A transit strike forces New Yorkers to come up with novel ways to get to work amid fears of being scrooged for the holidays
By NATHAN THORNBURGH/NEW YORK
Posted Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2005
New York's subways and buses came to a standstill this morning after talks between the Transport Workers Union and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) finally collapsed after the midnight deadline. The strike, which comes in the teeth of New York holiday shopping and tourism season and could cost the city up to $400 million a day, sent many of the system's 7 million daily riders into the early morning darkness, with the temperature hovering just above 20 degrees, to improvise a new way to get to work.
Thousands joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg in walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Checkpoints became chokepoints in all five boroughs as traffic police strictly enforced a four-passenger minimum in all cars and cabs.
A modern strike allows for some modern solutions. When talks began to sour, Craigslist filled with hundreds of posters looking for rideshares to and from work on Tuesday. City websites offered New York's netizens .pdf files of traffic routes and restrictions. And untold thousands became telecommuters overnight. But for those who needed to show up to work, the remedies were decidedly old-fashioned: walk, bike, or, if they had enough people to fill a car, sit in miles of gridlock.
Transit strikes have convulsed the city before, and they've been neither quick nor easy. In a 1906 strike, the New York Times wrote that the few operating trains were so crowded that passengers had to scramble out of the windows to get on or off. It took President Lyndon Johnson’s personal intervention to end a 12-day strike in 1966, which interrupted, among other things, the trial of Malcolm X's assassins. In April 1980, Mayor Ed Koch pioneered the pep rally walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to show New Yorkers how to survive 11 days without public transportation. But this morning’s walkout was the first since then — more than 25 years — and the city that had gotten used to tough labor talk and hollow walkout threats seemed genuinely, dejectedly surprised by the strike.
I recall the 1980 strike. I was too young to be commuting anywhere, but old enough to be pretty proud to be a New Yorker at the time. The 1980 strike, interestingly enough, was the strike that made sneakers women's fashion accessories. Before then, only jogging fanatics and athletes wore them. During the strike, NYC women took to wearing sneakers with bobby socks - a look that remained popular for years - and carrying their business shoes to work.
Today, commuting from my town was a cinch - almost no one on the street. As the article mentions - lots of people telecommuted - and telecommuting, which has long been a "fashionable" senior management thing to do, may now become more widespread as more people, at lower levels of responsibility, actually NEED to do so. Depends on how long the strike lasts.
Edited by QueenTiye, 20 December 2005 - 03:47 PM.