By Roman Khazin
When Viva drivers went on strike Sept. 25, Ryerson students that rely on the service were stuck scrambling for other ways to get around.
The strike began after Viva drivers, members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, rejected a tentative contract agreement between the union and Veolia Transportation Inc., the group that runs the Viva buses.
And with 35,000 passengers riding Viva daily, the strike had many students, faculty and support staff stranded. With the help of a provincial mediator, both sides are tentatively returning to the bargaining table on Oct. 1. Until then, commuters will just have to make do.
Kyle Merhai, a second-year radio and television arts student, lives in Thornhill and had to walk 30 minutes extra to catch the TTC.
“I’ll have to spend more time to get to school, more time to get to work, and it’s just a waste,” he said.
Some students opted to use the overcrowded York Regional Transit (YRT). Charlene Nulman, a first-year child and youth care student also from Thornhill, uses Viva several times a week but relying on YRT during the strike interfered with her daily schedule.
“It is inconvenient because I would have to leave almost an hour earlier than I normally would,” she said. “It will work, but be a damper on my day.”
Patrick Casey, director of corporate communications for York Region, said the YRT is feeling the pressure.
“Viva transports about 35,000 riders everyday, many of those are students,” said Casey.
“It makes for a frustrating system for everyone involved.”
To help accommodate the displaced Viva riders, YRT ran 12 extra buses, sending many to route 99 which brings patrons to Finch station, said Casey. YRT also offered extra customer service during the strike to help riders plan their trips.
While YRT isn’t offering cash refunds or exchanges, riders with a September YRT/Viva month pass or a GTA Weekly pass can request a pro-rated refund by cheque. This means that pass owners can get the full amount minus two trips per day (at $2.40 a trip).
Amanda Arcuri wished YRT had added even more service during the strike. Arcuri decided to use GO transit instead. But while the GO bus is more convenient, it’s also more expensive than the Viva bus. And if the strike doesn’t end soon, Arcuri might stop using Viva altogether.
“If they [continue to strike] I might just say ‘screw that,’” she said.
“And then for October I’m going take the GO bus.”