(UPDATE) Bus union strike ‘chaotic’ for parents; many MetroCards deactivated until Thursday

Union president Michael Cordiello speaking Wednesday morning.

UPDATE: The MetroCard activation delay mostly affects bus service, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz explained, due to the “vastness of the bus network” and the “need to update software on nearly 6,000 buses.”

Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg reiterated that students already have their cards, which are activated as of Wednesday.

“Parents using the subway to transport their children can pick up MetroCards in their school’s general office today and the cards will be activated and good for 30 days,” Feinberg added.

Those cards will work “at the vast majority of subway stations” on Wednesday.

Parents using the bus may pick up MetroCards from their school on Thursday, when the cards will be activated. The cards will work on “most buses” by Thursday. They will work on local buses only, though.

If the strike is extended past one month, new cards will be provided for both subways and buses.

City Councilman David Greenfield requested that the MTA tell bus drivers and subway station attendants to allow parents to take public transit even if their cards don’t work. He said he could not get confirmation from the MTA that they would do this.

UPDATE: At a press conference Wednesday morning, union president Michael
Cordiello said it’s “unfortunate that those who are hurt most by the
mayor’s actions . . . are the city’s children and parents.”

“Despite public pronouncements, it is not illegal to put [Employee Protection Provisions] in the bids,” Cordiello argued.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has refused to put EPPs in the request for new
bids on the grounds that a Court of Appeals decision regarding a
pre-kindergarten bus route request for bids rendered doing so illegal.

According to Cordiello, EPPs have been in the contracts since 1979, and existed as far back as 1969 under a different name.

Cordiello said EPPs save money because “it averts a strike,” and it does
not affect competitive bidding, as the mayor has argued.

Bloomberg and Walcott’s portrayal of the Court of Appeals decision is “inaccurate,” Cordiello announced.

“He can do it,” Cordiello said. “He’s not being genuine, he can do it.”

The mayor is set to speak about the strike this afternoon.

Metro’s original story is below.

While student MetroCards will work on Wednesday morning as the school bus drivers’ strike kicks off, parent cards will not be activated until Thursday.

“Parent cards were sent to the [Department of Education] inactive as per their request,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz explained by phone Wednesday morning. “They formally notified us of the strike on Monday afternoon and they were fully aware, as we explained beforehand, activating cards takes 24-72 hours.”

City Councilman David Greenfield worried that the strike would be ‘chaotic’ for parents Wednesday morning, moreso with confusion over MetroCards.

“Obviously it didn’t help that we got 36 hours notice from the union,” he said Tuesday night by phone. “But we knew it could’ve been happening since November of 2011, 14 months ago.”

“I’m frustrated on behalf of my constituents,” Greenfield added. “I’m very sympathetic to the union’s arguments, but I don’t believe a strike is the right solution. The ones who suffer the most are the parents and the students.”

Ortiz noted that the DOE has promised to reimburse parents for the cost of MetroCards while the city-supplied cards are inactive. The city has also promised reimbursement for parents who need to drive or take taxis or car services.

Greenfield criticized the DOE’s plan of reimbursement as impractical for lower-income parents who may not be able to stake the money in advance.

“Lower income parents and ones with special needs kids are going to suffer the most,” Greenfield said.

Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said that “parents who may have difficulty with the reimbursement can reach out to the child’s school for arrangements.”

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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