Metrobus announces taxi voucher plan

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Daniel MacEachern
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Organizer of rally to end strike calls it a Band-Aid solution

Metrobus management has announed plans to sell taxi vouchers to help alleviate some financial stress of riders during ongoing transit strike. — File Photo

With the Metrobus Transit strike well past the two-month mark, management’s latest move is selling discounted taxi vouchers.

Metrobus announced Friday it will begin selling taxi chits to transit customers at a 50 per cent discount. General manager Judy Powell said details of the deal are still being worked out, including which taxi companies will be taking part, and how many vouchers will be for sale.

“They will be a predetermined amount, and we will be selling them to our customers at half-price,” she said.

“So, essentially, if a taxi fare costs $15, for example, the customer would pay $15 but use their taxi chits which they got for half-price, so essentially it would be a $7.50 fare.”

Metrobus will start selling the chits Wednesday through its online store at www.metrobus.com or over the phone at 722-9400.

Powell said the company will buy vouchers from taxi companies at full price, adding that Metrobus is initiating the program to ease the financial burden of people affected by the transit strike.

“Metrobus is doing it in an attempt to provide some financial relief to our passengers who are experiencing difficulty during this strike,” she said. “We’ve heard from our customers, we know how difficult this has been for them and we want to help with this financial hardship.”

But the organizer of a noon-time strike rally Friday laughed at Metrobus’s taxi-chit program.

“We don’t want anymore Band-Aid solutions or half-assed attempts,” he said. “The major question is what is the problem with asking the province to introduce (binding arbitration)? Precedence has shown in the past that even the announcement of legislation will force both sides into binding arbitration. What’s wrong with binding arbitration? It just seems like there’s a disconnect between the province and the city, like there’s a gag order that’s been put out, like no one’s allowed to talk about this.”

He said he didn’t think the vouchers would be much help.

“A half-price voucher on a cab from Mount Pearl to a downtown event, that breaks it down from $50 to $25 round-trip, as opposed to a $5 bus ride,” he said. “For people who are on social assistance, I’m not sure that’s going to help.”

Powell disagreed with the suggestion that the move might prolong the strike by making it easier for people to take taxis.

“I don’t believe that that will be the case. For us it’s about relieving some of the financial hardship,” she said. “It certainly doesn’t replace the bus system, and we know it’s not a perfect solution.”

Powell also acknowledged that it will be impossible to ensure the chits go just to bus users and not to residents who just want half-price taxi vouchers.

“There will be some things put in place, but it’s not going to be a perfect system,” she said. “You’re not going to be able to guarantee that it’s all bus users that get them, because of course a number of our bus users are cash users.”

Amalgamated Transit Union spokesman Paul Churchill declined to comment on Metrobus’s decision.

“I don’t know what the details of it are, because they weren’t clear on the details. So I’ve really got no comment at this time, until I know what the details are,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tom Hann, city councillor and chairman of the St. John’s Transportation Commission, said the city is adjusting snow-clearing to reflect the Metrobus strike.

“Due to the Metrobus strike and the fact that we have an increased number of residents walking, I’ve asked city staff to put an extra effort in sidewalk snow-clearing in areas where we do clear sidewalks,” he said, noting when crews have finished clearing the streets, available personnel and equipment will join dedicated sidewalk-clearing crews. “That would be in high-traffic areas, near city schools, that kind of thing.”

Organizations: Band-Aid, Amalgamated Transit Union, Transportation Commission

Geographic location: Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • andy
    January 17, 2011 - 15:30

    How about some facts folks. Friday 7 January 2011 Metrobus management delivers their offer to the Union representatives. The offer is $10.00 a year better than the one that started this strike nine weeks ago. Realizing that taking this back to the membership would be an insult, Union representatives send an offer to Metrobus management to withdraw all demands, get the buses back on the road with already agreed issues accepted, and negotiate the remaining items with 100% service in place. Metrobus management have not responded to this offer of settlement. This service could have been restored a week ago. I think it's the "chits."

  • mary
    January 17, 2011 - 13:35

    I don't see the udated info on this site. Apparently Judy Powell aims to get 60% of these chits to Metrobus users! That is the goal - 60% Unbelievable. The chits will be in the form of coupons valued at $50. and being sold for $25.00. A lot of regular taxi customers are going to be pleased with this.

