New York City is taking measures to ensure that no children are left out in the cold and unable to get to school due to the school bus strike currently in effect. All students who take the familiar yellow buses to school were issues MetroCards to allow them to get to class using public transport. Cards for parents to allow them to accompany their kids will be issued later this week.
Wednesday saw the commencement of the first industrial action by the school drivers union since the 1970s, leaving 152,000 kids who rely on this mode of transportation out in the cold – literally. The strike also created chaos for their parents, who have had to rely on car ride, trains, city buses and even taxis in order to get their children to school.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott attempted to reassure parents during an address on 1010 WINS radio. He said that the city will be working to fill the parents’ transportation needs, but acknowledged that at least for a first couple of days of the strike, it will be tough going to get everyone where they needed to be on time.
All students affected by the strike got MetroCards Tuesday to take subways and buses to school, but a plan to make the cards available to parents of young children and special education students has been hobbled by bureaucratic delays.
Parent MetroCards won’t be activated until Thursday because the MTA says it needs up to 72 hours to program the software in 6,000 buses.
City Councilman David Greenfield didn’t think that the measures put in place by the city were going to be very effective — at least not in the short term. Meanwhile other city education officials and parents expressed concerns that lack of school bus options might disproportionally hit special education and disabled students who need supervision and care from the time they leave their homes until the time they return from school in the evening.
Maggie Moroff of Advocates for Children said she’s worried about disabled students for whom public transportation won’t work.
“They don’t have a solid plan for how they’re going to deal with these more-complicated issues,” she said.
The union behind the strike, Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 1181, is protesting a city plan to bid out private bus contracts with no job guarantees for the union’s 8,800 drivers and escorts.
Its leaders have promised picket lines at bus yards, and other drivers unions have vowed not to cross those lines.
The transportation companies are hiring replacement workers to fill in for striking drivers, but they will not be ready to work for a better part of a week due to mandatory drug and alcohol tests.