns were expressed Wednesday that with little to no cell phone service between Copper and Leadville, the commuters run the risk of getting stuck.

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