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Work stoppage begins as drivers negotiate contract with First Transit

Some riders of the MTS minibus and paratransit “Access” service can’t get the rides they need. Drivers are striking against the company MTS hires to run the service. KPBS reporter John Carroll tells us this may be just the start of labor troubles in transit services.

Update: As of Thursday morning, normal service is operating for the MTS South Bay bus division, MTS said. Minibus and paratransit service will continue to have missed trips due to a work stoppage.

Transit riders who use the Metropolitan Transit System's minibus and Access service should look for alternate methods of transportation Wednesday, as a work stoppage between the private operator and labor got underway.

First Transit, which operates the services, is in contract negotiations with its bus operators, represented by Teamsters Local 542.

"Both parties are hopeful that an agreement will be made soon," according to an MTS statement.


Teamsters were picketing outside First Transit in El Centro as of Tuesday morning, according to the local's Twitter feed.

The principal officer of Teamsters 542, Jaime Vasquez, said the working conditions and wages for drivers in El Centro are deplorable.

“$15.60 an hour.  I mean, it’s just ridiculous; and having to wait over 20 years to get the top rate? That top rate is only $23 an hour," Vasquez said.

He added that this current strike is just the tip of the iceberg. Vasquez said Teamsters Local 683, which covers MTS yard workers in Chula Vista, is going into negotiations tomorrow. And Vasquez said other MTS drivers in San Diego who are covered by a different contract, have also authorized a strike.

“Everything could blow up and all of a sudden you have San Diego crippled because we may all be on strike as well," said Vasquez.


The following minibus routes may be impacted: 14, 18, 83, 84, 870, 944, 945A, and the following Sorrento Valley COASTER Connection: Routes 972, 973, 978, 979.

The following bus routes out of the South Bay division may be impacted: 1, 3, 5, 27, 28, 35, 225, 701, 704, 705, 709, 712, 901, 904, 905, 906, 907, 909, 916, 917, 923, 929, 932, 933, 934, 950/950A, 955, 961, 962, 963, 967, 968, 992.

Members of Teamsters Local 543 picket outside First Transit in El Centro, California. April 26, 2023.
Chris Martinez
Members of Teamsters Local 543 picket outside First Transit in El Centro, California. April 26, 2023.

According to MTS, First Transit/Transdev will continue to fill as many trips as possible with qualified providers and drivers while the work stoppage is in effect.

Passengers can check the MTS Alerts & Detours webpage for updates and most accurate service information. Passengers can also contact MTS Information & Trip Planning for assistance at 619-233-3004, or use the online trip planner. MTS Access riders can call 888-517-9627 or visit here for recommended alternative transportation options.

"MTS will update the public as more information is received, but urges the public to plan ahead for this potential disruption," a statement from the transit agency reads. "MTS Trolley is unaffected and will operate according to schedule."