Transit strikes invariably lead to a loss of riders, but experts say work stoppages that last four weeks or more have such a corrosive effect that damage to the system could last years.The good news is that there may be a way to lure people back to the buses, as brought up in the same Citizen story: A massive advertising campaign and discounted and free fares:
Some of the frustrated commuters who have found other ways to deal with the strike will never go back to transit. Psychologically, they will tune out OC Transpo as a way of getting around. For a city government that wants people to choose transit over their own vehicles, that would be very bad news.
In January 1997, the first full month of service after the strike, OC Transpo carried 6.8 million riders, about the same as January 1996. But company officials acknowledged that this may have been the result of a massive marketing campaign, backed by fare discounts, to woo back disaffected riders. The promotional campaign, on buses, billboards and the airwaves, included four days of free fares after the strikers resumed work on Dec. 19, 1996. Riders were also offered discounted fares for the rest of December and discounted passes for January.Already, one councillor--the recently-maligned Capital Ward Councillor Clive Doucet--has suggested a period of free fares once the strike is finally resolved, according to a story on CFRA.com:
In February 1997, when full fares resumed, ridership tumbled four per cent. In March, it fell 2.3 per cent. Other promotional activities, including an extension of Transitway service and a flat fare any time of the day, continued for the rest of the year.
As the OC Transpo strike enters day 36, Clive Doucet says the city should offer free service to help get people back on transit as quickly as possible when the strike ends.
Doucet is proposing a "substantial period" of free transit.
Since the "Urban Transit Levy" covers half the cost of transit, Doucet tells CFRA News if the strike lasts six weeks there should be three weeks free service.
If nothing is done to get people to come back to buses, though, the Citizen offers a few examples of warning: A six-week strike in Knoxville, Tennessee that brought about a 12 per cent ridership loss on regular routes, and a strike of the same length in Orange County, California bringing a 20 per cent drop in ridership.