No end in sight for YRT/Viva strike

It’s a shame that weeks have gone by and the bus unions and contractors are no closer to an agreement than when they started. With over 60% of bus service suspended, people who rely on these services have had to find other means of transportation to get to work, school or just get around.

But rather than just being a short-term nuisance for commuters, the bus strike has revealed that we can’t rely on public transportation and when it comes down to it, we can find other arrangements.

I’m not saying it’s easy making carpool plans, taking cabs or figuring out other ways to get where you need to go. Lots of people are struggling, including students who have no other way to get to school and workers who need to get to their office.

I’m extremely lucky that the bus I need to get to Finch has run – had it not, I would have struggled to find another way to get to the subway and to work.

But the fact of the matter is that this strike has shown that we can’t rely on public transit – so we shouldn’t. There has not been an overwhelming demand from commuters affected by the strike, encouraging a decision to be made. Even media coverage has been unusually quiet.

The short-term effects of the strike are the extra hassles but the long-term ones are much worse. It has told us not to rely on public transportation – so even if an agreement is reached, people may think twice before reverting to their pre-strike routines. This will have drastic effects on the already-horrible traffic situation in Toronto. At a time when our politicians should be encouraging us to use public transport to reduce traffic congestion, this strike has told citizens “don’t bother.”

People who have been able to make alternate arrangements have realized that it’s possible to exist without these services. Perhaps you never considered carpooling with your neighbour and now you do. You may find it’s even more convenient than waiting for the bus in the rain and snow.

I’m not trying to negate the demands of the unions – it is fair to demand higher wages when YRT bus drivers make much less than their GTA counterparts yet we pay much higher fares.

But the fact of the matter is that people are re-evaluating the way the public transportation system works – and this strike proves it needs to dramatically change for us to re-gain confidence in it.

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One response to “No end in sight for YRT/Viva strike

  1. Swetlana Nwaokoro

    You are absolutely right this strike has revealed the absolute “we don’t care about people who rely on the public transit system ” mentality of the current government on all levels. Public transit is an essential service for the poorest of this society, the ones who don’t have three cars in the driveway and no neighbor, friend or relative to give them a ride. They are lucky that the weather has been fine so far otherwise this strike could have caused severe illnesses and casualties. I was in the process of applying for jobs when all this started. I could have acquired a well paid job but as a consequence had to settle for a minimum wage retail job because I can only walk within my town of Newmarket. I am on the road 50 minutes each direction to and from my job. Not counting the grocery shopping, doctor visits, sports activities of my kids I am on the road an average total of 4 hours each day rain or shine. I come from a country where the government has privatized public transit but has reserved the right to step in and order arbitration after a few days of strike, Germany’s economy would collapse otherwise as millions rely on public transit not only in the big cities. Canada is about thirty years behind when it comes to public transit service that applies to the routes it offers (in Newmarket we can hardly talk of a network), the price structure, the bus times and the customer service. No wonder it is only the poor, disabled and disadvantaged people that make use of it. Why bother building fast transit lanes on Davis for millions of dollars if Viva cannot keep their usual routes running. Most of all why could you not strike in the summer if the employer had not offered anything from March 2011? Having served for 12 years as a shop steward for Germany’s biggest union , I am also wondering about the actions of the unions involved. Unions are not only there to save the rights of its members, they also have an obligation towards the members of society. I would not be surprised if many people would turn away from public transit after this strike, if I would find a way I would. Unfortunately walking 4 hours per day is not an option for my feet. Shame on all municipal politicians who have now openly shown how much they care about us! Come to Europe and learn from the masters of public transit, we make 82 million people move on a surface of one third of Ontario on a daily basis!

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