Should Public Transportation Agencies be Allowed to Strike?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by tomalak301, Jul 3, 2013.

  1. marksound

    marksound Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Again, missing the point. As I've come to see is the norm in these forums.

    Entrepreneurship bad. Government jobs good.

    That's boiling it down to bare bones, but that's what I see from a large percentage of members. From threads like this to discussions of Trek society, it seems to me that people here want to be able to get what they want or need without the blood sweat and tears that comes from hard work.

    I haven't seen anyone yet say that they own or are building a business. Am I alone here?
     
  2. Miss Chicken

    Miss Chicken Little three legged cat with attitude Admiral

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    and there wouldn't be any phones, or TV, or newspapers etc
     
  3. Saito S

    Saito S Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Long post. Gonna lay out all my thoughts on this here.

    That's ridiculous.

    No one here has said that entrepreneurship is bad. The only one engaging in some kind of "A good, B bad" paradigm is YOU. Your posts put across the idea that everyone SHOULD absolutely want and be able to run their own business. YOU are saying "entrepreneurship good, government jobs bad".

    And that's a nonsensical view of employment. "I have no interest in running my own business" is, all by itself, absolutely more than enough justification for someone to never attempt to build their own business. Yet that person also does not thus deserve to then not have a job or have to face immense hardship because they do not choose to run a business. And you're also treating "running your own business" as synonymous with "willingness to do hard work." You can have the latter without the former.

    As to the topic question: yes, they should be allowed to strike, as long as the agency in question is being run in much the same way as a private business. If it's up to management to determine their own salaries as well as the contracts under which the union laborers operate, then those union workers need protection because management WILL try to screw them over at times. Ideally, things might be run differently as someone upthread suggested, with oversight from outside those who work for the agency determining these things, and with management unable to give themselves bonuses at the expense of labor or system upkeep. But that's not the case.

    THAT SAID... I'm not entirely with the unions in this particular case. iguana, much of what you are saying is generally true, but BART workers actually make a LOT of money. Not only is the base salary 70k+ on average, but BART workers are able to take sick days off, then work tons of overtime. Over 60k worth of overtime, in some cases.

    They have fantastic benefits, they contribute nothing toward their retirement, and pay a flat rate of $92 per month toward their healthcare, regardless of number of dependents. The bottom line is they have a sweet, delicious cake of a wage/benefit situation, so it's hard to muster up a lot of sympathy for them as people struggle to get to work.

    And yes, it can be far more than "inconvenience." I literally could not get on the bus Monday, it was too full (and that was after waiting well over an hour for said bus). Traffic was so bad on the Bay Bridge that even if I could afford to pay for a cab (I can't), it wouldn't be a viable option anyway. Carpooling is not an option because there aren't any in the middle of the day, which is when I go into work. Tuesday and Wednesday, I ended up taking the ferry, which worked, but ONLY if you get there super early; even with all available vessels deployed, people at the backs of long lines were turned away as completely full ferries pulled out, forced to wait for the next one. And that's at 11AM; during rush hour, it was worse.

    And that's if you commute TO San Francisco. That particular commute - east bay to SF - got all the attention in the media; lost in the shuffle are people who don't have cars, but use BART to go to work elsewhere. If you live in Oakland and work in, say, Concord, there might not BE any other transit option. If, like my roommate, you live in Oakland and work in a business park near Alameda, a 20-minute BART commute becomes a nightmare on a super late (1 hour+) bus that takes 45 minutes to make the same trip, and then requires a 6-block walk and a 20-minute shuttle ride (and the last shuttle, by the way, leaves at 8:50AM. There is literally no other way to get into the business park without it. Remember that part about the bus being over an hour late because of the chaos caused by the strike? Yeah.) That's not "inconvenience", that's utter nonsense that we should not have to put up with to get to our jobs.

    Many of the people who were the MOST put out by the strike are people like us: we have mundane office jobs or retail or whatnot, we can't telecommute and live paycheck-to-paycheck. Owning a car is not an option. As crazy as my commute has been this week, I feel LUCKY that my job is in SF, since at least that's where all the compensation for the lack of BART was focused.

