Tuesday, February 3, 2009

OC Transpo Strike: Looking at the Effects of the Ottawa Bus Strike

The OC Transpo strike is just about over, folks.

The OC Transpo strike started way back on December 10th, 2008. The big issue seemed to be the driver and bus work scheduling. After fifty-one days of debating work scheduling, on Friday, January 30th, both parties (represented by Mayor Larry O'Brien from the City and André Cornellier from the Union) agreed to go to binding arbitration and end the 7 week long Ottawa bus strike.

But of course, the bus strike ain't quite over. Although a good number of Ottawa buses are soon returning, it appears that much of the bus fleet won't be returning for quite awhile yet; up to 10 weeks. There's now a message on OC Transpo's website about post-strike bus schedules. (Note to future generations: It appears as though the OC Transpo website uses frames. I apologize if that link only leads to the main page in a few years.)

It was a long, long haul. To put it simply, the city of Ottawa relies on OC Transpo. Want proof?
Ottawa has the highest bus ridership during rush hours in North America, with transit ferrying 45 to 48 per cent of workers. A quarter of Ottawa's 450,000 jobs are downtown, with many workers living in the surrounding suburbs.
Here at Marketing Breakthroughs, we weren't affected too hugely. There was a little bit of carpooling, but it wasn't nearly as rough for us as it was for some other Ottawa businesses. The OC Transit Strike put a pretty big dent in Ottawa's business, and it's worth looking into some of the effects.

The Effects of the Ottawa Bus Strike on Local Businesses

The cost to Ottawa of the OC Transpo strike can be calculated in the millions. As it was predicted, the biggest loss went to the retail sector. Let's look at the numbers:
But aside from the numbers, it was the individual stories that are the most compelling. Everywhere you go, someone has a friend or a relative being incredibly inconvenienced by the strike. Maybe they lost a job or spend 4 hours in the car every day. Many students haven't gone home, but have stayed at a friend's house closer to campus.

A Subway restaurant near MB has been closed - none of its employees can get to work. Foot traffic in Rideau Centre was down 40% because of the bus strike. Many of the small convenience stores whose target markets were OC Transpo users were gravely affected. Of course, anyone whose target market relies on taking the bus would be hugely affected. So stores catering to students, especially those downtown, were in a very tough spot.

I also noticed, just today, someone using PPC ads if you searched for "OC Transpo strike" on Google. The ad offered t-shirts. I've seen several t-shirts in shopping malls with a "NOC-Transpo" logo and a tagline along the lines of "Not serving the city of Ottawa since December 10." I can't find the ad now, so my guess is he hit his PPC budget. It could very well be a young entrepreneur who doesn't have a lot of cash to back his little venture.

Back to Normal: Getting OC Transpo Buses Running Again

As of right now, Ottawa buses are set to return Saturday, February 7th. Initially they were going to return on Monday, the 9th. But they moved it to Saturday.

But now, the Ottawa transit faces a PR nightmare because of the strike:
It is expected to take months before the city’s mothballed transit system is back to full service, but getting riders on board when it is could take much longer.
Another quote:
Public-relations executive Bernie Gauthier doesn’t envy bus drivers and said many could face grumpy passengers when the buses start rolling again.
Bus fees will be free until February 15th. Which doesn't really make up for it, when you think about it.

It remains to be seen who Ottawa bus riders will respond to the end of the strike. No doubt there will be more stories of hardship because of the bus strike in the days and weeks to come.

One thing is pretty clear: the city has a whole lot of recovering to do.