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The Rapid board passes budget, raises fares, but leaves union dispute unresolved for now

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

In October, people will have to pay more money to ride the bus in Grand Rapids.

Cash fares will cost a $1.75. That’s more than it costs to ride the bus in Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Detroit.

“I’m not trippin’ about it,” Trill Bettison said, while waiting at Central Station Wednesday night.

“What they could do is raise minimum wage, at least minimum wage, you know what I’m saying?”

He says he usually buys passes, which are cheaper than cash fares in the long run.

That’s what CEO Peter Varga is hoping people will do.

“The whole purpose was to get people to buy multi ride tickets to make it easier for them to board. We gave deeper discounts on that than other agencies and the cash fare was higher as a  result, so there’s a balance there,” Varga said.

Officials will work on ways to improve access for those with very low incomes.

But the board didn’t resolve a big labor dispute that brought standing room only crowds to its meeting.

Drivers like Mitch Waste are mad their defined benefit pension is at risk.

“For 14 years I’ve been knowing that I’m going to have a pension. It’s not, we’re not asking for anything new. This is something we already had,” Waste said.

Union president Richard Jackson thinks they can reach an agreement, despite a new federal lawsuit. There’s a hearing in that case this afternoon.

“There’s a lot of people, smart people on both sides of the table. More than enough brain power to come to a real resolve, if they’re willing to bargain in good faith,” Jackson said. So far, he says workers don’t feel management has bargained in good faith.

The contract expires Saturday. It’s not clear what will happen if it is not extended.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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