    As someone who takes BART everyday normally and is a transit nerd: no, a lot of those train operators DON'T do more than push buttons during normal operations. The train drives itself. The only difficulty comes in when there is a problem, and they have to maneuver the train manually, which is usually a huge disaster. Whether it's because the workers are not very good at manual ops, or because the trains are not very good at manual ops, I don't know. I suspects it's both. The point is, driving a BART train is easier work than driving, say, a bus.

    And that segues into my final words: I am not trying to insinuate that BART's management, or the agency as a whole, are shining beacons of wonderfulness that are trying to prosper in the face of the Evil Unions. BART's management is corrupt and makes idiotic decisions left and right (Oakland Airport expansion), and I have no doubt that they would screw the workers if they could. And as mentioned, those train cars are old and falling apart. The system is run badly in a lot of ways, and also has a lot of problems dating back to bad decisions when it was first built. But BART's workers, make no mistake, have it GOOD. They had THREE MONTHS leading up to the first day of the strike, and couldn't hammer out an agreement. There is no way that both parties can be blame-free for that. And the reality is, whether it's fair to the workers or not, their job puts them in a position that is very different from a restaurant or retail or (etc) employee: people do DEPEND on this service to live their lives. No, it's not quite on the same level as police or medical personnel, but it's a lot closer to that level than your waiter or retail worker or hotel concierge or what have you. And when their strike endangers our jobs and ability to pay rent, it's quite hard to get behind them when they already have it better than a huge chunk of Bay Area workers.

    Both the unions and the management have my contempt for this situation.
     
  4. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    OFCS, nobody said anything like that. You made a bizarre statement about everyone running their own small businesses. Instead of explaining how that's even supposed to work in the full scale of the economy, let alone the implications in a complex, technological society, you fall back on this old hackney: Anyone who supports employees joining together to negotiate for their wages and working conditions is afraid of hard work and just wants a government handout. It's hollow, tired and played out. So played.
     
  5. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    Saito, Thanks for the long, insightful post. You obviously know more than me about this particular situation, so thank you for giving the full picture of it. I agree the situation was badly managed on both fronts. What it prompted my reply was the implication that the right to strike is something bad and ugly, and the general tone of condemnation for workers and employees.

    As for the first part of your post, obviously, I couldn't agree more. :)
     
  6. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Saito, I'm curious as to what you think is idiotic about the BART expansion to Oakland airport...
     
  7. Saito S

    Saito S Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Thanks, glad I could be of some help in understanding things!

    It is a strange situation with a lot of muddy, hard to parse elements, which is why I would say that putting the blame entirely on the unions isn't fair, either. But I do think they were simply asking for too much, both in terms of being reasonable (i.e. looking at their wages and benefits as compared to most Bay Area workers), and being realistic (i.e. the question of, regardless of who wants what, where is BART supposed to get this money to accommodate these union demands? There is only so much capital to go around). And this is all magnified by the fact that their salaries are essentially paid by the public, and frankly, there are a large number of BART workers who aren't that great at their jobs.
    Yeah, I really felt the need to say something to that. Conflating owning a business with hard work, implicitly... actually, it was pretty damn explicit, really... implying that if building and running your own business is the only truly respectable option here, is just outrageous.

    Okay, where did I put my transit geek hat... ah, here it is. :D

    I actually should have used the word "connector", instead of "expansion", because the former is what it is; the latter implies that BART itself will extend to the airport, which is not the case. And it's officially called "Oakland Airport Connector" anyway (from here on, I'll call it OAC).

    Their idea is to build an automated people mover in the form of a short, elevated railway connecting the Oakland Coliseum BART station to Oakland Airport. Now, I actually just looked up some information on the project which I haven't done in a while, and there is an aspect of it that I had wrong: apparently it will be cable-drawn, like San Francisco's cable cars (only fully automated). I had heard that they would be using diesel multiple units for the thing, which struck me as a terrible idea, but that's not correct. I had gotten the DMU idea from another proposed BART project, "eBART", and mixed it up with this one. So that mitigates it somewhat.

    But only somewhat. It's still a $484 million project that has been controversial since day one. A chunk of their funding was pulled in 2010 when federal transportation officials concluded that BART hadn't done enough to solicit comments from the public and consider the long-term impacts of the project. It was mired in controversy, but BART found a way to just push ahead by using different funding sources instead.

