Denver Transit Workers Back on the Job

Trains and buses were rolling again early Monday after a weeklong transit strike sent thousands of commuters across the Denver area scrambling for rides to work.

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 wage increase but a larger initial raise.

The system was back in operation at 2 a.m. Monday, and the morning commute started smoothly, state Department of Transportation officials said. During the strike, traffic on U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder had been up about 13 percent.

Bus driver Len Robinson said he expected passengers wouldn't 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."

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 remainder will come in smaller quarterly increments through Dec. 1, 2008. The RTD will also increase its contribution for workers' health insurance.

The RTD serves Denver and seven surrounding counties, an area with about 2.5 million residents. It averages about 275,000 rides per weekday.