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Metro Vancouver transit strike: Here’s how your commute may be affected

Click to play video 'Transit users prepare for congested commute ahead of full bus strike' Transit users prepare for congested commute ahead of full bus strike
Transit users across Metro Vancouver are preparing to plot out their commute in advance of Unifor's plans for a full out bus and SeaBus strike next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Jill Bennett reports – Nov 23, 2019

Some bus routes are being impacted as the union representing 5,000 Metro Vancouver transit operators and maintenance workers continues job action.

The cancellations and service reductions have been linked to a ban on overtime that began on Nov. 1 for maintenance workers. Drivers and SeaBus operators are also working out of uniform. Bus drivers have also been refusing overtime on alternating days, including Friday.

READ MORE: Transit strike Day 23: North Shore businesses suffering as SeaBus cancellations continue

A system-wide shutdown is expected on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Here’s what you need to know about how your commute might be affected and what happens next.

Click to play video 'Focus BC: Friday, November 22' Focus BC: Friday, November 22
Focus BC: Friday, November 22 – Nov 22, 2019

What’s cancelled?

There were no SeaBus sailings cancelled Tuesday afternoon.

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CMBC president Michael McDaniel has explained that every SeaBus trip must have an engineer aboard, and the company does not have enough engineers to operate all three SeaBuses without workers on overtime most days.

When the strike began, McDaniel said CMBC had roughly 1,300 buses in active service and 150 spares on standby. Once those spares are all put on the roads, McDaniel said service disruptions would begin quickly.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver bus, SeaBus job action has begun. Here’s what you need to know

TransLink said customers could also see “frequency reduction” on some bus routes.

TransLink is not providing a list of affected bus routes, as it says the situation is fluid and expected to change throughout the day.

An up-to-date list of specific trip cancellations can be found here, and commuters can also sign up for transit alerts.

TransLink is advising passengers to watch its website and Twitter feed for information on possible disruptions, and to leave extra time for their commutes.

Alternate options to get around

Carpool

Post-secondary institutions such as UBC and SFU are urging students to carpool to campus.

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UBC, SFU and BCIT have all posted guides and links on how to organize carpools among friend groups, classes and offices, along with other strike information.

Students have set up a Facebook Group to coordinate carpooling.

If students and faculty don’t know anyone with a vehicle, they can also sign up for Poparide.

Students aren’t the only ones coordinating carpool rides.

Users of the social media platform Reddit have also set up a thread to coordinate shared rides.

Some Metro Vancouver residents are also turning to the new social media app NextDoor, which operates web forums linked to specific geographic neighbourhoods, in order to arrange carpool rides with their neighbours.

An SFU student’s had planned to hire a private charter bus to take students up and down the mountain during peak school hours from Wednesday to Friday, when bus and SeaBus workers plan to walk off the job and bring the transit system to a halt,  but said the charter company he had been in contact with wants a $3,000 payment up front, which he cannot afford.

Car share

Car-share company Evo says signups are about 20 per cent up from this time last year, and that it expects interest to go up as job action escalates.

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The company is urging members to carpool with its vehicles, and to book in advance if possible, and says it will be working to relocate cars along the SkyTrain system and busy transit corridors.

Share Now (formerly Car2Go) says it has 1,200 vehicles in the market, and is reminding users they can book a vehicle up to 30 minutes before a trip.

Other options include Zipcar and Modo Car Co-op.

Bicycle

It might be cold, but weather forecasts for the anticipated three-day bus system shutdown are predicting clear and dry weather.

Navdeep Chhina with non-profit Hub Cycling said the strike is a chance for people to see how riding a bike could change their daily commute.

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“Research shows that cycling or walking is often a faster and more reliable mode of transportation if their commute is less than three kilometres,” he said.

Hub is planning some on-the-street initiatives to support cyclists during the strike and says Hub members are also eligible for tune-up discounts at dozens of local bike shops.

Chhina added that now is a good time to buy a bike, with many stores offering end-of-season sales.

TransLink is relaxing its policy about taking bikes on trains during peak periods, but is asking people to keep bicycles to the rear train car.

People who do not own a bike can take advantage of one of Vancouver’s 2,000 Mobi by Shaw Go bikeshare bikes.

