Who are the "losers" who take the bus?

Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Hey, do you hear that? Is someone crying wolf? Help! Help! Help! Nah, I don’t hear anything.

And so Calgary continually ignores a reality many people face in their daily lives. Life is not so rosy for single-income families, senior citizens and students these days. Why? Is something going on? Yeah, it’s called a transit strike. Ohmigod, don’t, like, only losers take the bus? Well, if you consider constantly marginalized groups like families under the poverty line, senior citizens, individuals with disabilities that prevent them from driving and children too young to drive as losers, then maybe.

Transit is an integral part of these "losers" lives. And just because the whining has died down–most likely because everyone’s exhausted from walking, cycling and hitching rides–doesn’t mean this strike is not still affecting people. Some have lost their jobs because they can’t find regular transportation to work. Contrary to popular belief (see the city’s revolutionary plan to have cheesewagons serve the downtown core) not everyone in this city works where the high-rises are. Not every student lives within walking distance of school. Not everyone can afford to suddenly take on the burden of car payments, insurance and gasoline.

The Amalgamated Transit Union and the City of Calgary have pushed the people on the margins further into obscurity. Let’s face it: Al Duerr and his merry band of council members have a ride to work every day. Unfortunately, so do a lot of people in this city because the people who control the flow of public opinion have the resources to make the commute in the morning. They may not like it, but they at least have the means. Meanwhile, desperate citizens get the run-around with taxi vouchers. Really, how poor do you have to be? But then again, it takes forever to get a cab anyway.

However, the voices of the underprivileged in this city generally go unheard. Relatively few complaints have made it to media ears regarding the sad state of people losing their jobs, of students forced to sleep on friends’ floors close to the university and of elderly people who can no longer enjoy active social lives because their only form of transportation was cut off abruptly.

As well, what people may not notice behind the surly commentary of union president Dean McKerness (as if I believe he wouldn’t encourage the workers to riot) is that the transit workers are suffering horribly as well. Strike pay is $100 per week. Not much to keep a family running, in anyone’s books. The strikers probably know intimately that no matter what kind of pay raise they receive from this strike, it won’t be enough to ever recoup weeks of lost earnings. Yet they still walk the line, and that says something about their commitment to their beliefs. Perhaps the City should start listening. But that doesn’t, by any means, excuse the workers from listening either. It takes two to compromise.

Transit is not considered an essential service in this part of the world, mostly because it hurts the people we tend not to think about too much. In other cities across North America and in other countries, a transit strike would be met with civil unrest. That’s because in cities where transit works efficiently and there’s a high density of lower-income earners, the lifeblood of the city fails to flow when transit vanishes. Maybe someone should organize a rally, round up the seniors, the kids, the poor, the disabled and get them to share their views with the Union and the City. Maybe then the strike will end.

Of course, there is the problem of how these potential protesters would get to City Hall if they ever did decide to do something about this appalling situation.

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