Over 30,000 bus and subway employees walked off from their jobs on Dec. 20, effectively crippling the city’s transportation network for nearly three days. The workers’ union reached an agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on Dec. 22 and agreed to return to work.
But as the strike began with no immediate resolution in sight, the city fell into a state of confusion as its residents attempt to adjust to the situation.
Overall, many thought that the traffic was worse approaching the bridges than it was inside of Manhattan.
“It’s coming into the city that’s the real nightmare,” said Nicholas H. Ma ’05. “Once you’re inside, it’s not as bad.”
Undergraduates from the region who were planning to head home to New York were anxious about the strike’s affects on their travel.
“It’s going to be completely crippling,” said Sarah A. Sherman ’09. “New York City as we know depends really heavily on public transports and if cabs aren’t a legitimate backup, it’s going to be a big problem.”
Kara E. Kaufman ’08 said she was most concerned about getting home from school, but that once settled in the city she would be able to travel on foot.
“I think for me personally I’m more worried about getting back from the bus station to my apartment with my baggage,” Kaufman said before heading home. “Once I’m in the city I‘m not going to worry about it as much. There’s always a way to get around... People will be resourceful.”
Many students also said that the strike would force them to make some changes to their holiday plans.
“It will definitely affect my time at home,” Joseph F. Quinn ’08 said. “I use the subway a lot to get around the city.”
As a result of the strike, commuters struggled to find new means of transportation ranging from cold weather bike rides to crowded taxicabs and impromptu car pools.
Benjamin M. Lutero, who drives to work every day from Long Island, said that he picked up three strangers on Dec. 20 from a subway stop a few miles out of the city.
“I used good judgment,” Lutero said. “I had to be careful about who was riding in my car.”
While that altruistic attitude appeared to have been adopted by many, others have tried to take advantage of the strike. Many taxicabs have been running on flat fares, determined by city “zones,” picking up more than one passenger and sometimes stopping at bus stops, but others profited by charging illegally high amounts for short distances.
Francine N. Schweitzer, a commuter from Westchester who was able to take a cab for metered fare from Grand Central Station on the first day of the strike, said her daughter had a taxi driver who tried to charge her $25 to get from the West Side to the East Side. Several taxi drivers refused to comment on fares during the strike.
Small retail businesses, which make some of their biggest profits during the holiday season, are faced significant losses due to the strike.
“Any kind of interference in the daily pattern of New York makes a difference,” a salesperson at a small Upper East Side department store said.
On the first day of the shutdown, both students and commuters voiced their concerns on the effects of the strike if it were to drag on.
“I hope they reach an agreement soon,” Quinn said as the union and the MTA remained at a standstill. “I don’t think it’s going to be a matter of chaos so much as just annoying a whole lot of people.”
And while the strike was called off before the holidays, some feared an extended strike would have grave effects.
“I think the first day of a strike there’s a sense of camaraderie and an obligation to fulfill responsibility that keeps people’s tempers occupied,” said Herbert A. Hochman, an Upper East Side doctor. “But after the first day, when people begin to suffer more, there’s a larger sense of frustration.”
—Staff writer Claire M. Guehenno may be reached at email@example.com.