Leaving the channel last night, I walked to the streetcar stop on King Street, and was surprised when I saw two streetcars pass by with their red ‘out of service’ banners in place.
A very drunk man at the stop wandered by me muttering something about a strike, but I wasn’t inclined to believe him since I thought all the union disputes were resolved by 6pm last Sunday. It was only when another man, with a Blackberry or a Treo told me that, yes, there was strike, and he had just looked it up online because four streetcars had passed him.
I laughed. “Really?” After a bit of small talk, we were both wondering why the union hadn’t given 24-hours notice, like they had said they would, in the event of a strike. We both agreed that it could be worse. It could be the middle of the winter, and it could have been raining. “At least we’re not going to freeze to death.” His phone rang, and he wandered off.
I quickly immediately found a taxi and headed home. The driver hadn’t heard anything about the strike, which had only been in effect for 15 minutes, and he was pleased that he was going to make alot of money that night, and every cab we sat next to at the lights, he was yelling out the window telling the other drivers about it. It was 14 bucks I didn’t want to spend, but I got home with little hassle.
I say good for them. The TTC, though basically an essential service, has the power to shut down the city, and they effectively have. They called to strike on a Friday night, when many people are using the service, and at a time when the impact of a shutdown could be felt by many. Today, Saturday, less people head to work than on weekdays, and it’s not going to be as disruptive as if this was a Monday morning.
I have to work today. Work is not walking distance. I have 2 options: I can drive, or I can ride my bike. Usually, I drive to work on Saturdays, because I have use of our parking lot, and sometimes I bike to work, though those days are few and far between. Today, I’ll be biking. I need the exercise and it’s a nice day out. Plus, parking at the channel might be difficult considering the number of people who work on Saturdays, and who will likely be trying to park because they didn’t take the transit.
The workers of the transit union do get paid. They make more money than alot of people. Some of them make more money than I do. However, I don’t believe that the reasoning of ‘I need the transit to be in service because I need to get to work’ is good enough to complain about the strike. The drivers and the majority of their workers are right in the line of fire. If a drunk angry passenger gets on the transit, it’s the driver who has to deal with him, with little to no outside resources. The major sticking point of the contract disputes has been pay when workers are sick or injured.
Yesterday heading to work on the streetcar, I was incredibly impressed with the driver. It was streetcar 4042 (I believe), and the driver was a 30-something guy with long-ish hair. Around Harbord street, a woman tried to get on, but her baby’s stroller kept getting caught on the door, and on the stairs. The driver immediately helped her, and when she apologised for taking so much time, he said, quite happily, “Don’t be sorry, it’s a baby’s stroller.”
My experience with public transit has (usually) been a positive one. If it takes a strike to get the workers what they want (and need), then so be it.
I’ll ride my bike.