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Toronto woman recalls what happened last time TTC workers went on strike

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On the first day of the 2008 transit strike in Toronto, Anna Dobie bought herself a bike to commute to work and, within a day, was hit by a car.

“I bought a bicycle the morning it started and within 24 hours, I had been hit by a taxi cab,” Dobie recalled in an interview with CTV News Toronto.

For the rest of the work stoppage, Dobie hailed a taxi to get from her home, near the Danforth, to work, in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood.

The work stoppage ended up lasting less than two days after the then Liberal government passed back-to-work legislation. But for Dobie the emotional scars persist to this day. Sixteen years later, she still avoids cycling in the city.

“It scared me,” she said.

Today, Dobie and the millions of people who use Toronto’s transit system daily are facing the prospect of another stoppage. The union representing more than 11,000 TTC employees has said workers will strike as of Friday if a tentative agreement hasn’t been reached by Thursday night. It would mean subways, buses and streetcars wouldn’t run, while the Wheel-Trans service would continue to operate due to an agreement reached with the union.

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green has previously stated that negotiations are expected to go “down to the wire” between the city and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113.

Green told CP24 Tuesday that the TTC will communicate any new information with members of the public as soon as possible.

This time around, Dobie lives in Parkdale and commutes to work in Cabbagetown using the streetcar.

“Although, I have to say, the TTC is such a disaster right now, I usually end up walking a significant way anyways,” she added.

With cycling through the city streets no longer a viable option, Dobie sees two options for herself in the event of a strike: walk, or buy another bike and cycle the Martin Goodman Trail along Toronto’s waterfront. She would then walk her bike the rest of the way up Parliament Street.

“I’m just too scared to ride in the city, I’d rather walk or work less,” she said. Now a mother of two, she said she’s also considered if a reduction in hours would be necessary to make up for the longer commute in order to meet her kids back at home in time.

Still, if it means better service, Dobie said the workers have her support.

“It’s going to be a huge disruption no doubt about that, but if it means better service, I’m behind them,” the Parkdale resident said. “At the end of the day, they’re doing the best job that they can.”

TTCriders, a volunteer-led organization of transit riders in Toronto, called the lack of an agreement a “shame” in a statement to CTV News.

“A strike will disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of transit users and affect everyone in Toronto,” spokesperson Shelagh Pizey-Allen said. “For many Toronto residents, the TTC is our only option to get around to work, school, caregiving, and appointments.”

It’s not just a commuter issue, either, Pizay-Allen said.

“For those with access to vehicles, gridlock will get worse,” she warned.

In its statement, TTCriders called upon CEO Rick Leary, alongside Mayor Olivia Chow and TTC Chair Jamaal Myers to negotiate a fair deal to avert a strike, and accused Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of neglecting funding for the system.

“No transit rider wants to see service disrupted. But transit riders deal with regular TTC service disruptions and subway shutdowns due to decades of inadequate transit funding and maintenance,” Pizay-Allen said.

So far, the Ford government sidestepped questions about whether it would legislate workers back to work in the event of a strike.

“Like all of you, I’m listening to what the chair of the TTC has been saying.” Paul Calandra, Ontario’s minister of housing and municipal affairs and government house leader, said Wednesday. “He seems very optimistic that they’ll come to an agreement.”

Those who rely on the transit system should make alternative plans ahead of the possible strike, if possible. Those can include touching base with your workplace, organizing carpools, making additional childcare arrangements, rescheduling appointments, or working from home.

Commuters may also want to check if GO Transit routes are a viable option, the organization recommended.

“However, these alternatives are simply not an option for many people,” Pizay-Allen said.

With files from CP24’s Codi Wilson and Courtney Heels 

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