Frustrations are mounting on college and university campuses in Kelowna, B.C. as a labour dispute continues between the Kelowna Regional Transit Union Local 1722 and its employer, First Canada, a private company that runs public transit in the Central Okanagan.
The 271 transit workers have been on strike since last Thursday, which means no buses are running in the greater Kelowna area except for certain essential service clients on the HandyDart system.
The strike impacts many students at Okanagan College and the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus who rely on transit to get to school and travel around the city.
Calla Schuck lives in the Rutland neighbourhood of Kelonwa and relies on public transport to get to Okanagan College, where she is a student.
The transit strike has been challenging, she said.
“I’ve been pretty largely affected because I don’t have a ride to get here and I don’t live with anybody that has a car,” Schuck said.
“(The bus) is my main transportation. I don’t have a bike. I don’t have anything. That’s my only way of getting around.”
Trouble getting a ride to campus has caused her to be late for several classes, she said.
The transit strike is especially hard on international students who usually don’t own a car and may not know many people who drive.
Kasumi Mochizuki, who is from Japan, is studying English as a Second Language at Okanagan College.
She too has to rely on friends and her host family to drive her to campus or to run errands.
“We can’t go out for dinner or for shopping,” she said.
“It makes me so upset, because we just want to know when the strike ends.”
Prachi Gupta is an international student from India who arrived in Kelowna to study last month.
Challenges finding a ride to campus have caused her to be late for class and miss two exams, she said.
“Many international students are affected (by the strike),” Gupta said. “It’s really irritating.”
On Tuesday, her professor gave her a ride to Okanagan College.
Carpooling and hitchhiking
Some students are arranging rides with each other on Facebook orjoining a car-pooling club.
UBC-Okanagan PhD student Aaron Johnstone decided to hitchhike to campus this week.
“I made myself a sign that said “UBC-O” and I waited probably under two minutes until a group of grad students pulled over and gave me a ride,” he said.
“It worked great. Faster than the bus actually.”
On other days, Johnstone has caught a ride with friends who study or work on campus.
“It’s an inconvenience, but I respect what (the striking transit workers) are doing and the reasons why they are doing it,” he said.
As of Tuesday, contract talks between the transit workers’ union and their employer remained at a standstill.