Since mid-October, the Victoria area transit drivers & mechanics have been exercising their right to job action: they have not been wearing uniforms and have not been working any overtime. While this might not seem like much, it means that as drivers call in sick, they are not being replaced. Instead, their shifts are simply cancelled. Sidebar: I suspect management could better balance the missing trips but would prefer the union get the public’s wrath.
For the most part, Kiddo and I have been lucky in our morning commute and after not seeing any cancellations that affected us for week after week, I had been lulled into a false sense of security.
Cue Monday morning. Our first bus was a little late but nothing to be concerned about, we head off to the transfer stop where there were already people waiting. So we waited. And waited. And finally two buses pulled up but both were already full. They managed to squeeze on about 25 people between them but the rest of us had to wait. Finally a double-decker pulled up and we all piled in. It was an express bus though, which means Kiddo gets off at a stop about a block further from her usual stop. I watched carefully to make sure she got out (she did) then texted her a “phew!” However, she texted back that she was minorly injured on the way out — I discovered later she twisted her shoulder trying to move between people who had no where to move in a packed bus.
Today I checked the schedule first thing and again right before I left. We leave the house at 7:25; there were no cancellations that affected our routes. When we got to the transfer stop, there were people waiting again. Damn. I checked again and sure enough another update was posted at 7:30 — three buses were missing that would have alleviated pressure on our route. Meanwhile, connecting buses were still unloading more and more passengers to add to the crowd. Mike texted me and we arranged to have him pick us up at that point and deliver us to work and school. As luck would have it, one of Kiddo’s friends showed up at the same time and we just gathered her into the van, too.
I’m really at wit’s end with this. Four months of stress for commuters is bullshit. I refuse to blame the union — they don’t have too many options because a legislated return to work is pretty likely if they were to do a full shutdown of the system. Thing is, Mike pointed out, that the way Transit is funded, job action actually puts more money in Transit’s coffers through taxes, including a tax on fuel.
And if you don’t think it’s a significant portion, have a look at this chart (source):
That “Fuel Tax” section looks like about 15% for conventional transit and 10% for handyDart. If you want the nitty gritty of the numbers, you can wade through the Motor Fuel Tax Act, notably sections 4.1 and 12.1(2). If you’re really curious, also have a peek at the British Columbia Transit Act.
What it boils down to is this:
fewer buses running = more people in cars = more fuel = more tax revenue.
Now I know there are those who will say fewer buses does not always translate into more cars but in 2011, the CRD commissioned the “Origin-Destination Household Travel Survey” and frankly, most people already get around by car (whether as driver or passenger); I presume this includes taxi service. Bus trips account for only 6.3% of travel — walking is double that at 12.6% and cycling is 2.8%. The graph here is from the Survey Highlights document.
Transit has also already announced it is raising fares in April, too — not across the board but significantly the single fares for students & seniors jump from $1.65 to $2.50. And what do we get in return? If this job action continues we get overcrowding and anxiety.
All I ask is that the parties get back to the table and find a solution. I am unlikely to buy a monthly pass for February if this keeps up.