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Metro Vancouver transit strike: Bargaining ‘down to the wire’ as shutdown looms

WATCH: Talks began Tuesday afternoon aimed at averting a full-scale shutdown of bus and SeaBus service on Wednesday. Grace Ke has the details.

Both sides in the Metro Vancouver transit strike resumed talks on Tuesday in the hopes of avoiding a system-wide bus strike.

In a Twitter update, the union representing 5,000 bus, SeaBus and maintenance workers said negotiations were going “down to the wire.”

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If a new deal isn’t reached by Tuesday night, there will be no bus or SeaBus service from Wednesday to Friday.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias was on hand for Tuesday’s negotiations, a possible sign that a deal could be within reach.

Dias said he is hopeful and optimistic that a shutdown can be avoided.

“This isn’t very complicated and we have all day,” he said. “We have until midnight. I’ve put together much more complex collective agreements than this in a much shorter period of time. So it’s all about desire and it’s all about a will to find a settlement.”

Ahead of a lunch break, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said Tuesday that he had a “good initial conversation” with Dias.

Both sides in Metro Vancouver transit strike heading back to bargaining table
Both sides in Metro Vancouver transit strike heading back to bargaining table

On Monday, Desmond announced plans to help customers get around during those three days, including an increase in Expo and Millennium line frequency, relaxing rules on bringing bikes onto trains during peak hours and encouraging commuters to arrange alternate modes of transport, including car-sharing and carpooling.

He said TransLink is also working to set up temporary pickup and dropoff zones near SkyTrain and West Coast Express stations for commuters who need to be driven to stations.

It is also looking to allow drop-offs and pickups at unused bus stations and bus loops, he said.

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Unifor provides update on bargaining developments
Unifor provides update on bargaining developments

Car-sharing company Evo says new member sign-ups have jumped 30 per cent in the past five days.

Senior operations manager Dave Wharf says more Evo cars will be parked near SkyTrain stations and along busy corridors, and metered parking will be free in the City of Vancouver.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver transit strike: Union, employer head to 11th-hour bargaining session

University of British Columbia students wondering how they’ll get home during a three-day bus strike have the option of staying on campus.

The Alma Mater Society (AMS) says the student union building, known as The Nest, will be open 24 hours a day while buses are shut down.

AMS vice-president of administration Cole Evans says he’s optimistic it will all play out smoothly.

Metro Vancouver residents are preparing for the expected impact of a threatened full-scale shutdown of the area’s transit system on Wednesday.

Impact on travel if there’s no deal by full shutdown planned for Wednesday
Impact on travel if there’s no deal by full shutdown planned for Wednesday

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

“Ideally, I anticipate that there will be zero fires to put out,” he said. “We have a trained security team who will be on site to make sure that students are safe, and we will be ensuring that protocols are put in place.”

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While students aren’t allowed to pitch tents in The Nest, they can bring sleeping bags and blankets.

Quiet sleeping zones will be open to UBC students only.

The university says 80,000 people use transit to travel to and from its Point Grey campus every day.

A Brief History Of: The 2001 Vancouver bus strike

A Brief History Of: The 2001 Vancouver bus strike
A Brief History Of: The 2001 Vancouver bus strike

— With files from Global News’ Simon Little and Srushti Gangdev