Beyond the Headlines

The transit strike lottery

Posted: Feb 13, 2012 11:19 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 13, 2012 11:19 AM ET

It's almost like winning the lottery.
By the end of the day Tuesday, the transit strike will have saved Metro Transit and the city of Halifax approximately $1 million. It's a number the folks at city hall didn't want you to know.
For three days last week, we asked the city for the exact amount it was saving every day the buses sat idle. At first, they said they were too busy; finally they simply refused to give us the figures.  So we decided to do a little math of our own. Using figures from Metro Transit's Annual Service Plan, and a little guesswork (how much drivers salaries, fuel, maintenance etc., factor into their overall costs) we came up with an estimated savings of $89,000 a day.
We reported those figures on Thursday.
Friday, City Hall decided to release its figures, and we were pretty close. The city says it is actually saving $85,000 on weekdays, a little less on weekends. That means we are fast approaching $1 million in savings, and if the strike lasts until the end of the month, Metro Transit can put another $1 million in the bank.
The strike is adding to the city's coffers in other ways.
The city's parking enforcement officers are having a field day. No leniency from them for transit users scrambling to find a parking spot. They've been writing about 90 more tickets a day since the strike began. That's a windfall of more than $2,000 a day.
The Halifax Bridge Commission is making money. In the first week of the strike the total number of crossing for both bridges was 44,694 higher than the average of the previous four weeks. Depending on how many are using a MACPASS, chalk up an additional $40,000 a week for the bridge folks.
Then there is the province. With all those extra cars on the road, just think of the thousands of litres of gas they're burning.  Between provincial gas taxes and the HST, that's money in the bank for the provincial treasury. Granted it's not going to wipe out the deficit, but as anyone who struggles to balance their bank book each month knows, every little bit helps.
So while some are profiting from this transit strike, the fact remains that --  as with the lottery --  for every winner, there are thousands of losers.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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