Extreme walks, lost vacation days: How the transit strike affects Vancouverites

Nov 27 2019, 12:14 am

Daily Hive asked readers to share how Metro Vancouver’s transit strike has affected them, in the hours leading up to what could be a full-blown mass bus shutdown.

Within hours, hundreds of responses flooded in.

Transit users have shared stories of longer waits, overcrowded buses, and many of our readers say that they can’t get to and from work because of the ongoing strike.

Of the more than 500 respondents that poured in, four-in-five people use public transit more than five days a week. An overwhelming majority (96%) use the bus.

When asked, four-in-ten participants say they side with Unifor, the union representing bus and SeaBus employees. Two-in-ten say they’re on TransLink’s side, and another four-in-ten are undecided.

Here are some of our readers’ stories of how they’ve been affected by Metro Vancouver’s transit strike and their thoughts on the matter: 

Matt, uses public transit over five days a week

It’s a massive negative impact. It’s frustrating to see workers who make, not just a living wage, but a comfortable living wage, hang other hardworking people out to dry so they can have a little more.

I know these union workers face dangers and frustrations in their jobs, but the people they’re making life difficult for right now are making half the money the transit workers already make.

Mia, uses public transit over five days a week 

I use public transit for work and getting around for household shopping. I have to spend an hour and a half walking back and forth from work.

Vi, uses public transit more than five days a week 

With the number of buses declining and schedule timing for bus arrivals being wrong, it extends my trip to work to over 45 minutes. I do support the strike and this minor inconvenience is necessary for a message to be sent. Workers should be treated properly. If I have to be late or spend a few bucks more, so be it. They deserve better treatment.

Liv, planning to bike to work in the event of a shutdown

I don’t own a car so transit or cycling is the only way I can get around. I’ve had to adjust my schedule to ensure I can get up early enough to wait for buses. I do support the strike. I think it’s shameful that our transit workers, the people that get us around every day, are not being treated fairly and respectfully.

If a full bus and SeaBus shutdown takes place, I’ll have to bike to work every day, which includes crossing a major highway. I’ve told my boss that if I’m late, it’s because I’ve been hit by a car.

Cara, uses public transit to get to work and school

I work from 9 am to 5 pm daily and go to night school. I can get up at 5 am to walk to work every day, but I’ll have no way to make it to my night classes after work. Being a broke student trying to support myself in this city while going to university is hard enough as it is.

If this strike is long-term, I’ll either be failing my classes for being unable to attend or be fired from my job.

Adam, buses over five days a week, no licence, “transit-dependent” 

I’ve been lucky especially with my long commute to work. The strike itself was inevitable. I was aware that drivers’ working conditions were pretty awful to begin with but I was surprised to hear of how their wagers compared to their counterparts around the country.

As much as it’s disruptive, the drivers need this and I think everyone that belongs to a union is going to be watching this closely.

Natuses transit to commute from Richmond to Vancouver for work 

I have to sacrifice my Christmas vacation days with my family as my job is not unionized and does not offer sick days, and I can’t physically afford to take three full days off in Vancouver, where my rent is well over half of what I earn a month. I’m genuinely preparing to lose my job and apartment if I’m not given the “time off” request for a three-day shutdown.

Katherine, uses public transit to and from work

I work on commission, so three days of lost work is three days of lost wages, and could mean I’m not able to pay my bills this month. I stand with the union and their demands, but I think they’re going about this strike action the wrong way.

If a full shutdown takes place, I’ll likely lose my job and then I really won’t be able to pay my bills.

Timofei, who buses to SFU 

I’m an SFU student and have classes on Burnaby Mountain campus. The only way to get there is transit. Unless I wanna hike for 1.5 hours up and down, I have to miss the classes right before my exams, which start in a week.

Vincent W., who buses to UBC

The strike is affecting me negatively. I’m not forced to leave earlier than usual to make sure I get to school at the same time. I’m forced to find alternatives because I have an exam during the strike.

Bus drivers honestly make more than the average Canadian — the average household salary is $73,000 and bus drivers make close to $65,000.

Vrinda, uses transit to commute to university classes

The strike has highly inconvenienced me personally and caused significant stress to my psyche; I have had to actively ease my anxiety and attend to my neuroticism due to the proposed total shutdown this week.

Nicole, uses transit to get to “work, medical appointments, basically everywhere.” 

I can’t get to work or medical appointments. Taking taxis is too expensive and HandyDart is not reliable. I have cerebral palsy and the transit system is how I get around.

Kim, commutes to work on public transit 

Bus workers already got an improvement in their work conditions but are asking for way too much for an increase in wages. Other entry-level positions in various fields that require years of education may not even be able to find a job with the same starting wage as the bus drivers and they still think it isn’t enough. What about the others?

Robyn, calls public transport her “primary mode of transportation”

There’s been a lot of stress and uncertainty about how I’ll get to work and home. I’ve been late several times — luckily my employer has been understanding so far, but when the bus strike hits later this week I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ve been told to find an alternative but there are no alternatives.

If I have to pay for my transit passes and then pay for taxis or a carpool it’ll really hurt me financially. I live on a fixed income and work paycheque to paycheque.

Bailey, who lives in Port Coquitlam and works in North Vancouver

It’s already a long journey… I’ll be unable to go to work unless I pay $80 for a one-way taxi. I’m also a manager and have to entirely redo my schedule for 30 employees before our busiest weekend of the year. If the blackout happens, I’ll have to take three unpaid vacation days right before the holidays.

Sara, uses transit to go to work, appointments, and the gym 

I work downtown but live near Burnaby. I rely on a bus to get to the SkyTrain which is otherwise a 45-minute walk from me. I work in the evenings and a long walk at night makes me feel uneasy. I don’t drive or have a car and with the buses not running, I’m forced to choose between going to work and my personal safety.

The transit strike is directly affecting my finances and the ability to live my life. I feel the strike is disproportionately affecting the city’s most vulnerable people who cannot afford to drive and also cannot afford to miss a day of work.

Daily Hive wants to hear your stories about how the transit strike has affected your day-to-day life. Have you been forced to rely more on taxis, or carpooling and carsharing programs? Has it affected your monthly spending?

Fill out our online form below or email us at [email protected] to have your say. Your answers will be used in future editorial content looking at the impact of Metro Vancouver’s transit strike.

Editor’s note: Some responses have been edited for clarity. 

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