Parking supplies U-area needs

Britt Johnsen

When regular bus rider Frank Barnett arrived at the University at 9 a.m. Thursday, he said he was especially irate to find out the Buckeye lot on Huron Boulevard was full. He said he had to resort to a more expensive lot to park his car.

“It’s a huge problem because I don’t have money,” the University graduate student said. “I’m a broke student. I can’t afford to do that.”

Lori Ann Vicich, marketing manager for Parking and Transportation Services, said although the Buckeye lot was full by 8 a.m., parking on campus was not a problem.

“The parking demand is way below what we expected,” she said. “It’s pretty shocking, overall, that people are that resourceful.”

The transit strike began early Thursday. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 and the Metropolitan Council have been unable to agree on contract health-care and wage issues since May. The union represents 2,150 Metro Transit employees.

Vicich said although there are 14,000 U-Pass and Metropass customers, less than 500 newly available spaces were used on campus Thursday and there were several hundred more spots still available throughout the day.

Vicich also said bike racks were not full. With 6,500 racks on campus, the department does not anticipate a need for extra bike space, she said.

The University shuttle buses were more full than usual, but Vicich said there are no plans to bring in any more buses because the demand is not significant. If there is a larger demand and the department experiences problems, though, bringing in more buses is something it would consider, she said.

“If people keep carpooling and coming early, we’ll be just fine,” Vicich said.

More students are carpooling, said Sam Ero-Phillips, president of Commuter Connection, a student group dedicated to getting area students to meet and commute together.

He said the group had at least 15 new students sign up at a meeting today.

But students like Barnett said they are very upset about spending more money and do not side with the union.

“Nobody has money,” he said. “I think bus drivers are being a little unreasonable.”

Meanwhile, junior Laurie Hyrkas said she will do what it takes to support the strike. Thursday she took a Minnesota Valley Transit Authority bus to school and a Southwest Metro Transit bus from the University to her Northfield, Minn., home.

“I support the drivers,” she said. “They have something to fight for. We have to make an adjustment to that.”

Other union supporters rallied Thursday at Metro Transit headquarters in Minneapolis. Included were University clerical workers from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800.

“It’s the same issue,” said University clerical worker and union member Polly Peterson, who participated in the clerical workers’ strike last fall. “(Met Council Chairman and University Regent) Peter Bell’s back again.”

Peterson was one of the hundreds of people cheering among choruses of trumpet-blowing and car horn honking.

When Ronald Lloyd, the union’s president, came out, things did not get calmer.

“I’ll be here as long as it takes,” Lloyd said. “I have two years left in my term. I’ve got two years to stand out here.”

Metro Transit driver Sheba Bynum said she had been outside since 2 a.m. when the strike first began. She said she planned to be out until 8 p.m. Thursday.

“I hope it’s over tonight (Thursday),” she said with bloodshot eyes. “But we have to laugh and try to make the best of it or sit at home and cry.”

Bell said there are currently no plans to meet for renegotiations. He also said because the strike has begun, the right to arbitrate is void.

“All bets are off,” Bell said.

“We had our last, best and final offer. We’re going back to the drawing board.”