Saturday, 26 April 2008

how to shoot yourself in the foot

Last week, there was talk of a TTC strike. The city's mayor threatened to declare public transit an essential service (like firefighters and police) so that they couldn't strike. So the TTC agreed to give 48-hours notice before walking out. Last Friday, they gave their notice, leaving everyone (well, me anyway) worried over the weekend. Fortunately, at the eleventh hour the city reached a deal with the TTC Union bargaining team, and the strike was averted. All that was left was for the union membership to ratify the agreement, which included upgraded medical coverage and a 6% raise over the next two years.

Last night, at 10pm, the membership voted by a 2/3 margin to reject the agreement, releaseing a statement at 11 that as of midnight, public transit was on strike. Small piece of advice to transit workers: don't strike without warning on a Friday night. For better or worse, drunken revelers have a lot to say about public opinion, and stranding them to grab a cab ride home just isn't going to help your case.

Though the discussions are not public, and no statements have been made as to the basis for the strike. Rumor has it that the grievance involves the outsourcing of TTC maintenance work, which if true is a valid enough worry. But why destroy whatever public support they had by stranding riders?
commentary from transit advocate Steve Munro
• Globe and Mail blog coverage
• Toronto Star coverage
• National Post coverage
• Toronto Sun coverage
• Torontoist coverage
• Blog TO coverage
I've kept my strongest views about the TTC to myself, mostly because I am not used to being in a place so heavily unionized, and these views are decidedly anti-union. Whether officially designated as an essential service or not, the TTC is certainly essential to me, though rising costs are making year-round cycling a more and more attractive alternative. Subway trains each have at least two employees on board during operations--a driver and a watcher (she's the one who sticks her head out a window to make sure no one has their foot stuck in the gap before the train leaves a station). I'd eliminate them both, in favor of computerized trains. I'd also change the cash-ticket-token-daypass-weeklypass-monthlypass system to a single card system, where riders could buy single fares, lots of fares at discounted rates, or term-limited unlimited passage. They could purchase cards or add fares to cards at any subway stop (at automated machines that would take cash, debit, or credit), and they could also add fares online. The new card system would involve adding card swipes to buses and streetcars and would allow for the elimination of some of the ticket counter personnel. Also, there would be no advertising anywhere on the TTC. Not on the sides of buses, not in subway stations, and not in subway cars. That's my TTC.

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