The price of everybody’s bus ride went up again this morning, and that little Monday morning kick in the shins is unlikely to do much to improve a certain fractious, bitchy mood which seems to infuse transit matters these days.
Positive news, like ridership returning to pre-strike levels or a 5.5 per cent cut in fuel usage thanks to our diesel-electric hybrids, get far less attention than bus-board squabbles.
First on the fight card: young parents versus seniors and the disabled. Weeks of wrangling over whether wheelchairs or strollers should be given actual priority in the priority seating areas culminated Wednesday in a tangle of suggested rules from city staff on allowable numbers, sizes and locations of strollers.
It was, in short, the exact sort of micromanaging farce you get when you rely on regulators to solve petty problems better handled by common sense and courtesy.
Mercifully, council rejected these rules in favour of some reasonable guidelines: If there’s a wheelchair spot available, put the stroller there. If it’s not available or someone in a wheelchair boards, put the stroller in the aisle. If strollers get in the way, the driver may ask to have them folded. In other words, share the space and treat each other with consideration. Was that so hard?
Next up: city council versus OC Transpo. Here, our councillors performed a little less brilliantly. The saga of the new bus garage, the cost of which has swollen from $60 million to $97 million, had Coun. Glenn Brooks clamouring for an audit.
Council instead voted for a peer review of Transpo’s operations, staffing and customer service by the American Public Transit Association, and a separate study by a city panel of recent purchasing decisions.
The councillors didn’t mention they voted for every single cost increase on the bus barn for which they are now demanding an explanation. The increased scrutiny of Transpo’s workings may provide clues for doing things better, but the entire scene smacks of buck-passing by electioneering councillors.
Finally, we have the latest round of the endless donnybrook between Transpo and its drivers. So absent is any good faith between management and union that they still can’t come together on scheduling.
The struggle for control over driver shifts was a major irritant in the last strike. Even after an arbitrator took two cracks at resolving the issue, it still won’t die. Now the ATU has complained to the Canada Industrial Relations Board. Court action may follow.
In such an atmosphere, the very arrival of one’s morning bus can feel like a miracle.