For Bryce Schaufelberger, the loss of bus service in the Fraser Valley meant the loss of independence.
With buses back on the road after over four months of disruption, Schaufelberger feels a sense of relief.
He serves as president of the Mission Self Advocates Group – an organization of people with disabilities that empowers members to speak up for themselves and for others.
The group was impacted by the labour dispute between CUPE transit workers and their employer First Transit in a number of ways. Now that both sides have come to an agreement, riders can get back on the bus.
“It’s a relief for us – now we can get out and do what we were doing before without having to rely on everybody else to take us here and there,” Schaufelberger said. “Independence was gone but now hopefully [it] comes back.”
In June, the Self Advocates Group rallied at the corner of Lougheed Highway and the Cedar Connector in Mission to call for an end to the transit strike.
Schaufelberger says the loss of personal autonomy for members was awful. He relies on transit daily to commute to his job at the Home Society in Abbotsford and to get around to complete tasks.
During the strike, he was able to get drives through the Home Society and Mission Association for Community Living. However, other group members had more trouble.
Schaufelberger says they couldn’t afford taxis to get around because they live on a disability pension and some members of the group were laid off from their jobs while the dispute lasted.
“Taxis are too expensive when you’re on disability,” he said. “100 bucks later – that’s like food money gone.”
Others couldn’t attend doctor’s appointments, employment programs or get their groceries.
Schaufelberger says members also experienced challenges with mental and physical health during the transit strike, due to walking on hot summer days and being isolated.
“When you’re isolated severe like that — we just went through COVID — then to just suffer some more like that, it’s just enough. We had to do it, but I’m glad they resolved everything,” he said.
With union members receiving a pension and a raise in wages, Schaufelberger says he’s relieved.
On July 21, the two sides reached a retroactive six-year agreement that ends on March 31, 2026, and narrows the wage gap with other transit workers in the region.
Bus services in Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope were suspended on March 20 when transit workers went on strike. Buses returned for HandyDart users on July 31 while other services resumed on Aug. 6.
Conventional transit is free for the month of August, with the exception of tickets and pass products.
“I’m glad they’re back. We just want to keep it going,” Schaufelberger said. “But we need more hours here so we can get around easier. I know we get a free bus for a month but that’s probably just [because] they feel sorry. I don’t know.”
In a news release, BC Transit and the City of Mission thanked the public for their patience during the service disruption.
“These last four months have truly illustrated the critical role that transit plays in our community,” Mission Mayor Paul Horn said. “We are extremely grateful that our services will be resuming, and that we can continue with our plans to improve transit.”
Schaufelberger hopes First Transit doesn’t start cutting services.
“We need them. No matter how you look at it, we need them,” he said.
Accessibility for transit could improve with more ramps and cleared sidewalks after it snows, Schaufelberger says.
“There’s a few [members] in wheelchairs that ride them,” he said. “ When there’s snow banks, they can’t get in [to access the bus stop]. When it’s not plowed properly, they got to stand out in the middle of the street and it’s dangerous.”
The Mission Self Advocates Group is in the process of completing a two-year project to measure how accessible Mission is. For transit, he says there’s also a need for more sheltered bus stops, hours of service and manpower.
Horn said he recognized the significant impact of the labour dispute on the community over the past four months.
“We are looking forward to a period of greater stability with our transit system and we hope that we’ll never experience an interruption like this again,” he said.“Before the strike, the Central Fraser Valley System was meeting or exceeding ridership recovery targets. Our aim will be to invite back to using the system and making it part of their daily mobility needs.”
BC Transit provided Mission’s council with an update on future improvements in July.