  • mary
    January 16, 2011 - 23:12

    Chuck - your arrogance is astounding. I suspect you are one of those people who ignores pedestrians at marked crosswalks. The response of the general public, the mayor and councillors and the Metrobus management is embarrassing. This utter disregard for fellow citizens and the lack of reliable public transit now has me researching a new place to reside. I no longer wish to live in NL., I'll take my taxpaying money elsewhere. My experiences as a pedestrian and as a user of public transit has left me disgusted.

  • Bob Butler
    January 16, 2011 - 22:30

    Well this isn't hard to figure out... The taxis love the increase in business and want the strike to continue ... so they pass an envelope under the table to o'keefe during lunch... agree to provide 50% off in taxi fares just to kee the strike going.... so the city don't subsidize nothing, they are getting the preferred rate for free... plus a bonus for O'keefe and his cronies... Do you really think the city is going to pay 50% of a taxi fare... give me a break... Metrobus already loses money but not that much to justify the strike... bribery must be the only motive... And what cabs will sign up---- when announced... will tell you who was sitting at the other side of the table during lunch... How would you like your steak sir? Tender? Oh! please Don't use that word here, we are trying to avoid submitting a tender? Just cook the steak will ya! And we'll leave you a good tip too!

    • Chris Dillon
      January 18, 2011 - 10:31

      @Bob Butler. Try taking your head out of your butt and post something that is a little bit mature and makes sense. I drive a taxi and my brother has been a bus driver for a lot of years. Of course every company likes a boost in business and I for one want this strike to end and I'm quite sure a lot of the bus drivers do as well. They have children in school and always need money for something or other and they have mortagages, car payments, etc. When I am at work I sometimes get people in the cab that dont have enough money for the fare and I'll take them to where they have to go anyway, every little bit helps these people. So next time you have something to say that MAKES SENSE be free to post it but dont waste my time reading the other trash. Now go eat your steak...just sayin'.

  • Anya McNeil
    January 16, 2011 - 21:37

    A lot of people on these news threads seem to think that only poor people ride the bus.I pay taxes, as do my parents, and my bf . me and my bf don't have a vehicle in st johns because we travel so much. we would need to store it in the months we are gone. As well we didnt figure we'd need one in a city that had a functioning bus system. I didnt have one when I lived in dallas or toronto, but looks like I need one for newfoundland. I never even bothered getting my license since the bus system worked so well for me. I'm sure im not the only tax paying working citizen of st johns that didnt get a vehicle because they found the bus system more convenient in their lives. every day on the bus i see working professionals, students, health care workers, and a lot of tourists and shoppers that find the bus system easier than finding parking or trying to navigate a city with really oddly designed streets. Every city has a bus system, and st johns is the only city i have ever lived in that calls its transit users poor, uneducated, and non-taxpayers. Its shameful. Worse comes to worse I will be moving once again to an actual city not the poor excuse that st johns has become.

  • dan
    January 16, 2011 - 20:44

    what a load of crap. legislate them back to work or fire the lot of them. or for *?%$ sake give them the 50%insurance premium or whatever. the stupidist stirke in history. no thought given to the customers of metrobus who are hurting and walking everywhere. hope they dont expect smiles from riders when this one is over

  • downtown worker
    January 16, 2011 - 18:19

    its been shown that these chits have been used in other transit systems across canada with ATU as the head union , its been also documented that one said cab company had lost its license for falsely remitting over-priced chits in amounts to 1 million dollars .....the chits that they used were like blank checks that the drivers filled out after the run ....BAH!!!!! lets see ohhhhhhhh the greed the greed !!!

  • Simon Lono
    January 16, 2011 - 17:29

    I used to question their competence. Now I have to question their sanity! It's hard to list all the ways this idea is misguided and dumb. When even the head of Metrobus admits that she won't be able to get the chits to the people who "deserve" them (however you might want to define that) and keep them away from the people who don't "deserve" them (same problem) then you know this is a non-starter! And besides. . . does Metrobus have the right and authority to spend money this way anyways? Does council have to approve this? Just how much Metrobus money is going to be used to pay for this? That money was sposed to be to pay for a public Metrobus, not to pay for half price private limos offered up on a first-come, first-serve basis to whoever has the cash.

  • John S
    January 16, 2011 - 15:43

    This has to be a joke. Who are the imbeciles that thought up this scheme?

