British Columbia

Okanagan transit riders relieved two-week bus strike over

Transit riders in Kelowna are expressing their relief at the end of the two-week-long bus strike in the Central Okanagan.

'I have my freedom now. I'm back to normal,' says transit user

A family about to get on a city bus in Kelowna on the first day of resumed transit service after a two-week-long bus strike (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Transit riders in Kelowna, B.C., greeted their bus drivers with "thank-yous" and cookies Thursday morning.

Transit service resumed after a two-week-long bus strike almost completely shut down the Kelowna Regional Transit System.

On Wednesday, transit workers reached a three-year contract agreement with Canada First, the private company that runs transit in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country, ending the bus strike.

Bus rides on the transit system will be free until the end of November — a gesture B.C. Transit says is to thank customers for their patience during the labour dispute.

Trish Nelemans and her children had to hire taxis to get around during the transit strike (Brady Strachan/CBC)

For Trish Nelemans and her family, it's a return to a sense of normal.

"Oh heaven, it's awesome. We are so happy to see the busses running again," she said.

"We were stuck at home. We live in Rutland and we have no other mode of transportation and five kids. It was pretty boring."

Nelemans said it was also expensive, as her family had to pay for taxis to get around.

Mary-Anne Lyons gave bus drivers cookies this morning to welcome them back to the job (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Mary-Anne Lyons gave cookies to her bus drivers Thursday morning as a sign of her gratitude.

"I'm glad. I've got to tell you, I'm glad. I really do like the bus," she said. "It's my transportation. I use it all the time."

During the strike, Lyons said she had to walk to the bank, the grocery store and doctors' appointments. 

"I did get out and I got my exercise, but I wasn't eating [right]."

Sharron Cullen wasn't able to get to doctor appointments during the transit strike (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Sharron Cullen wasn't able to see her doctors regularly during the transit strike and couldn't meet with her brother, who lives in Peachland.

"I actually would like to thank all the bus drivers for coming back," she said.

"I have a mentality disability and [during the transit strike] I missed some appointments where I needed to see somebody."

Cullen said the offer of free transit for the rest of the month doesn't make up for the suspension of service. She believes public transit should be an essential service, which is something Kelowna's mayor is also calling for

Paula Eid says she has freedom of mobility again now that busses are running in Kelowna (Brady Strachan/ CBC)

Paula Eid said during the strike, she had to rely on rides from family members or co-workers at Kelowna Regional Hospital, where she volunteers.

But there were time she couldn't get a ride, Eid said, so she stayed at home.

"I have my freedom now. I am back to normal."