Early this morning, the union of drivers and mechanics for COTA (Central Ohio Transportation Authority) went on strike. For a large percentage of Columbus, this means nothing. For a lot of people, though, such as me, it means a great deal.
We have one car. We live in Whitehall. Leon works in Dublin, so he drives. I work downtown. We live a block from Main Street, which is a major bus lane. The 2 runs from Reynoldsburg to downtown and then turns north to Crossroads, just outside the 270 loop. That’s how I get to work.
By car, downtown is about a 15-minute drive. By bus, it takes me about 40 minutes. I like taking public transportation, to be honest. It gives me time in the morning to finish waking up, to read, to listen to podcasts, to knit, and to get myself in a work mindset. In the afternoon, it lets me shrug off any feelings from work, and to put the work mindset to bed until the next morning. Driving doesn’t do that for me.
This morning, though, I didn’t have that option. I knew that the strike was happening, as I’d woken up about 3:30 this morning to go to the bathroom, so I checked the websites for COTA and the Dispatch. I knew that a tentative agreement had been reached, but I also knew that the strike was going to happen. There is a union meeting set up for 6:00 this evening, where I hope that the agreement gets accepted.
I won’t go anywhere near saying that I’m anything even remotely even an armchair expert when it comes to these things. I have heard everything from “the union is a bunch of greedy thugs!” to “COTA management is a bunch of overpaid fatcats who don’t care about the people they serve!” As with most things, I’m sure that the reality is somewhere in between. COTA drivers make a CRAPLOAD more than I do; their top level payrate is three times what I make. The COTA CEO reportedly got a $15,000 pay raise over the former CEO (which, to be clear, is nearly what I make in a year).
Personally, I think that most of the people involved are COMPLETELY out of touch with what happens in the rank-and-file of the rest of the country. I know that I don’t make nearly as much as I could, but that’s my doing; I work in the non-profit world, and I knew what I was getting into. However, a significant number of the people who use COTA probably average right around what I make, and another big chunk probably don’t make much more than I do.
Yeah, this is an incredible inconvenience for a large number of people, no matter on which side of the issue you fall. The comments on the Dispatch articles and the articles on Columbus Underground have been ragingly vitriolic (which should continually remind me not to go into the comments). My biggest beef with all of this is that every Dispatch article revolves around the fact that, last year, COTA transported 29,000 people to Red, White, and Boom (the fireworks display for the Fourth of July in Columbus), and boo hoo, those people might have to drive, park WAY FAR AWAY, and not be able to walk their fat asses and their entire brood of piglets so far to the fireworks! Makes me wanna punch reporters in the throat. There are bigger issues, like the thousands of people who use COTA every day to get to and from work and who can’t afford to just “call a cab,” like some people keep suggesting on the forums.
I know I’m lucky enough to be able to ride in with Leon. Not everyone has that luxury.