Mobi bikes are only available in Vancouver, as far west as Kitsilano, as far east as Victoria Drive, and as far south as 18th Avenue.

Hitchiking

The Surrey RCMP says hitchhiking is not illegal per-se, but being on the roadway to solicit a ride is. Hitchhiking is also illegal on numbered highways.

Police warn that while the practice is common in parts of the province where transit is not readily available, getting into a vehicle with a stranger comes with significant risks.

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“Many good-hearted Samaritans often pickup hitchhikers due to their circumstances (bad weather, unsafe locations, lack of other options),” said RCMP Cpl. Chris Manseau.

“However the RCMP does not condone or suggest that the public resort to hitchhiking as a method of transportation.”

The RCMP adds that the fine for hitchiking where prohibited is $109.

What’s not impacted?

Job action will not affect SkyTrain, Canada Line, West Coast Express or HandyDART service, or contracted shuttle services in Langley and on Bowen Island.

It also won’t have any effect on the West Vancouver Blue Bus system, which is operated by a different company.

READ MORE: SkyTrain union opens door to possible job action amid stalled contract talks

The Metro Vancouver Transit Police say they will also increase staff to deal with any crowding at SkyTrain stations.

However, contract talks have since broken down between SkyTrain workers and TransLink, which employs them directly, leading to the possibility of future job action that could impact SkyTrain service.

Where are negotiations now?

The actions represent the first rounds of pressure against employer Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC), which the union says is refusing to meet its demands for a new contract, including increased wages and better working conditions.

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The two sides reached an impasse last month, prompting the union to follow through with its 72-hour strike notice that was issued on Oct. 28.

Talks have since broken down again, and the union says it will escalate job action with a three-day, system-wide shutdown unless its demands are met.

Talks broke down between the two sides on Nov. 14, and TransLink said no new talks are scheduled as of Saturday, Nov. 23.

Workers have been without a contract since the end of March, and the union says its members are increasingly stretched amid surging ridership on the Metro Vancouver transit system.

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The union alleges CMBC’s most recent offer does not adequately address concerns over those working conditions, including guaranteeing minimum break times.

Accusing CMBC of taking a “bait-and-switch” approach, Unifor western director Gavin McGarrigle said the company had pledged to negotiate on both working conditions and wages, but were only willing to bargain on the former.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver transit strike to escalate Friday as talks break down

“When we had some discussions with the employer this morning they made it very clear that, as we suspected, and unfortunately for the passengers we serve, they are still not serious about addressing the outstanding issues,” McGarrigle said.

“They are still rejecting any comparison with [the] Toronto transit system when it comes to drivers’ wages, even though for CMBC executives and TransLink executives, they’re more than happy to look at the Toronto transit system for comparison.”

McGarrigle said the union is also looking to see skilled trades workers paid the same as their counterparts in the SkyTrain system.

Click to play video 'Universities told to prepare for further transit disruptions amid job action' Universities told to prepare for further transit disruptions amid job action
Universities told to prepare for further transit disruptions amid job action – Nov 9, 2019

CMBC says the wage gap between what employers are offering and the union wants is about $150 million over 10 years.

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“Despite significant progress, we’re disappointed that talks have once again broken off. Wages are now the key sticking point,” McDaniel said, adding that the company had offered drivers a guaranteed 40 minutes of recovery time in every shift.

He added that the company had offered a wage increase of $6,000 for drivers and of $10,000 for skilled trades workers over four years at the top end of their salary grids.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver bus strike would be targeted to avoid ‘chaos’: union

“This is fair and reasonable. However, the union is not prepared to move in any meaningful way from their wage demands, and unfortunately union job action will now significantly impact commuters,” said McDaniel.

“We’re asking the union to be more realistic about their wage demands given that our current offer far exceeds the rest of the public sector in British Columbia.”

McDaniel has said fully meeting the union’s wage demands would jeopardize planned and future transit expansion projects like increased bus service, the Broadway subway and the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension.

McGarrigle said he’s confident the public is on the side of the workers and understand any transit expansion needs to keep worker conditions in mind.

B.C. Premier John Horgan has said the province would not intervene in the dispute, but he vowed he wouldn’t let the job action drag on for four months like the last full transit strike in 2001.

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