  • Steve
    January 16, 2011 - 14:21

    What should be done is to fire all those lazy bums (ie the lazzy bus drivers) who don't want to work and hire people that will work. These heartless bus drivers and union freaks have cost people their health, jobs and in some cases even homes (I know of one person who has lost a home due to being fired from a job that they couldn't get to). So if these bums don't want to work get rid of them.

  • chuck
    January 16, 2011 - 14:09

    i am just wondering how many of these complainers who are missing the bus services are taxpayers. i also think the idea of buying taxi chits stupid how is one to know how they are actually used to party on george street perhaps. smarten up folks.

  • Chris Dillon
    January 16, 2011 - 13:32

    Judy Powell(FIRED) + Andy Wells(HIRED) = End Of Bus Strike.

  • Freda
    January 16, 2011 - 12:59

    Who stole the Taxi Bus? She's gone boys she's gone!

  • Blair, Napanee, On
    January 16, 2011 - 12:12

    Sell the Taxi chits for an additional 25%. Make some money people!!

  • Looking forward to the next election
    January 16, 2011 - 11:25

    It's no wonder that people in other provinces in Canada think that Newfoundlanders are stupid. This is the stupidest idea ive ever heard, both sides of this mess are STUPID STUPID STUPID. Its disgusting, the municpal and provincial goverment should be ashamed, metrobus should be ashamed, the union should be ashamed. This whole situation makes me want to explode and do something that may cause me to be arrested. At least riders might get noticed that way. This is so STUPID. Put the buses back on the roads, just give the stupid dirvers what they want. I didnt think they deserved to get any special treatment before because they stink, they suck at their jobs, but at this point i wish they would just END THIS and get THE DAMN BUSES BACK ON THE DAMN ROADS. Man, I wish I could swear on here. AND THE SIDEWALKS SHOUDL ALWAYS BE CLEARED. ALWAYS. this is pathetic. Its no wonder no one wants to live in this province.

  • Frank Blackwood
    January 16, 2011 - 10:59

    Gone are the Good Old Days of Horse and Buggy, Dog teams, they had not a worry in the world. It's about time that Mayor O'Keefe get hold of his city as this strike is turning tourists away also. There were many visiting St. John's over the New Year's Holiday from Mainland Canada, they returned home disgusted.

  • badameli
    January 16, 2011 - 10:58

    Bad idea - lay off the management that can't contribute (no employees) and wait out the union. OR Hire private bus drivers (scabs) to drive some (prioritized) bus routes. Or use the underutilized management now to drive those same routes. Do what bell canada did in 1988 when its blue collared work force went on strike and get the middle management to do the job for overtime wages and wait out the union over the damn 50% insurance premium on NEW employees. What BS!

  • JP
    January 16, 2011 - 08:24

    Just a thought! Metreobus could use the money they are going to waste on taxi chits and help bridge the gap between what the workers want and what Metrobus are managing them. Stop the insanity...the ones who are suffering are the Metrobus users themselves, not to mention the families of the workers. The current workers should stop worrying so much about future employees benefits and worry more about themselves and those that use the buses. Someone somewhere must have the sense to put a stop to this! Too bad someone with really deep pockets didn't have enough money to put a fleet of leased school buses out on the roads for a few months, then when metrobus folded they could apply for a bunch of loans, interest free from the provincial government(who choose not to help solve this thing now) and buy the old Metrobus equipment, up the prices ever so slightly and make a living...sound insane...no more so than what's happening now!!! Enough is enough!

  • maddy
    January 16, 2011 - 07:09

    When the strike is over the Union should offer riders a discount to keep their jobs. Obviously, Metrobus are going to have a hard look at all routes with definite cutbacks and layoffs. But don't hold your breath on hoping to Union will assist the riders.

  • trevor
    January 16, 2011 - 05:31

    i am curious just who will buy these vouchers, the date of their release does not correspond with any government checks, federal or provincial. Therefore nobody on a fixed income will have the ability to buy them, even if they did have a valid credit card. regular taxi riders with valid credit cards, and people just looking to save a few bucks will purchase all of these limited amount of vouchers, leaving those in need with no help in the current situation.

  • Trudy
    January 15, 2011 - 22:30

    OMG what a bunch running the city!!! plow all the side walks, which is never done...how much did that cost??? are you going to salt them too??? Pay taxi's for 14,000 riders a day!!!!$$$$$$$$ Scrap the 50/50 and put the buses back on the road before you double the taxes for next year!! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING OKEEFE TO LET THIS HAPPEN!!! no wonder these people are on strike, what are they dealing with!!!