    They are projecting that it will cost $6 to ride it, which is steep. That's double the current cost of getting from the station to the airport via the AirBART shuttle (more on that in a minute). It's estimated that it will take 8 minutes to complete the trip via OAC. This is almost exactly the same as the time it takes to make the drive on surface streets. Of course, the problem with surface streets is traffic; the real travel time for AirBART usually ends up being 10-15 minutes. But you could easily get around that problem by simply using dedicated lanes and signal prioritization to allow a bus to zip through without having to worry about traffic congestion.

    Which brings me to the alternative proposal: Bus Rapid Transit.

    Currently, there are two transit options to get from the BART station to the airport: a local bus line operated by AC Transit, and a specialized bus called AirBART. They use basically the same route, but the AC line is slower (due to making stops in between; AirBART is express between the station and the airport) and doesn't have dedicated space for luggage, which AirBART does. However, AirBART also costs $3, whereas AC Transit costs $2.10. And the dumbest thing about AirBART is that the fare can only be paid on the bus, and only via cash, a specialized ticket, or a BART ticket containing exactly $3; for some reason, the buses don't accept Clipper, the regional transit smart card that nearly every Bay Area transit service now accepts (including BART and AC Transit).

    The smart thing to do would be to create dedicated lanes for the AirBART route, and turn the entire operation over to AC Transit. Keep the express nature of it (few or no intermediate stops), and with its own lane, it would easily make the trip in 8-9 minutes and could maintain headways as good as those that OAC will have (every 4-5 minutes). Since the same buses would be used, they would have the dedicated luggage space of AirBART, but would be part of AC Transit's system, thus would only be $2.10 per ride, would be compatible with ACT transfers, and would take Clipper. Creating a rapid bus corridor would cost somewhere in the range of 50-100 million, at most (that figure would include procuring vehicles, which would not be necessary in this case).

    Instead, they're spending $484 million to build a controversial overhead rail line that would be no faster and is projected to cost $6 per ride. 6 dollars to go about 3 miles. To put that in perspective: for 6 dollars, you can get from Millbrae to Walnut Creek - a thirty-five mile trip - on BART.

    Of course, the rapid bus idea was, in all honesty, impossible from the get-go. Despite the efforts of some to try and make it a reality, it never had a chance. Because in the Bay Area, like most of the US, buses are considered inferior to trains (not that trains are then given much in the way of funding or resources to run efficiently, but buses are looked at as being clunky and smelly and for poor people), and the idea of creating more inconvenience to private automobiles by dedicating a lane for transit is met with shock and outrage.

    So you end up with BART - despite having a myriad of operational problems of its own - getting approval for huge money wasters such as this, sucking up massive federal funding and often making it harder for other agencies to get as much funding, because they're BART. They're bigger and louder and - being a fast-moving railway rather than a bus system - sexier than other agencies in the eyes of the Metropolitan Transit Commission. Never mind that BART's own cars and stations are falling apart. Instead of spending hundreds of millions on OAC, or on extending even further into far-flung, sparsely populated suburbia, how about taking those millions and overhauling the escalators in the downtown San Francisco stations so they don't go down every other day? Among many other issues, of course.
     
  8. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ^ I take it it's not realistic to ever expect BART itself to reach all the way out to the airport?
     
  9. Saito S

    Saito S Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Pretty much not, yeah.

    Extending BART itself out to the airport would probably cost more than this connector thing. As an alternative to the connector, it's doubtful that it would have gained much traction, but it was theoretically possible.

    However, now that they are going ahead with the OAC, there's no chance of BART itself ever being extended. Reason being that the infrastructure that is being built for the OAC is incompatible with BART's infrastructure - it's a cable-pulled short train (basically heavy trams that can be connected together) and will use standard gauge track as far as I know. So, the non-standard gauge, third-rail powered multiple units that make up BART's mainline service wouldn't be able to use the finished trackway. Now that the OAC is going ahead, connecting BART itself to the airport would require essentially building an elevated trackway AGAIN for BART trains, after having already built an elevated trackway for OAC vehicles. Not gonna happen.

