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January 12th, 2009:

Damage from strike may be long-term: Thank-you Mr. Obvious!

There is a piece in the Citizen this morning that notes the long-term effects of this strike.

This is something that I have talked about before given my own personal situation. There will be a lingering bitterness that the City will have to overcome – if overcoming it is even possible.

Mayor Larry O’Brien has said that because of the strike, Ottawa’s public transit will likely take years to recover, and Councillor Alex Cullen, chairman of city council’s transit committee, agrees. He says the strike by 2,300 drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and others, will leave a “troublesome” legacy. Mr. Cullen laments the fact that OC Transpo was enjoying some of its best ridership numbers when the strike occurred.

“Given our last experience and the experiences of other jurisdictions, we can expect that ridership will drop once the buses start running,” he says. “It may take a year to win back riders, but there will be damage and it will take a while to get back on track.”

He says students and people with low incomes will return to their buses because they simply have no other choice. But the city’s challenge will be to get back people who have alternatives but chose to ride the bus.

“It will take some considerable effort by OC Transpo and city council to win back those riders. It may be that in the spring, the buses will not be packed and it may also be that within a year, we will find ourselves reaching record levels again,” Mr. Cullen says.

The emphasis above in mine.  And that is the important point. There are folks who simply have no choice but to dutifully (and likely grumpily) board the buses once they are running again.  And then there are those like me – a committed environmentalist – a strong believer in public transit – and someone who really did enjoy the downtime aspect of the trips to and from work. If someone like me is having serious second thoughts about returning to OC Transpo, then what are the fence-sitters going to do?

It will take much, much longer than a year to win back riders. Guaranteed.

Check out the new double-deckers in the background – wonder if they’ll ever be used?