2010-05-21 / Top Stories

MTA Seeks To Cut Rockaway Summer Special Buses

By Howard Schwach

MTA buses such as this one often take beachgoers to Rockaway during hot summer weekends. MTA buses such as this one often take beachgoers to Rockaway during hot summer weekends. You would not think that special bus runs to Rockaway on summer weekends could become controversial, but the runs, which require overtime payments for drivers, have become one centerpiece battle between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and its union.

Officials for the MTA call the summer bus program “arcane,” and argue that it is an “example of work rules that make it very difficult to utilize employees and tax dollars as efficiently as possible.”

Union officials say that the MTA’s disapproval of the program shows “a lack of understanding of its own operations,” adding, “Those extra runs are special and are not part of the normal job. The MTA makes a lot of money on those runs and drivers are doing them a favor by giving up their weekends in the process.”

At issue is a rule in the contract between the MTA and TWU Local 100, which mandates that five bus drivers be added to the beach-bound Q53 route every weekend in July and August – whether it is sunny and hot or it is cold and stormy.

The drivers are guaranteed at least three hours of overtime, at time and a half payment even if the weather is bad and the buses are not needed on the beach run.

Union sources say the rule was negotiated long before the MTA took control of the Triborough Coach Company, which has been making the beach run for decades.

Those sources say that the extra runs are most often necessary and that the contract provision is “reasonable.”

The MTA, however, will attempt to do away with the work rule and the extra buses, assigning drivers to the run only as needed, an agency spokesperson said.

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