- Associated Press - Friday, April 4, 2014

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - The buses were rolling again Friday in Vermont’s largest county, ending a nearly three-week strike that forced almost 10,000 people a day to find alternative ways to get to school, jobs or appointments.

There was a sense of relief rather than bitterness among the riders at the Chittenden County Transportation Authority’s main bus station on Cherry Street in downtown Burlington.

“I’m just glad the strike is over and they met halfway and it’s over. It’s been a hard winter,” said Maria Twitty of Burlington, who was waiting for the bus just after 7 a.m. Friday to take her daughter to school, then visit her mother.

Twitty said she and her daughter walked a lot during the 18-day strike.

“Oh my goodness, it was a lot of exercise,” she said.

The strike, which began March 17, was the first in the 40-year history of the CCTA, whose buses carry about 9,700 people a day, including about 2,400 Burlington public school students. Both sides had haggled over wages, disciplinary action from anonymous tips, part-time drivers and split shifts.

Fare-free service will run through April 13 as a gift to riders for the inconvenience.

Driver Derek Lorrain had spent much of the strike picketing on Church Street, adjacent to the Cherry Street station. By early Friday he was back on the road, having driven to Milton before he was scheduled to drive throughout the city.

He said hadn’t heard any complaints from the riders.

“I had expected a little grief from some of them, but, you know, so far so good. They’re happy to see us and we’re happy to see them,” Lorrain said.

The union voted overwhelmingly Thursday for the new contract. The CCTA board ratified the contract later Thursday, clearing the way for the drivers to return to the road.

In a statement issued late Thursday, CCTA said officials were pleased with the new contract and they thanked drivers for helping the company resume service quickly.

For Lorrain, the sticking point in the negotiations was disciplinary procedures and the length of shifts. He said he felt the union did well in the new contract.

“In negotiations you ask for a lot and you come out with the most important things that you can get,” Lorrain said.

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