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A look back at the Santa Cruz bus strike

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  • 1/1 Santa Cruz Sentinel
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 4, 2006
      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
      the inconvenience.

      "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@...
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