    That said, I'm not sure how much of an advantage it would have been vs. the OAC anyway. The only real upside is it would mean you don't have to switch vehicles. They'd still have massive costs to recoup, so the fare to get to the airport would probably be pretty high (I could see a surcharge like the one that applies for any trips to SFO, which is about $4 now IIRC. It used to only be about a dollar, but in the face of budget shortfalls and ridership to/from SFO being below expectations, they hiked it). Plus, again like with SFO, if mainline BART trains go straight into the airport, you end up with a kind of Bermuda Triangle of routes, where you have service that travels through the existing Coliseum Station (going north-south), and then this side track that juts off west and goes over to the airport; do north-south service trains simply go to the airport and then continue on their way, adding several minutes to the existing trip? Or does one line go to the airport while others don't, potentially undermining frequency of service? Or does it depend on line and time of day and whatnot, which just creates confusion for riders?

    The physical configuration creates a problem in this case, and its effects have already been seen with the SFO line, which has the same problem - BART's approach to which lines go to SFO vs. which ones don't and how it all works has changed like six times since that station was built.
     
  10. Gryffindorian

    Gryffindorian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Really? Then prove it ... :lol: :borg:

    Like millions of hardworking Americans, I work a full-time job, and I pay my taxes. Thanks for asking. I work in accounting for a public utility agency in the SF Bay Area, which isn't very different from BART in terms of my employer being a municipal entity or a special district. I (along with hundreds of other employees) am represented by a labor union, and I pay my monthly dues. What some people fail to understand is the concept of collective bargaining.

    From the link that I posted:

    When management and employees fail to reach an agreement during contract negotiations, the employees have a legal right to go on strike. And as mentioned, going on strike is not all about salaries and benefits. In the case of the BART strike, the employees have also addressed safety concerns. Granted, what the local unions are asking for--a 5% increase every year--may just be a tad much.

    But the economy is better now compared to a few years ago. Three years ago in the midst of the recession, our local unions voted to extend our labor contracts through 2013, which meant we got to keep the current benefits we had but also meant there were no cost-of-living increases. We have been negotiating with management since March, and it's been an exceptionally difficult process, as management refuses to accept reasonable proposals from the negotiating team and only counters minimal provisions. They expect employees to pay more towards their retirement benefits while--at first--not offering any CPI+ increases, at the same time tripling employees' medical copayments for doctor's visits and prescription drugs. Those are just a few examples.

    Going on strike is not about being greedy. Employees are not out to get rich; they just want decent compensation and benefits for the work they do, along with a safe and healthy work environment.
     
  11. Naira

    Naira Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Coming from someone who has suffered lots of days without public transport during the past years (living in Athens, Greece), I say that everyone has a right to strike. Workers have no other solution when the company (either private or public) chooses to ignore them.
     
  12. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Not sure what's it's like in other countries but in the UK in terms of numbers of days lost the Public sector seems to have a far higher percentage than the private sector

    On average over the last decade or so in terms of total days lost about 80% are down to the public sector whilst only 20% are down to the private sector. The number of industrial actions however is roughly the same .


    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_316634.pdf


    Of course when the public sector strikes it has a direct impact on the private sector.

    If Teachers go on strike, workers might not be able to work due to having to look after their children.

    If public owned transport goes on strike workers migh not be able to get to work.

    In the case of buisness in the private sector going on strike, people potentially have a choice to take their buisness elsewhere.

    Public finances aren't a bottomless pit, they are funded via taxation. Most people want high wages and low taxes which are two opposites.

    In the case of the private sector wages are funded via the services/goods that buisness sells, and people working in that sector high wages, and the consumers want low prices. Once again two opposites.

    Now of course some are willing to pay preimum prices.

    We can't always get what we want, sure I would love a 5% pay increase every year, but over the last few years given the economic climate what we got offered was a modest pay increase but in line with what I thought we would get.


    But I'm not arguing that the right to strike should be removed.
     
  13. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    You're welcome. As I said, labour is a complex topic, there are many grey areas, and every situation has to be judged on its own merit.

    Yep. But what do you expect from someone whose contribution to this thread so far has been like these?