Strike takes toll on riders

Some professors worry students who regularly ride buses cannot get to classes.

Britt Johnsen

As the bus strike rolls on, some officials said class and work attendance is down.

Although it is an issue for almost everyone, some are particularly worried about foreign students.

“It’s having an effect and, unfortunately, it hurts the most vulnerable people in the community,” said Gary Cohen, history professor and Center for Austrian Studies director.

Omar Jamal, Somali Justice Advocacy Center director, said immigrants have had a difficult time since the strike began. He said five people have told him stories about losing jobs and not finding transportation to doctor appointments because of the strike.

To address the issue, Jamal said he met with Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell on Tuesday.

The council oversees Metro Transit, whose employees walked off the job last Thursday.

Jamal will meet with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 today at 10 a.m. and with Bell again Friday to ensure the two parties meet and reach an agreement soon.

Since the strike, Cohen and his secretary have brought some of their graduate assistants who work in the office to and from their homes in Uptown, he said.

“Some of them are walking from long distances,” said Barbara Krauss-Christensen, secretary in the Center for Austrian Studies. “We’re scrambling around trying to make it work.”

“They need to get to campus and continue to work for us and to continue to work on their graduate degrees,” he said.

University geography professor John Adams said he is worried the bus strike has affected some students’ attendance.

Adams said during his Monday morning class 10 out of 49 students were absent. During a break, a few more showed up and said they had trouble getting to school, he said.

Since the strike, he said, one student had her car stolen and was stranded. Another student who depends on the bus to work on an on-campus project also had problems.

Adams will talk to his class about transportation troubles. Though there is no midterm this week, he said he is concerned about the future and will make adjustments as necessary.

University psychology professor Gail Peterson said his introduction to psychology class has been relatively unaffected. He said students managed to find a way to an exam.

“They’re young adults,” he said. “It’s their responsibility to come to class.”

Meanwhile, students attending school said they have dealt with parking and packed shuttle buses on their way to classes.

Sophomore Rianna Harvey said campus buses “have been more crowded lately. There’s not much you can do.”

Lori Ann Vicich, marketing manager for Parking and Transportation Services, said there are currently no plans to bring in more shuttle buses because it is busiest during peak times, in which buses are already running every five minutes and would cause a backup.

Vicich said people continue to be resourceful and several hundred extra parking spaces are available on campus.

Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons said there are no new meetings scheduled between the union and Met Council. The heart of the issue is wages and health care. Both parties have said they will not budge from their stances.

Though people are coping now, Frank Douma, research fellow from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said people will soon see the real impact.

“People can adjust for the first few days,” he said. “A couple of weeks from now, if freeways are still working well, folks may decide they can get away with driving once in a while. They may turn to their car at that point. They may decide they like telecommuting and they won’t go back to the bus system. They could have lost their jobs. That’s when you start to see some rather significant positions start to form.”