Even Slower than Usual…

Update Friday, May 5, 2006 at 5:56 PM. Dalam topik Transportation
Toronto transit workers are on an illegal strike this morning. There are no buses, subways, or streetcars. To make matters worse, this strike was sudden - there were only a few inklings in the news about it yesterday, so many people were caught off guard, standing confused at bus stops with no time to make alternative travel plans.

"Who is it that suffers? It’s the people who can’t afford cars," she said. "The message being sent is that driving is the way to go - and that’s ridiculous.

An underlying theme, once again, will be that cars are the only reliable method of transportation, and that public transit is inferior, to be used only as a last resort by the poor. Unfortunately, the TTC has a long history of strikes, lockouts, and threatened disruptions, which makes it very difficult for the average rider to sympthatize.

I’d like to think that employers will be understanding to their employees who arrive late today, but I know that will not always be the case. I am reminded of the blue-collar job ads in the local newspaper for my hometown where, more often than not, minimum wage jobs are advertised with the caveat "must have own car." Strikes like this provide more ammunition for that attitude, which I personally feel is as discriminatory as "whites only" or "no Irish need apply."

A transit strike deemed illegal in New York City last year resulted in some of the leaders being jailed. I am not against unions or strikes per se - historically they brought a lot of good to all of us - but strikes are something that should be a last resort, after good faith negotiations have failed and the gap is immense. Too often it seems that riders are caught between worker and management politics, and used as pawns. Workers might want to remember that the riders are the ones who pay to keep the system going, and that more riders means more fares and more government funding for the system. Sending riders fleeing back to their cars helps nobody.

And finally, of course, this all comes down to money (although this is actually about driver safety and shiftwork, these are issues that derive from lack of funds). On that note, it’s worth noting that even though the recent Ontario budget began investing some much overdue money into transit, historically and in general our governments spend far more money expanding and maintaining our automobile infrastructure.

Responses :
Raine Camden Scott

Adam Giambronie (Vice Chair of TTC) commented on many viewers comments about making the TTC an essential service and options to privatize sections of the TTC. He is dead wrongwith his comments that it can't be done.

Torontonians have just had the most unpleasant Monday morning surprise when the union representing the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) 8000 workers decided to do a'Wild-Cat' Illegal Strike.

While many residents were taken aback Monday morning when the buses, subways and streetcars were not running. It nevertheless an outrage that Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union can hold the city hostage when it bargains with the city. The two-day strike of April 1999 inconvenienced 3.3 million riders, while the eight-day strike of 1991 created so much chaos that even the union-friendly NDP government of the day was ready to enact back-to-work legislation.

A union-management battle that has been brewing for months over several issues including driver security, health premiums, job evaluations and shifting for employees who do track maintenance and cleaning for the TTC.

In spite of the self-congratulatory TTC propaganda one finds plastered throughout the subway, public transit in Toronto is a mess. Thanks to a withdrawal of steady provincial funding, the system has 10% fewer buses – and 20% fewer streetcars – today than 15 years ago, and requires $300 million a year to keep its aging fleet in a state of good repair.

The city subsidizes the TTC with over $240 million in tax revenues every year. Numerous fare hikes and decreased service have taken a toll on ridership, which fell from a high of 465 million a year at the end of the 1980s to 372 million in 1996, although levels have risen since, especially with the introduction of weekly passes, and high gas prices.

Toronto's buses and subway cars are frequently overcrowded even outside of rush hour periods . The city came up with a Transit Growth Strategy that it seems to have forgotten about. As well, many grumble that their friendly bus driver often isn't very friendly. Of the 16,773 complaints lodged against the TTC in 2004, 6206 dealt with driver behaviour. Interestingly, the TTC acknowledged it was at fault for over 65% of complaints.

Supporters of public transportation argue with some justification the TTC is underfunded and merely needs more financial resources. It sounds nice until you realize that neither the province nor the city has any extra cash lying around, and that throwing money at government monopolies is a questionable strategy.

As is getting the province to declare the TTC an essential service, subject to binding arbitration. While such a move would prevent future strikes, it would also be a recipe for ever-expanding costs, and it would leave public transit in the hands of a monopoly. If some drivers can get away with being surly to passengers, it is because they are protected by a union, and the TTC is the only mass transit system in town.

Instead, Toronto could follow the examples of London England, Las Vegas, San Diego, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and other cities in privatizing – or just partially privatizing – its transit system. In the years since private bus service arrived in London, ridership increased, waiting times fell, and fares were reduced relative to inflation. Ridership rose by 300% in Las Vegas after its entire system was privatized, while cost per vehicle hour dropped by 33%.

If a total privatization seems too radical, imagine if the TTC leased out its busy arterial bus routes to a private operator, and concentrated instead upon the subway system and out-of-the-way bus routes. The city could beef up service, earn millions in leasing fees, and ensure that business wouldn't grind to a halt in the event of a strike like Monday.

Such an option is of course unthinkable under Toronto's current Mayor and left-wing Council. Still, breaking the TTC's monopoly over public transit – as well as the union's ability to shut down the city – would indeed be a "better way" for Toronto commuters.

Oceanaclair :

Sick, Sick, Sick of being used and abused by the TTC and today is a good exemple of that abuse. They are like a bunch of spoiled brats! TTC should be a mandatory service. Never happy, always something to complaint about, but most time, they deserve the treatment they receive from the public. They are rude and they yell. I take the 108-108A bus from Downsview Station.

Last winter, that female driver was always ahead of her schedule. Driving like a maniac, to stop sometimes 10-15 and I have seen 17 minutes in front of the Driftwood Community Centre. She ate, had a smoke, used her cell phone, read the news paper have a chat with the next bus driver coming to take over this spot. As results, she got screamed at more than once. But why did she do that in the first place? People want to go home at night, not wait and to sit for 15 minutes in a bus waiting for the good grace of the drivers to take them home.

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