  • ilikecars
    January 15, 2011 - 19:50

    this is a band aid solution so stop complaining people. you act as if this is no help? some people ARE taking taxi's so this helps those people. you want a real solution? CARPOOL, do not tell me your friends don't drive. ask for a ride.. u think it's an inconvenience to ask? well, ur metrobus drivers don't care for the inconvenience this strike has brought.

  • Political Watcher
    January 15, 2011 - 18:42

    People, your anger should be directed solely at the leadership of the Union. Metrobus has made offers second to noe only to have the Union Exec change their demands in an effort to gain more for themselves. Mr. Churchill has to grow up and let his membershiop speak and vote.

  • Anne
    January 15, 2011 - 18:12

    I will be spending alot more than my 70 bus pass atleast 200 more and that is just to my job. Come on Powell how is this gonna fix the problem why isnt this money being used to get the strikers back on the road get with it people!!!

  • MallRat
    January 15, 2011 - 18:03

    Deadly! Half price Cabs to and from George Street. Can't go wrong with that. Is there an expiry date on these Chits? Once the strike is over or the Transit is privatized can on still use them? mallrat

  • Walker
    January 15, 2011 - 16:06

    This is yet another foolish solution by the city. People will have to have credit cards to buy the vouchers I bet alot of people don't have credit cards to pay for it. This city is a laughing stock and the sad thing is noone cares about the people who depend on those bus's. I won't be voting for any of these morons in the next election thats for sure.The bus drivers are nothing but greedy and the city havent got a clue.As for the sidewalk clearing no more than they should be doing no matter whats going on imagine big event getting the sidewalks cleared because of a bus strike. This crowd GOT TO GO!!!

  • Gerry Wells
    January 15, 2011 - 15:17

    Well Dennis another great fiscally sound idea. Whats wrong with legislating them back to work? I have no problem subsidizing the students and the poor but I plan to go to George Street and get my ride home on the backs of the taxpayers..thanks Dennnis no I dont have to worry about the RNC. Next week I guess I'll save my gas and parking and ride on the backs of the taxpayers. Hope Gullivers have enough cars ...business is booming!! Hope all of the students and the poor have their lap tops, Iphones, and credit cards ready so that they can pay for their chits on line. Morons! Just goes to show the elitist arrogant nature of this council...the Shannies , the Colberts ( if he is in the province and not in Florida)the Hanns, Hanlons etc do not know the plight and the despiration of people who have little or nothing........this is not goverence this is the approach that is usually taken to every propblem in this city...throw money at it..it will go away.I hope the taxpayers of this city are taking note ,,cause this will surely be reflected in your taxrate . This "chit system should be paid out of the raises offered to the drivers and as the strike goes on the offers should be reduced,,,,,then we will see how long the strike lasts. ...When is the next election??

  • mary
    January 15, 2011 - 15:11

    I have said before, Judy Powell has to go. It seems to me that maybe it isn't the union who has dragged out this strike, maybe it is the management. Whomever came up with this idea has to be fired and Judy Powell needs to go with them. Come on, even she admits anyone can get one of these limited number of taxi chits. Unbelievable arrogance towards, and a complete lack of understanding of, the ridership of Metrobus. As for sidewalk clearing - where is that to? I live on a busy main street and there are no sidewalks cleared in my area. I can navigate the snow and slush, not all people can. How are those with disabilities and the less abled senior managing all of this mess?

  • beast
    January 15, 2011 - 14:44

    I hope that no one uses this taxi voucher,because the strike will go on forever.judy powell and metrobus got to be nuts if they think this will help people so, what if a 60 dollar fare now cost 30 still not going to be able to afford this either. where u can get there and return for 5 bucks or your bus pass which cost 70 a month.Instead of doing stupid things like this they should fix the problem and get the drivers back on the road.the mayors big soulation to this problem is to clear the sidewalks really good.If the city can spend more on snow clearing then why not put more into metrobus. Come on give me a break and get the busses back on the road and send the mayor packing.

  • Frustrated
    January 15, 2011 - 13:29

    This is such a feeble attempt to win back disgruntled riders. I don't know about the rest of the bus-riding population, but I can't afford half price taxis either- I'm too poor. The best gesture would be to get the buses back on the road. City Hall has been all talk and absolutely no action on this matter. Frankly I'm embarassed to live in such an inefficiently run city.

