I’ve decided that I would like to blog everyday. It’s not the first time I’ve said that I’ll do that, but now I have a reason. Ottawa is currently in a public transportation work stoppage. In other words, the buses are on strike. OC Transpo is on strike. If you’re keeping score, we’re two weeks away from Christmas and dead in the middle of exam season.
My mom has never been able to drive, so the bus has been my primary means to move about the city for school, work, shopping, socialising, entertainment, and on occasion, sleep. This strike is going to make it extremely difficult for me to make it to work, even though I don’t live all that far from where I need to get five days a week. It’s not within walking distance, but it doesn’t take all that long in a vehicle. If this work strike lasts nearly as long as the last one did – 24 days in 1996 – then I’ll be walking to school, which is a decent 40-minute walk, at best when bike paths are used. I don’t think those get ploughed in the winter. And even worse, I know there are others who are far more inconvenced, to use a euphamism, that I.
Yesterday, the union head of OC Transpo drivers, André Cornellier, made a few appearances in the media. CTV here, here, and on the radio here. I understand the bus driver’s position and that they have been without a contract for a long time now, but Cornellier’s demeanour and utter lack of respect (or the show thereof) for the public certainly didn’t get me to sympathize. I doubt that he garnered any support from us public types.
That isn’t to say that the city isn’t to blame, either. It’s only more recently that I’ve started to develop an understanding of municipal politics. And it’s in that time that I’ve learned that Ottawa’s city-level politics is ridiculous. Mostly, I’m disappointed and borderline frustrated that there has been near zero progress on improving rapid transit and light rail in the city since the O-Train launched six or seven years ago. Every week, some new figure proposes a new plan that will save time and money compared to the current plan, which nobody seems to want to get behind. And the plan that was in place a few years back was grounded, even though we still had to pay for the breached conracts that were in place. Isn’t it better to pay for something rather than pay for nothing? It’s not like the expanded O-Train line wouldn’t have been beneficial; it would have been much more useful than what it is now. It’s being in love (or, at least being married to) the status quo that really annoys me, and our councillors aren’t willing to flirt with change, let alone make it their misteress (or mister…. whatever the male equivalent is. Cabana boy?).
This, of course, brings me back to the transit strike. I don’t see either side offering a comprimise anytime soon. The union is too obsessed with getting more sick days and a flexable scheduling system (which has its own flaws… ask anyone who has ever not had a bus come), and the city is too busy trying to get the public on its side by saying, “we’re offering them tons of money in these ‘hard economic times’.” The drivers and the public seem to be stuck inbetween.
One thing that I found surprising is that the union (or whoever it was) isn’t allowing for more school buses to be on the road. The schoolboard hatched a plan to get more buses to pick up some fo the students that use OC Transpo to get to school – but if they do that, then they “cannot guarantee [that] school [areas] won’t be picketed.” Kids should be in school. They need to be in school. It’s ridiculous that they would rather use kids by disrupting schools and keeping the kids from being on time than being coopoerative on such a simple level. I’m sure parents appreciate the extra headache in the morning.
Day one isn’t a problem. Despite the big snowstorm that we just had, finding rides to and fro isn’t too hard for a day or two – at least for me. At least for now. My friend’s father drove me to work where I am now, blogging. One thing has changed significantly between the last strike 12 years ago and now: the Internet. With people being so connected, especially here in Ottawa, it’s so much easier to find rides. There are easily a dozen websites and Facebook groups offering to connect people for carpools and rideshare initiatives. The safety and reliability of such proposals have yet to be tested in such dire situations, but it would be amazing if through these efforts, people managed to find their once stranger neighbours who work or commute in the same direction or to the same areas and formed new friendships – or at least new carpooling buddies. That’s what community should be about. Frankly, that’s what Ottawa should be about. As much as I’d love to see bus ridership increase (I would love to not have the service on my three routes reduced), I would also love to see the Transit people, as well as the City people, realise that they in fact do need us as much as we need them.