Ingham: If Ottawa wants better transit, maybe the union could bargain for it

By Declan Ingham, Ottawa Citizen, August 12, 2019

Ottawa is on the cusp of urban maturity. With the eventual opening of the LRT, it will have a fully fledged public transit system, but the recent political gridlock on questions of fare affordability should be a reminder that we are not a transit city yet. The recent move by Ottawa Council to continue freezing fares is a win for transit riders but the defeat of a motion to reduce fares by a vote of 18 to 6 shows that this is not the end of the debate but just the beginning.

(...)Debates over public transit are common at any city council but with Ottawa’s post-amalgamation geography merging rural, suburban and urban communities, councillors will be hard pressed to find a consensus. So, if Ottawa Council cannot get us the transit system this city desperately deserves maybe it is time to start looking for someone who can.

Even with the city declaring a climate change emergency and aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fewer people in total are taking transit in Ottawa than did eight years ago.
(...)One such group might be the bus drivers and transit operators themselves. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279 represents transit workers across the city and their collective agreement (the employment contract between the city and the unionized workers) will be coming up for negotiations beginning in March 2020.

Would it be appropriate to bring up funding, investment and the affordability of the transit system in negotiations? Absolutely. In fact, the electrical workers who work at the Toronto Transit Commission, unionized as CUPE local 2, just released a press release calling for free public transit in Toronto.

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