  • Jenn
    January 15, 2011 - 13:07

    Let me get this straight. You can buy these vouchers ONLINE or OVER THE PHONE. So... that means you have to pay by CREDIT CARD. How stunned is that? By a show of hands, lets see how many clients of Stella Burry services have a CREDIT CARD??!!

  • Pat
    January 15, 2011 - 12:52

    Has the city given any thought to privatizing the transit system? I was part of a union at a job site earlier in my career, I had to change professions, I was not able to put up with union crap - you are not able to do an honest day's work.

  • Meghan
    January 15, 2011 - 12:30

    Taxi chits aren't exactly going to help anyone, because they're only useful one-way. Say for example the chits cost us $2.50, at the half price rate. Then one gets a cab from the east end, to the avalon mall. Usually about $15. That costs $7.50 with the chit that you paid $2.50 for. Therefore, you're paying $10. Which is still 67% of the cab fare, not 50%, depending on how you regard it. As for Tom Hann's suggestion, that's technically not related to the strike at all, considering how sidewalks should be cleared either way. I, personally, wouldn't want to slip and be hit by a car let alone a bus if they were on the road. But I'm just sayin'.

    • Education Girl
      January 17, 2011 - 00:27

      Yes! Thank you, someones comment on here actually makes sense. I agree with you totally. To add to this, I just want to say that this is the stupidest idea I have EVER heard of, and I don't even live in St. Johns. I assume that with their bus drivers on strike, the metrobus owners aren't making any money. They don't want to give the bus drivers what they want - but they want to make some money so they're going to rip people off with these taxi chits. They're really won't save a person a full 50% and what happens when the strike is over - will people have to wait to be refunded for unused chits, or will they be able to continue using them? And in response to the last paragraph in this article, which really has nothing to do with the rest of this article and should have been made it's own post, ALL of the city sidewalks should be cleared - ALL THE TIME!! As a driver, I just wish to say that when the sidewalks are bad it's nerve racking for drivers as well as walkers - I'm always terrified that someone will slip on the snow/ice and slide out onto the road in front of my car - then where do I go? Over them or onto oncoming traffic? Either way this is a decision that should not have to be thought about. It's unacceptable really. Sidewalk snow-clearing should always be mandatory!

  • Frank Blackwood
    January 15, 2011 - 11:44

    This is indeed a sign of regression in the transportation system in St. John's. It shows how the union has taken over the everyday livelihood of the people in making it very clear the president of the union rules over the city council and the people of St. John's.

  • Laura
    January 15, 2011 - 11:41

    To Tom Hann: Thanks for clearing off a half kilometer in front of the cbc building. You imbecile. It really makes my life easier when I walk to MUN from the East End where NONE of the sidewalks are clear. In regards to this half-price voucher "idea" let me just say that the sheer ignorance of rich people (who own cars) trying to "fix" the public transit issues makes me laugh. I CAN'T AFFORD A TAXI TO AND FROM SCHOOL. Even if it's half price. I AM POOR! Even if you cut the cab ride down from $15 to $7.50 ONE WAY that is still too much! Even paying almost $5 for a round trip when the rotten buses were on the road was still pushing it. What I have learned so far is this: If you do not own a car in St John's then you don't count as a person so there's no use even saying anything about it.

    • bob Butler
      January 16, 2011 - 22:39

      Laura... how can we peacefully protest this idea and issue, someone needs to take the BS by the horns and make the city look as stupid as you have easily described... If I had my time back i would have blocked off the entrances to all the malls before Christmas... got any ideas?

  • Heather Roberts
    January 15, 2011 - 11:05

    This must be a joke. Ms. Powell admits that the chits will be made available to everybody. I realize that some regulars do not have m-cards but most do have a registered card. I am appalled that vouchers may go to people who have never stepped foot on a Metrobus and even look down on riders. Actually all public transit users just want the buses back. But it looks like Ms. Powell and Mayor. O'Keefe would rather spend thousands on this absurd solution rather than end this strike. Just how lucrative is this infamous Metrobus health plan and how many new hires are they expecting in the coming years? Keep the strike going and you wan't have to worry about hiring but layoffs. I beg Ms. Powell and Mr. Churchill to lay their differences aside, swallow their pride and return to the bargaining table. Note to Tom Hann- Saw plenty of people walking on the street part of Cornwall Ave and Lemarchant Road last night due to lack of sidewalks.