January 18, 2021

Conestoga College students who bought a bus pass this semester may receive some cash back, weeks after an 11-day transit strike left many of them scrambling for new ways to get to class. 

The total? $37.50 per pass holder, according to Grand River Transit (GRT) officials.  

“For the inconvenience, we are reimbursing 50 per cent of January,” John Cicuttin, manager of transit development for Waterloo Region, said on Wednesday. 

The wait won’t be long, however, as more information on how it will be organized could come as early as Monday.

 “Early next week we’ll have a message clarifying how [students] can get that $37.50,” said Jacinda Reitsma, vice-president of finance and corporate services at Conestoga College.

Reitsma emphasized that this new refund is separate from the GRT Strike Relief fund that was set up by the college to offset travel costs for students affected by the transit strike.  

Conestoga’s strike relief fund offers up to $200 to students who meet certain criteria and can provide receipts for incurred costs, such as cabs and Ubers.

Students can apply for that fund until Feb. 23 through the college’s website.  

The transit strike began on Jan. 21 when Unifor Local 4304, the union that represents operators, dispatchers, fleet mechanics and service attendants for GRT, turned down a contract from the region.  

Bus service resumed on Feb. 1, a few days after the region approved a deal with the union. 

“Our customer service staff are seeing Conestoga College students starting to come to the counters and ask for the refunds and we are advising them to hold off while we work on this with the college,” said Gethyn Beniston, a project manager for GRT.

He said the refund may be processed differently based on how a student paid for the $300 pass.

The passes could be purchased with a credit card or Condor Cash, the school’s digital currency, until the end of January.  

Beniston added that it is ultimately the college’s responsibility to make sure students receive the refunds. 

Conestoga Students Inc. president Scot Wyles said in an email that he was aware of GRT’s plans, but didn’t yet know how and when students would be able to access a refund. 

More than 5,000 people take the bus to Conestoga College’s Doon campus on an average weekday, Spoke reported in November.

This story was first published on Thursday, Feb. 20 and updated on Feb. 21 to reflect new information provided by Conestoga College on planned timelines for student refunds.

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