Transit users voice their strike concerns

Some transit users are considering other options while affected groups rally against the Metro Transit strike.

Britt Johnsen

University sophomore Keith Coggshall said he is so furious about the transit strike that he is thinking of transferring to another college.

Because he has no other transportation, Coggshall said he must bike from his home near the airport to the University and to work in downtown Minneapolis. Round trip, he said he travels as many as 15 miles daily.

Because of the inconvenience, he said he has e-mailed his concerns several times to Metropolitan Council Chairman and University Regent Peter Bell. He said Bell did not respond.

“It is as if he doesn’t care,” Coggshall said. “Which is not becoming for a regent, and his attitude is leaving a black stain on the University.”

Bell said he often hears from the public about its transportation issues. He said he receives approximately 20 phone calls per day from transit users who want buses back.

Because Bell has not ended the strike, Coggshall said, he is considering transferring schools.

“If this is the decision he is making for the citizens in the state, what kind of decisions is he making for the University?”

Coggshall is one of many around the Twin Cities voicing their tire and aggravation over the strike.

The strike, 26 days old today, is between the Met Council, which oversees Metro Transit, and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, which represents 2,150 Metro Transit employees. The main dispute regards health-care issues.

Also voicing opinions about the strike is Advocating Change Together, a St. Paul organization dedicated to improving rights for disabled people. The group organized a rally Friday to show their desire for a resolution.

John Smith, an adviser to the group, attended the rally and said he wanted to remind people that the strike affects those with disabilities.

Smith is also an employee at the Institute on Community Integration, a University group for people with developmental disabilities.

During the rally outside the Met Council, many voiced how the strike affects them and sang songs pleading for the strike to end.

“I called a taxi to get me a ride/ But when the cabbie showed/ A faster walker beat me to the street/ And stole my transit home,” some sang.

To address other transportation concerns, there will be a discussion at 9 a.m. today at the State Office Building.

Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Senior Fellow Tim Penny and other officials will discuss highway construction, light-rail transit and other issues, said Liz Marquez, Humphrey Institute program associate.

Even though there are many concerns, Bell said there are no talks scheduled and no change anytime soon.

Bell has said the current contract offer to the union is the Met Council’s “last, best and final offer.”

Meanwhile, the union also stands firm. They will rally at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Hennepin County Government Center, an official said.

“We will be out here as long as it takes to get a fair contract,” said Ron Lloyd, union president.