Asheville transit system renegotiating contract, facing cuts

The city of Asheville’s bus service contract is up for renegotiation this year, including a provision for eight holiday days off that’s come under some criticism. The Asheville Transit Service also faces up to $600,000 in potential cuts.

“We’re still working out where the cuts will fall,’ Interim Transit Services Manager Maria Echeverry tells Xpress. “It’s one of our priorities to carefully manage where they’ll fall, but any cut will affect riders.”

She adds that city staff will present specific cuts to City Council at its next budget work session on April 27. Several Council members have expressed concerns that cutting the availability of routes would harm workers who rely on the bus service to get to their jobs. At the same time, the city’s also considering raising the cost of the rider fees and monthly passes in an effort to expand services.

The contract with the transit union iss also up for re-negotiation this year, and that includes a provision for eight holiday days that left some dissatisfied when buses didn’t run on Easter Monday (which is not an official state or city holiday). In the contract, Asheville’s in a bit of a bind, though not a new one.

“North Carolina statutes don’t allow municipal governments to deal with unions,” Echeverry says, while federal labor laws don’t allow the dismantling of the union. So the city pays a management company $150,000 a year to negotiate the contract and manage relations with the union on the city’s behalf.

“Many cities are in this situation, and [using a third-party company] is an option the federal government has given us,” Ecehverry notes. “We’re beginning the [negotiations] process right now, and we hope to come out of it with a good contract.”

— David Forbes, staff writer

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18 thoughts on “Asheville transit system renegotiating contract, facing cuts

  1. Robert J. Bova

    The Asheville Transit Service should also start “cleaning house” of bus drivers who are rude to riders and have attitudes. While many bus drivers are courteous and friendly, there are a handful who belong in another profession. It seems that some won’t deprive themselves of taking time for a smoke even when their run is late. Let’s also get rid of the ridiculous Easter Monday no service holiday. Easter Monday is a Canadian holiday — not a U.S. city or state holiday!

  2. cwaster

    Oh great, cuts to their already substandard service.
    You know in most cities there is a much more solid and regular bus service.

  3. artart

    This union stuff gets more distasteful all the time. Not only is the city likely overpaying those workers but is paying 150K cause the city is not allowed to deal with unions?

    Is it possible to put the whole contract to run the bus service out to bid and give it to the lowest bidder…..get rid of unions and save the 150K in management fees. Unions that feed at the expense of the taxpayers are merely parasites. In private industry unions are constrained by a company’s profits (with exceptions like GM which the unions helped put out of business basically), however these public sector unions can just push and push and all governments have to do is up everyones taxes. Unions are bad for America these days, and a strong case can be made that the increased strength of teachers unions are directly responsible for the decline of education.

  4. Piffy!

    [b]a strong case can be made that the increased strength of teachers unions are directly responsible for the decline of education. [/b]

    That is as patently false as it is off-topic.

  5. Jackie L Nunn

    I just relocated here from down state to be near the VA facility. I tried riding the ” Bus “. You had to ” Hang on ” with both hands or be thrown into the aisle , and when I asked the driver to please be aware of my disbilities and realize I ” COULD NOT ” survive a violent crash onto the floor , he called me a troublemaker and ” PUT ME OFF ” at a stop I didn’t have the slightest idea how to get home from . As I exited , he threatened to ” Fight me ” because of my comments .Thankfully a young couple came to my rescue and helped me get home.

  6. Curious

    The article states: “North Carolina statutes don’t allow municipal governments to deal with unions,” Echeverry says, while federal labor laws don’t allow the dismantling of the union. So the city pays a management company $150,000 a year to negotiate the contract and manage relations with the union on the city’s behalf.

    This doesn’t make sense. Yes, indeed, North Carolina does not allow municipal governments to deal with unions. But why does the city HAVE to employ the members of the Transit Union? It wouldn’t have to “dismantle” the union to say to applicants for bus driver positions, “We can employ you as an individual, but we can’t sign your union contract. You can work directly for us as a city employee, not as a union member.” Someone please explain.
    Also, please identify the “management company” who earns $150,000 for “negotiating” a contract.

  7. Politics Watcher

    Why doesn’t Councilman Bothwell get onto this issue?

  8. artart

    Bothwell is too busy trying to turn Asheville into a sanctuary city so illegal aliens can come here in droves and be safe and he can waste even more taxpayer money. He does not care about Unions ripping off taxpayers. Why does it seem the so-called Asheville progressives get elected and then think it gives them thr right to pursue their personal agendas with other peoples money?

  9. Mysterylogger

    Nope new named one Artart nailed it on the head. Not that they are facing cuts I bet they are glad they wasted that $10,000 worthless art project.

  10. Gordon Smith

    Thanks for all the thoughtful comments, y’all.

    This item was paid for with last year’s budget. That is, the current iteration of Council didn’t vote on this one.

    Asheville’s reputation as an arts destination is enhanced by this marketing effort, a cooperative move that will also boost the profile of public transit. The money serves those two purposes while, as an added bonus, supporting local artists who will spend their money here in Asheville.

    An effective marketing strategy is essential for a successful transit system.

  11. JWTJr

    Good ole organized labor. Those drivers were getting so screwed. Its refreshing their union is looking out for us all.

    Oh wait … they’re looking out for themselves at our expense. How wonderful of them.

  12. dpewen

    Thanks for the reply Gordon … I love the art work and I hope you guys can help find more funding for the bus system.

  13. JWTJr

    “a strong case can be made that the increased strength of teachers unions are directly responsible for the decline of education.

    That is as patently false as it is off-topic.”

    pff – union participation is on target for this discussion. artart offered a parallel to what the city is dealing with on the bus driver and the added expense/effort their union status creates.

    Do you feel that the teachers union resistance to performance measurement has a zero impact on educational results?

  14. Piffy!

    [b]Do you feel that the teachers union resistance to performance measurement has a zero impact on educational results? [/b]

    I took and take exception with the idea that ‘teachers unions’ are ‘directly responsible for the decline of education’.

    There are FAR more contributors to the ‘decline of education’ than teachers unions; state and federal funding cuts for one, while class sizes continue to increase. But that might make it less easy to blame teachers for your kid being an idiot.

  15. JWTJr

    I’m not saying they are directly responsible. Many factors are in play as you said. However, their resistance to change is one factor.

  16. Piffy!

    Yes, JayDub but, again, the statement which i was taking exception with was that the teahcer’s union was “directly responsible for the decline of education. ”

    If the statement had been “their resistance to change is one factor” i would not have taken exception whatsoever, as it would be far more accurate, being of an entirely different tone and substance.

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