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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?



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  1. hannah78 says:

    Newbie and fellow frustrated Ottawan. I am like you, an environmentally-conscious person who would much rather let someone else do the driving (particularly after seeing some of the idiots on the road this week!) and it makes me sad that people will be swayed away from using the buses once they start up again.
    Too bad the whole light rail project is a mess that never took off in the way it was supposed to.

  2. XUP says:

    Well, I’m sure the city will respond by using the decline in ridership to cut way back on transit service — something they’ve been itching to do for a long time anyway. Then they get to fire/lay-off a whole bunch of OC Transpo staff and save piles of money. Then they can trash that whole ridiculous 10-year transit plan. Transit doesn’t generate income for the city, it costs a lot and is a big headache. For a mayor and council with zero vision (like this one) it’s going to be a win-win situation all around.

  3. I stopped riding the bus at the last bus strike. I tried again starting in 2006, but unreliability of the service in my area made me give up after about 2 months of aggravation.

    For me, it’s not that I don’t want to use public transit… it’s just that I can’t depend on it. To make a 9 AM start time, allowing about 40 minutes on the bus, I should be able to catch the bus around 8:20 in front of my house. However, because they can rarely keep schedule and often just plain “forget” to come down my street, I’d have to be outside at about 7:30. If I’m lucky, I’ll get the 7:40, but more realistically, I’ll be on the 8:00 or the 8:20. That wait is really fun when it’s -20. Alternately, I can walk about a kilometer – which I actually do sometimes in the summer, but it’s pretty sucky in the winter when I can drive to work in 20 minutes.

    Coming home is worse. If I get out the door by the stroke of 5, I can get to, say, Billings Bridge and get my bus, but then I run the risk of getting into an argument with the driver when he “forgets” to go down my street. Worse, the buses don’t run past about 6:00 pm, so a slightly long day and I’m walking the kilometer in the cold… again, I can drive it in about 20-30 minutes.

    Years ago, I lived right near Hurdman station and took the bus all the time.

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