The wildcat strike by Metro transit workers collapsed in its seventh day yesterday, but not before Washington area residents were subjected to another battle with unusually heavy traffic.
Metro officials said they expected to provide full bus and subway service today for the first time in a week. Area police and traffic departments announced plans to restore exclusive bus lanes and no-parking restrictions that they had relaxed during the strike to make way for the flood of automobiles that overwhelmed downtown areas.
Yesterday evening's rush hour saw full subway service and 93 percent of all scheduled bus service, according to Metro officials. However, bus transportation was an uncertain thing yesterday morning, and many people made the decision early to drive.
"I'm glad it's back," said Dora Towns, a D.C. resident, as she boarded a Blue Line train at the Foggy Botton station.
"It's about time," another woman said while waiting for her bus at 12th and G streets NW. She said she had been "put out of work for four days" because of the strike.
Metro officials estimated that the subway was carrying "medium-to-heavy" loads and that buses were carrying about half their normal evening crowd. The heaviest ridership appeared to be on the North Arlington and western Fairfax county lines, which are served by the Arlington Division - the first one to break the bus strike as a unit.
Almost all of the evening rush-hour buses that missed their runs came from either the Four-Mile Run garage in South Arlington or the giant Bladensburh garage in Northeast Washington. But even in those two garages a large majority of buses scheduled were dispatched.
Metro officials were quietly pleased that the strike was apparently over without any concessions on their part, but they were maintaining a low profile and holding no victory parties.
Metro employes will get full paychecks today, according to officials, because the computer that prints checks runs 10 days behind paydays. Next week, however, the cost of not working will be reflected in the checks.
In U.S. District Court, Judge Thomas A. Flannery found Metro employes William Powell and George Goodwin guilty of contempt for violating the court's order to stop striking and fined each of them $100. They face further disciplinary actions from Metro than could range from suspension to dismissal.
A third contempt case, against employe Gary Young, was continued until Monday.
Flannery also signed orders directing two more Metro employes.Eugene Ray and M.J. Golash, to show why they should not be held in contempt. Metro charged in court papers that both took an active role in last Sunday's meeting at RFK Stadium when strikers voted to continue their walkout.
While Flannery was hearing those cases in court, area residents were beginning to make their way home. Dave Devine, of the D.C. Department of Transportation, reported that traffic was "heavy but moving pretty well."
The big problems, Devine said, were 14th Street outbound to Shirley Highway and M Street NW in Georgetown, two bottlenecks in the best of times. There was no repeat of Monday's monumental West End traffic jam, which was exacerbated by a number of minor accidents.
"People weren't sure about the bus situation this morning so they drove in and now have to drive out," Devine said. "I'd say people have adjusted pretty well." Once again, the morning rush hour began much earlier than usual as strike-wise commuters attempted to beat the downtown crush and to find parking spaces once they got downtown.
It was obvious early yesterday morning that the strike was breaking. Full subway service started on both Red and Blue Lines at 6 a.m., as scheduled.
The drivers from many of the bus garages had held decided to join the Arlington Division in returning. By 8 a.m., when Metro should have 1,567 buses on the road, three-fourths of them were, although many had started late.
The last big problem was at the Four-Mile Run garage in Virginia, which provides much of the service for the Shirley Highway express lanes and the 14th Street Bridge corridor.
Not all the drivers were happy about events. But regardless of how they felt, they were returning. When the strike started as a mechanics' walkout last Wednesday, the demand was that Metro pay immediately a 20 cent-an-hour, cost-of-living increase that Metro insisted was properly under arbitration.
Then, as Metro held firm to that position and began to take legal actions against the strikers, the demand became one for amnesty. Metro General Manager Theodore C. Lutz insisted that normal disciplinary procedures would be followed. Twenty three strikers were suspended by Metro officials.
"A lost of us are upset about what's going to happen to those 23 guys," said Warren Jackson, a driver from the Bladensburg Division. "The union ought to protect them. If we didn't go back to work, Metro would have to do something. . . Then union is supposed to be the buffer between us and the company. Well, the buffer broke down. It's useless. So we're all alone in the middle."
Local 689 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents 4,500 of Metro's 4,800 unionized transit workers, disavowed the strike from the beginning and worked, although ineffectively to end it.
Another striker said that Metro suceeded in breaking the strike by getting the subway open Monday morning Metro, using supervisors to run some trains and administrative personnel to man a few stations, got the subway fully operational by mid-morning Monday. With that accomplished, the moon-hour shift of both station attendants and train operated reported in full.
"When the (bus) drivers saw that the rail was running, they got shaky," the striker said. "We could have broken them if we'd stayed out completely because of the economic and political pressure. But these guys didn't realize it. They got demoralized. They were stampeded psychologically and they surrendered."
The same psychology was used yesterday morning. Bus supervisors would announce the percentage of returning drivers at other garages to reluctant drivers at their garages.
"At 6 a.m., they were telling us all buses in P.G. were rolling when three were only eight on the street," a Bladensburg driver said. "They did things like that all over town. The guys believed, so they went back. They were tricked."
Metro and Local 639 agreed in Flanery's court yesterday morning to expedite grievance procedures for those employes who will be disciplined because of strike activity. Metro also agreed that it will name all such employes by Aug. 3.
John R. Kennedy, Metro's general counsel, hearing that 23 employes already suspended "will be permitted to return to work pending determination of the discipline to be imposed. . . Early return to work will be taken into consideration." However, he said, employes found in contempt would be suspended immediately.
Permitting suspended employes to return pending final action was termed "conciliatory" by Lawrence Speiser, attorney for some of the strikers.
Lutz, like many of his key lieutenants, was exhausted by the strike but pleased it was over, and that "we are now in position to provide service," as he put it.
"Our approach all along has been to insist that there are legally authorized remedies, and that approach has been followed," he said.