Commuters smiling as Denver buses, trains get rolling |

Commuters smiling as Denver buses, trains get rolling

DENVER – Trains and buses started rolling again Monday to the delight of thousands of Denver-area commuters who had to find another way to get to work during a weeklong transit strike.”I’m incredibly happy,” said Rebecca Popowitz, 22, who does not own a car and had to walk or used the slower, pared-down bus service that still ran during the strike. “Grocery shopping was a bit of a pain because I had to lug it all back home.”The Regional Transportation District’s 1,750 union mechanics, bus drivers and train operators walked off the job April 3 after rejecting a contract offer that their union leaders had recommended. The strike shut down all train service and more than half the bus routes in a seven-county area.On Friday, the workers overwhelming approved a new contract with the same overall wage increase but a larger initial raise.The morning commute started smoothly, state transportation officials said.Bus driver Len Robinson said he believed passengers would not hold the strike against him or other union members.”I didn’t hire on to strike, but I believe in standing up for ourselves,” he said. “I’m thinking they’ll be glad we’re back.”Ahmad Lucas of Denver, who hitched rides with co-workers to get to his hospital job during the strike, said: “People shouldn’t be upset at the drivers because they’ve got to make a living, too.”Under the new contract, workers will get a raise of $1.80 an hour over three years, starting with 50 cents an hour retroactive to March 1. The transit agency will also increase its contribution for workers’ health insurance.The agency serves Denver and seven surrounding counties, an area with about 2.5 million residents. It averages about 275,000 rides per weekday.

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