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