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MTA overtime limits could hamper service

The Baltimore Sun

Riders of Maryland Transit Administration buses could face longer waits and less reliable service as a result of stricter overtime limits adopted because of budget cuts, the agency said yesterday.

Jawauna Greene, an MTA spokeswoman, said the agency can no longer exceed its overtime cap when employees call in with an unscheduled absence or are late for work. In such cases, the agency may be forced to skip runs on certain routes.

"There will never be an instance where the entire line is shut down, but there may be delays," Greene said. She said that on Monday the MTA had nine bus runs canceled and seven delayed out of the hundreds it makes. She did not have figures for yesterday.

The changes are part of the MTA's effort to trim about $25 million from its $437 million annual operating budget in response to an unexpected drop in transportation revenues as gas prices soared and car sales stagnated.

Last week, the MTA announced plans to scrap a half-dozen commuter bus routes serving Baltimore and Washington and to trim services on other bus routes and MARC trains.

Greene said that earlier the MTA abolished 63 jobs - 43 vacant positions and 20 that were filled. She said the agency has also eliminated all travel and discretionary purchases.

The new policy on overtime will be accompanied by stricter enforcement of existing union contracts with regard to work shifts and leave, Greene said.

"You need people to abide by the agreements they've signed," she said. "We do need to work with our unions."

The MTA has contracts with its operators, machinists and police officers, Greene said.

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