[Ed Note: This is a release from The Ecology Action Center sent today, January 31 2012]
The potential Metro Transit transit service disruption looms large. If a strike or a lockout should occur, which would begin February 2, 95,000 daily transit rides wouldn’t happen Yes, some users could make their trip by walking.
Yes, some bicycle trips could be made. Yes, taxis could carry some of the load. But some transit users can’t walk or bike. This may be due to the length of their trip or physical challenges faced by the users who may be Access-a-Bus users or have musculoskeletal issues. Many other users can’t afford anything other than public transit – for students, low-income earners, and people on old age security, cabs may not be an option.
“We aren’t taking sides on the issue,” says Mark Butler, Policy Director at the Ecology Action Centre, “but it must be recognized that transit is critical for the operation of the city. Without it, people can’t get to work and they can’t get to school.” Metro Transit employees have been offered a four per cent wage increase over two years, but are opposed to parts of the contract which allow for the contracting out of services that are not part of the conventional transit system. “We urge HRM and the union to come to an agreement as soon as possible so as to avoid a strike,” Butler continues.
Metro Transit’s Access-A-Bus will still provide service to dialysis patients during the event of a service disruption.
The Ecology Action Centre has spent decades convincing Haligonians to utilize transit. The impending oil and climate crises as well as Nova Scotia’s increasing obesity rate and urban traffic gridlock require a shift to more sustainable transportation modes. Transit is touted as a convenient, reliable alternative to the personal vehicle. A service disruption would challenge that assertion. A strike that affected transit service for even a few days may be enough to convince people that private automobile ownership is the only viable option.
A service disruption could set back Halifax Regional Municipality’s efforts to densify the downtown and plan for growth and development along transit corridors. In effect, a strike would derail the Municipality’s planning objectives laid out in the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy. It would give businesses another reason to leave the already crumbling downtown and move into business parks with ample free parking for employees and customers. It would reverse HRM’s efforts to be a more sustainable, more liveable municipality.
Transit strikes in London, Ontario and Ottawa resulted in economic losses during the strike itself. Transit ridership also took time to re-establish itself. In Ottawa, overall transit ridership has increased but how this number was affected by the strike is unknown. The same would likely be true for the Halifax Regional Municipality.