Sunday, April 27, 2008

that was the ttc strike that was

Friday was a quiet night for me, a chance to recover from the week and recharge my batteries for a busy Saturday. I was so lethargic that I did something I rarely do, take a nap.

Waking up around 11:30 p.m., I shuffled over to the computer and starting websurfing. I soon discovered that it was a good night to have planned nothing, as the TTC was suddenly poised to shut down within half-an-hour.

The city was primed for a strike a week ago, when the Amalgamated Transit Union gave 48 hours notice for a walkout effective at the start of morning rush hour last Monday. Thanks to a tentative deal on Sunday, the work week got off to a normal start. Once the ballots were in on Friday, the offer was rejected by 65% of those voting. Citing potential harm to TTC workers from an angry public, union officials cast aside previous promises to provide 48 hours notice and gave the signal for workers to shut the system down.

Bad, bad move...

Let me get this straight Bob Kinnear. You give the signal to walk away (a) a couple of hours before all but blue night runs wind down for the day, (b) on very short notice on a Friday night when those using your service are more likely getting plastered downtown, and (c) at a time and day when the effects of certain substances may provoke an even angrier backlash from the public than if 48 hours notice was provided.

Davisville Entrance, First Hour of the TTC Strike
Curious to see what was happening, I drove over to Yonge Street to see the initial effects of the walkout. Car horns filled the air as panicky pedestrians dashed out into the road to stop any cab that passed by, many of which performed sudden u-turns. Scouting out Davisville around 12:15 revealed no indication on the station doors that anything was amiss. Many tried to enter the station only to find the doors locked. Obscenities flew freely, with no TTC workers in sight to hear them (no pickets were part of the walkout strategy).

Davisville Closed (or at least TTC Headquarters)
The only sign posted was on TTC headquarters, but this may be the norm.

Walking up to Eglinton almost every passer-by was glued to a cell phone, trying to figure out their way home. In between obscenities directed at the TTC several commented that they were glad they weren't Scarborough natives stuck downtown. When I reached Eglinton an out of service passed by and was greeting with a chorus of "F**k you TTC!"

No Entry Into Eglinton
Like Davisville, no signs were posted at Eglinton to warn commuters that they would need to make alternative arrangements for the trip home. One guy took it upon himself to pace around the main Canada Square entrance like a modern Paul Revere. The most obvious sign was at the northeast entrance, where the metal doors had slid into place. There was a white van with a TTC logo near the Canada Square entrance that tables were being unloaded from but no taunts appeared to be hurled in its direction.

The timing of the news meant that anyone who had gone to sleep early or had not accessed any media outlets would have woken up yesterday morning unaware of a strike. When I picked up some friends to head out to the Good Food show, it was news to them. Along Pape we noticed bus stops full of people waiting for buses who would see Godot sooner than a Red Rocket. On the way back we passed by the deserted Hillcrest Yards, to which my passengers flipped the bird.

Subway Entrance, NE Corner of Yonge and Lawrence
This afternoon I walked north along Yonge from Eglinton. Both entrances to Lawrence were marked with broken glass (the northeast entrance is pictured). At the same time, the provincial government had reconvened to pass emergency legislation to send TTC staff back to work, which means I won't be setting up my camera in my cubicle tomorrow morning to survey the commuter chaos on the street below (though I wonder how grumpy commuters will be towards operators).

Service is being restored but this story is far from over. One thing is certain: ATU union popularity among the public ranks somewhere below George Bush, lawyers and bubonic plague.

Stories and links at Spacing and Torontoist.

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