Published Sunday, January 1, 2006, in the Santa Cruz Sentinel
Riders struggled to get around during strike
Editor's note: This is another installment in a year-end series of
stories on the people and events that made headlines in 2005. The
series concludes today.
By Genevieve Bookwalter
During the 35-day Metro bus strike, rider Marcus Banuelos said he
often walked two hours from his home near 41st Avenue to work as
program coordinator at the Homeless Services Center on Coral Street.
His twice-weekly visits to family in Watsonville were put on hold, as
were trips to see his dying sister in Monterey.
Banuelos' tribulations were nothing compared to clients at the
shelter, he said, some of whom lost jobs they were depending on to
save money and move into their own place.
"People who are homeless and had almost gotten out of here, it set
them back to almost starting over again," he said.
Those were just a few of 23,000 each day who were stuck looking for
transportation after Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District drivers
went on strike Sept. 27. For 35 days they walked, rode bicycles,
hailed cabs and bummed rides to get to work, school and the store.
Along with bus drivers' union leader, Bonnie Morr, the thousands of
stranded bus passengers are the Sentinel's 2005 newsmaker of the year.
Some riders supported the drivers and welcomed them back with roses or
bottles of wine. During the strike, a group of UC Santa Cruz students
staged rallies, stormed Metro board member and UCSC lecturer Mike
Rotkin's office, and staged a 9:30 p.m. weeknight protest at Metro
board member Dene Bustichi's house.
Others riders swore never to board the bus again.
Banuelos said some of his homeless clients just wouldn't return to the
shelter at night, instead sleeping outside work in places as far as
Half Moon Bay or San Jose.
Christopher Myren, general manager of Best Western All Suite Inn on
Ocean Street in Santa Cruz, said about half his housekeeping staff
lives in Watsonville and had no way to get to their jobs. He and
other staff often used their own cars to pick up employees during the
While he's glad buses are running again, Myren said the district could
have done more than give a week of free rides to compensate people for
"They ran the bus free for a week? I mean, look at all the people
that had to suffer for a month," Myren said. Not only were folks
forced to drive more, he said, but oil and gas prices were sky high
after hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast and disrupted
Many of those new drivers were UCSC students and employees, who
crammed the campus with cars and turned Coolidge Drive into a parking
Cabrillo College was in little better shape, and students from both
campuses were forced to drop classes because they couldn't get there.
As for Banuelos, he would occasionally catch a ride or call a taxi,
but cabs cost about $15 each way to work, which gets expensive. As a
result, the swelling and problems with one of his feet got worse.
Banuelos said he held both sides responsible for the ordeal.
"I think maybe there was a little bit of stubbornness there, people
didn't want to budge," Banuelos said. "I can't blame one certain
party or one certain group. I just hope it doesn't happen again."
Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at gbookwalter@...