Weather a concern for commuters in the face of a possible bus strike. (Photo : Lawrence Plug)

Bus strike could affect 24K students

Strike could happen first week of February


There might be more students walking around Halifax on Feb. 2. Halifax Metro Transit is threatening to strike. The union representing Metro Transit workers rejected a contract offer from the city with the support of 98.4 per cent  of those who voted.

The city and Local 508 of the Amalgamated Transit Union are miles apart according to a report in the Chronicle Herald.

According to the Maritime Province Higher Education Commission, Halifax's five main universities had 24,254 students eligible for the U-Pass during the 2010-2011 school year. All full-time students have to buy a U-Pass as part of their tuition fees, and costs $137. The pass lasts eight months, from September to April.

In the event of a strike, Metro Transit would reimburse the universities for the unused portion of the U-Pass, though specific figures haven't been released.

Metro Transit has not returned calls for this story.

For students who live in Dartmouth, it could cost roughly $25 just to get home by taxi.

During transit strikes in Ottawa and London, Ont., Carleton University and the University of Western Ontario set up shuttle services for students.

Bus drivers, as well as other Metro Transit staff, are concerned about job security, and say the contract process has been rushed. The city had made an offer, which was rejected on Jan. 22. A strike could begin in 14 days.

The last transit strike started in June 2008 lasting a month.

York students in the middle of similar strike

York University students are coping with a transit strike that started Oct. 24, 2011.

York Region Transit drivers and mechanics are lobbying for salary increases, hoping to be more on par with other transit services in the Toronto area. Sixty per cent of transit service employees are on strike as groups headed back to negotiations this past weekend.

York Federation of Students Vice-President Alastair Woods says student frustration is "at a boiling point." Woods, who is responsible for the union's and advocacy, said student discontent is rising as temperatures drop and snow piles up. The union represents 52K undergraduate students at York.

"People have found ways to get to campus without the YRT but it causes a lot of headaches and delays for people," said Woods.

Parts of York are serviced by the Toronto Transit Commission and GO Transit, but York's transit system is far from comprehensive.

Students are turning to carpooling, co-ordinating drop-offs with family, or planning different routes, often doubling or tripling transit times.

Woods explained working students are also affected, "When you have a class that ends at four and then work at five. What should have been a half-hour bus ride turns into an hour and a half trek."

Reports estimate 44,000 commuters are affected by the strike.



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