Sunday, April 20, 2008

TTC – Essential?

I’d like to touch on the idea that the TTC is an essential service. If you pick up a dictionary you might think it is, but if you look at history, you might say no. I for one think it’s odd that all of a sudden after 5 years as Premier, Dalton has come to the conclusion that the TTC is important. I am no fan of Dalton; he grumbles that Harris cut funding to things like Transit, then does nothing to restore that funding. Regardless, that’s another battle for another time. First of all lets examine what it means to be an essential service.

The so-called “Essential services act” (more of a name then a real act, at least in Ontario) defines that certain services are “essential” and that employees providing that service therefore cannot strike. Fire, Police, and Medical services are covered by this. Anyone who’s ever had to be rushed to the hospital would understand why – who’d want the doctor to say “sorry, on strike”. Despite this, certain locales allow some medical professionals to take part in labour action. While I’m not certain of the numbers, I believe that somewhere on the order of 15% of paramedics are allowed to be “on strike” at any time. This means the service is still provided, and it does its job, but not at 100%. It is from this idea that I have my possible solution to the entire problem.

Europe is not faced with the same system-wide strikes that we are, at least not London. Anyone who is aware will know that London is not run by one company, rather different bus lines can be run by different companies, and even the tube is divided amongst two companies. This means that any “Transit Strike” only takes down part of the network. Those who cannot take their usual north-south bus, can hop on the local east-west bus and find another way. This is one of the two options that I see for the TTC – having only part of the network go down at any time.

This could be done in one of two ways. First would be to divide the TTC, and second would be to make certain routes “Essential”. In the first example, we could split the TTC into Bus and Rail services. Perhaps on Monday all rail (streetcar and subway) services will not operate, while all of the regular bus services will. On Tuesday this could be reversed. This would allow the union to call the shots (decide which half of the network goes down) but also allow for people to get where they are going, although with great difficulty. The second method using this option is to declare parts of the network “Essential”. For example, all rapid transit lines plus bus routes on Eglinton, Finch, Dufferin, and so on. This would allow the union to take down a part of the network while leaving a skeleton network operating.

Although these two options have their good points, I favour a third option. Part of the rationale behind any Labour action in any service industry is to make a point – that is to say “we are on strike and here is why”. Having a limit of 50% might do that. This would mean that only 50% of the buses run, and only 50% of the subways. This would mean that each transit vehicle would be very crowded – point made – but that people would still be able to get to their destinations via transit. This would not be without it’s problems, it would have to be decided how 50% would work, especially on routes that are normally serviced by, for example, 3 buses. In general each route would have half as many buses

While neither of these are attractive options, I point out that either a system-wide strike or taking away the right to strike is even less so.

Going back online.

This is a notice that this blog is going back online effective today. Following the completion of my argument and central point that Transit, while useful, is not the be-all-end-all, I intend to turn this into a blog for the discussion of transit, and transit related issues. I will begin that discussion shortly, with a topic on the coming possible strike.