Thousands of commuters scrambled to find rides to work Monday after transportation workers in the Denver area went on strike for the first time in 24 years, shutting down rail service and more than half the region’s bus routes.
Highway officials said Denver thoroughfares ran smoothly during the morning rush but some off-ramps were backing up more than usual.
Commuters, many surprised that the union rejected the Regional Transportation District’s latest offer, drove to work or caught one of the few buses running. RTD officials expected to be able to keep about 45 percent of the bus routes operating amid the strike but said rail service, regional service and transit centers would be down.
“I didn’t think they were going to strike,” said Phil Mainelli, who caught a bus to downtown from south Denver.
Striking workers were on the picket lines early Monday, some holding signs that read: “RTD put us on the street, but we’d rather be serving you.”
The transit operator maintains bus and light-rail systems in Denver and many surrounding towns, a service area with about 2.5 million residents. It had 86.2 million passengers boardings last year and averages about 275,000 per weekday.
Union leadership had recommended approval of RTD’s latest labor proposal, but 55 percent of workers rejected the offer. No new talks were immediately scheduled.
“It’s very disappointing,” said transit spokesman Scott Reed. “We had the largest wage rate increase offer in RTD’s history on the table, and we agreed to do exactly what the union requested, which was split possible future health care cost increases.”
RTD officials said they would keep 45 percent of the system’s bus routes operating, but rail service, regional service and transit centers would be shut down.
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