SFU student’s plan to hire private bus during transit strike hits funding roadblock

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. – Nov 23, 2019

A Simon Fraser University (SFU) student’s creative plan to help his classmates get to school on Burnaby Mountain during this week’s planned transit stoppage has hit a funding roadblock.

Grayson Lee posted in the SFU carpooling Facebook group late last week that he intended 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 in a follow-up post Saturday night, he said the charter company he’s been in contact with wants a $3,000 payment up front, which he cannot afford.

READ MORE: City planner says driving in Metro Vancouver will be ‘shockingly hard’ if transit strike escalates

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to follow through with what I stated,” he wrote. “I was overly optimistic and was not able to negotiate better terms. I take full responsibility for being unable to provide the students at SFU, with the conditions that I described.”

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Lee has now started a GoFundMe page to help raise the $3,000. He says he’s willing to pitch in a third of that cost if the rest can be raised by contributors.

“I’m not super confident that it’s going to happen,” Lee told Global News on Sunday.

“It’s really dependent on how the GoFundMe goes, but I’m not super optimistic and I would encourage students to seek other options.”

Click to play video: 'Transit job action hits on eve of B.C. university exam season'
Transit job action hits on eve of B.C. university exam season

As of Sunday at noon, the page had raised $10 of its $3,000 goal.

Lee’s original plan was to charge $3.50 per ride to bus 50 students at a time between the Production Way-University SkyTrain station and the SFU campus on the top of Burnaby Mountain.

Many students rely on transit buses to make the five-kilometre journey up the mountain, which otherwise takes roughly an hour to walk.

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READ MORE: UBC, SFU urge students to carpool as transit worker dispute leads to full-on strike

SFU administrators have been urging students and faculty to arrange carpools to get to campus, either by organizing amongst themselves or joining services like Poparide.

Lee says he came up with the bus idea because he wants to avoid congestion on the mountain. He added having students provide carpools would add time to their commutes that could be spent studying and preparing for midterm exams.

He claims to have heard from TransLink that hiring the bus — which would be operated by a driver from the unnamed charter company — would not violate B.C.’s Transit Act because “it would not financially impact the regional transportation” while transit buses aren’t running later this week.

READ MORE: ICBC to consider allowing pleasure-insured vehicles on roads longer if transit strike escalates

Lee says he now plans to get involved with carpools during the transit strike, even though he continues to believe a bus would be the ideal solution.

SFU has said the university “does not have the financial, labour or vehicle resources to shuttle people” between campus and Production Way.

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Focus BC: Friday, November 22

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