NEW YORK — The city spent roughly $20.6 million in transit cards, taxis and gas mileage to get tens of thousands of stranded students to school during the monthlong bus strike, but some still didn't get there at all, schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said today.
The 7,700 or so bus routes that serve the nation's largest school district will resume Wednesday following mid-winter recess, but routes for non-public schools will start Tuesday, Walcott said. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 ended its walkout on Friday evening after union leaders were assured by prospective New York City mayoral candidates that their concerns about job protection would be heard after this year's election. They went on strike Jan. 16.
“We are glad to welcome back the local 1181 drivers and matrons,” Walcott said. “Their children have missed them ... and we need them back so our children can get to school.”
Walcott estimated the city saved $80 million because it wasn't paying drivers during the strike, which started over job protection issues. Local 1181 of the ATU wanted the city to include protections for current employees in future contracts with bus companies, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a court ruling prohibited the city from doing so.
Just 152,000 of New York City's 1.1 million public schoolchildren ride yellow school buses, but many are disabled or have no other easy way to get to school. The city provided transit cards for students and is reimbursing parents for taxi fares and gas mileage needed to get students to school during the strike. But Walcott said it was a struggle for many parents, and some students didn't make it to class.
Some 800 special education students across the city were re-routed, and parents should check with their schools to determine when the students would be back on regular routes, Walcott said.
“Wednesday will be a good day for our students, they will be able to get back to school riding on yellow buses,” he said.
The school bus strike was the first in the city since 1979. About 5,000 of the city's 7,700 routes were affected.
The cost of busing students has risen from $100 million in 1979 to $1.1 billion today, prompting Bloomberg to insist the city must seek new bus contracts to cut costs. Walcott said so far there have been about 60 different contract bids and city officials are going through them and looking for the best, most cost-effective solutions.
Union leaders were heartened by a letter written by five Democrats vying for the nomination to succeed Bloomberg as mayor next year asking them to return to work. The candidates — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson and former Councilman Sal Albanese — said that if elected, they will revisit the job security issue.