Letter: Transit is an essential service

To me [transit is] an essential service. It's not a question of 'Oh well, I'll find another way.' That's getting harder and harder to do.

To the editor:

There has been a lot of talk from the mayor’s office about transit not being “an essential service” or “it’s not our job to get involved in a dispute between employees and a private company.”

Hmmm — I wonder. I do not drive, I chose not to learn, I rely on transit to get me to work, I don’t have that anymore. To me it’s an essential service. It’s not a question of “oh well” I’ll find another way. That’s getting harder and harder to do. Why is transit not essential to the residents of a small city? We shouldn’t have to rely on vehicles to get around, that’s why we’ve built up this infrastructure. To say we have to wait and see, is like giving up.

I Googled First Canada and found some interesting statistics.

• In 2011, a strike was averted in Kelowna between First Canada and the union

• In 2014, Victoria’s handyDART drivers narrowly averted a strike with First Canada

• In 2011 York Ont. terminated their contract with First Canada after a lengthy strike, Cowichan Valley, Winnipeg, Barrie Ont., Fort MacMurray — all with First Canada.

I assume that First Canada is a for-profit organization. Why are they consistently narrowly averting strikes with their drivers?

Our mayor said that the transit system here in Kelowna was heavily subsidized and only 30 per cent of the revenues came from transit tickets. I would be interested to find out what the numbers look like in the Lower Mainland where it’s common and accepted to take the bus or transit to work.

Why can’t that work here? Why can’t we establish a central nerve bus system like Skytrain to get the maximum number of people from point A to point B quickly and efficiently. Maybe if we targeted only main routes and took the small secondary routes off we could afford more frequent buses and more money for the drivers. Routes like Highway 97 or Glenmore or any other main route that all cars currently take.

I am not the only one who is affected — seniors, disabled (my husband), refugees, students, those who choose not to drive. To expect these individuals to be treated less than the average citizen is a travesty.

We do not all drive a car!

I am not faulting the union, I am not faulting the drivers. I’m faulting the lack of care to communicate on all sides and get to the reasons why First Canada is narrowly averting bus strikes often and why it is the private company responsible for our transit. I would suggest that we get off the proverbial ‘It’s not my problem’ pot and figure that out for the good of the whole community, not just those who take the bus.

Jane Eamon, Kelowna