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Tallying Bus Strike’s Impact on Business : Economy: Shopping areas claim they lost millions in revenue, while taxi companies say they enjoyed a boom.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With bus service returning to normal today, Los Angeles businesses and their workers are starting to recover from the nine-day transit strike that is estimated to have cost the community $18 million in wages, sales and efficiency.

Worst hit by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority strike were shopping areas that depend on bus-riding customers and businesses whose employees commute to work by bus. The losses came to $1.5 million a day in Downtown Los Angeles alone.

Most of those employees were able to piece together rides on the skeletal bus system and in car pools to get to work. But those longer commutes cut into workdays, which therefore cut into paychecks and productivity, said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County.

But taxi companies profited from the grounding of more than 80% of the MTA’s fleet of 1,900 buses. Business nearly tripled at Independent Cab Co., where workers fielded 400 calls an hour, up from 150.

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At Beverly Hills Cab Co., Operations Manager Vanik Zadurian said that “everyone was jumping in front of a cab in intersections or jumping right into the cabs. Our drivers were making extra money, but our steady customers were complaining” of longer waits for taxis.

About 2,600 commuters called Commuter Transportation Services for ride-sharing information during the strike--almost double the number for a normal nine-day period, spokeswoman Roberta Tinajero said.

But car pools didn’t work for everyone. At Yaohan Supermarket in Little Tokyo, some transit-dependent employees could not make the commute from Torrance. “Some of our employees started taking vacations early to avoid the time they were going to miss,” store manager Tomokuni Seya said.

Shoppers stayed home too. Traffic at Eagle Rock Plaza was off 50% during the strike, store managers said.

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“Most of our business comes in from the buses, and since the strike it’s just been terrible,” said Sandra Prado, a supervisor at Accessory Place in the mall.

Those who did make it were sometimes greeted by cranky employees who had to commute without regular MTA service, said Keith Pickett, who works at a Santa Monica Place information booth and saw his commute grow from 45 minutes to three hours.

“They have more of an attitude and they are a lot more worn out than normal,” he said.

Personnel managers at area hotels welcomed the end of the strike, which made it tough for housekeeping employees to get to work on time. About one-fifth of the 250 workers at the Holiday Inn in Hollywood ride the bus, and many “were either late or were very tired and kind of stressed,” said Otho Boggs, human resources director for the hotel.

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But some of the region’s largest employers said they felt the least impact. Because of their size, they were able to organize in-house ride-sharing programs and provide additional parking for employees who drove to work.

Though nearly one-third of Atlantic Richfield Co.'s 1,500 Downtown employees ride the bus, spokesman Scott Loll said, “we did not feel any great impact. There was enough warning for people to find alternative means of transportation.”


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