Top Ten Ways to Survive a Transit Strike

Okay Metrobloggers, we’re less than 24 hours away from a city-wide transit strike, and with talks between the STM and the Syndicat du transport de Montréal at a virtual standstill there’s nothing much to do except resign ourselves to it. As a community service, I’ve compiled a list of strike survival tips which are waiting for you after the jump. Use them well.

1. Keep informed

Did you know that half of all Montrealers read a newspaper on a daily basis? The other half will be waiting anxiously at a bus stop tomorrow morning, wondering why the 80 is nowhere in sight. Unless you enjoy looking incredibly foolish, check the local news both before and after the strike deadline, which is set for 12:01 AM on Tuesday. You can also consult the STM and CSN websites for updates.

2. Plan ahead

Don’t wait until after the strike deadline has passed to make alternative travel arrangements, because by then you’ll be just one of thousands of Montrealers scrambling to do so. If you don’t have one already, come up with a Plan B for how you’ll get to work/school/yoga class/band practice, and remember to give yourself plenty of extra time to do so. (See below.)

3. Take the bus/metro

Huh? But I thought there was a strike on? There is, but both bus and metro service will be running on an essential services schedule, which is as follows:

• Weekdays from 6:00 to 9:00 AM, 3:30 to 6:30 PM, and 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM
• Saturdays and Sundays from 6:00 to 9:00 AM, 2:00 to 5:00 PM, and 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM

Now, those rush hour buses are bound to be packed, but they are running so if you don’t have other options you will still be able to get around. You’ll just be getting around very, very slowly.

4. Ride a bicycle

Let’s face it: your ass ain’t what it used be. Instead of wasting your time with fad diets, plant your derrière on a bike seat and then ride like the wind. Don’t have a bike? Well for chrissakes, what are you waiting for–go buy yourself one! You can get a second-hand bike for less than $100, in some cases substantially less, and you’ll still have it whenever the next transit strike is called. Think of it as a long-term investment.

5. Rent a car

Do you have a driver’s license? If so, you have the enviable option of renting a car for the duration of the strike, which you can also use to run all those little errands you’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t had a chance. For instance, you really need a purple IKEA wine rack, don’t you? Of course you do.

6. Car pool

One way to cut down on costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions is to drive communally. Car pooling will also give you a chance to get to know your neighbours, your co-workers, and that cute guy/gal you’ve had a crush on for ages but haven’t had the courage to actually talk to yet. How could they possibly turn down a ride? Seriously, would you?

7. Call a cab

Taxis aren’t just for when you’re so drunk you can’t see straight–they are a lifeline for people who don’t own a car, or who, like myself, never quite got around to learning to drive. Admittedly, they’re not the cheapest form of transportation, but when has that ever stopped you before?

8. Wear sensible shoes

Walking is good for you, but it will give you terrible blisters if you’re wearing the wrong shoes–and trust me, you’re going to be doing a whole lot of walking in the days ahead. Do yourself a favour: leave your six-inch stilettos at home.

9. Give yourself time

Transit strikes are like really good drugs: they will profoundly alter your relationship to time, often in ways that you don’t expect. If you want to keep your stress at a manageable level (and if you don’t, the people around you sure as hell do), give yourself plenty of extra time to get to where you need to go.

10. Call on BOTH parties to return to the bargaining table

The reason that strikes happen is because contract negotiations have broken down, and they can only end when talks resume. Whatever your feelings about the STM, the maintenance workers union, or the relative merits of capitalism, socialism, and/or anarchism, the metro will not start running again until both parties get back to the bargaining table and start negotiating in good faith. You can help speed things along by sending an email to both sides demanding that they do so–and hey, I’ll even make it easy for you:

• Société de transport de Montréal:
• Syndicat du transport de Montréal:

So, there you have it. With any luck at all, a deal might still be reached at the eleventh hour, but if not, you’re pretty much good to go. Bonne chance!

7 Comments so far

  1. tornwordo (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 5:24 am

    Sigh, I’ve reserved a rental car. Each week is going to cost me 1% of my annual salary. The essential services council deems that my situation is only an “inconvenience”. This is not my conflict, and I don’t think that it’s my job to be writing letters (especially since they would be heavily vitriolic toward both sides, who have let the situation degenerate to this, again). It’s the government’s job to ensure that people are not subjected to undue hardship. The 9-5ers are all set, but not folks like me.

    I’ll also be taking this week to shop for a used car, sorry, but I’m not going to be able to bike or walk from Laval to Brossard between 1 and 2:30 tomorrow, no matter how you slice it. I’ll have to drive.

  2. Long (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 8:12 am

    Stupid strikes. They are so useless. Staying up between 11 PM and 1 AM during a strike? They can’t even do it right.

    Also, what good are three new stations if they are going to be closed? I love logic.

  3. Christelle (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 8:37 am

    Great tips!! :) I’ve reserved Communauto cars until June 5th. I didn’t want to wait until the strike is officially announce because then I’m sure there would be NO cars left! :D I’m safe, got my plan B, so yea. I still hope they can avoid the strike though!!!!

  4. Vila H. (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 4:43 pm

    Torn: Well, that is why I presented a range of options. ;-) You may also be interested to know that the Laval Transit Corporation plans to put extra buses on routes connecting Laval island to the city if the strike proceeds: for more info, click here.

    Long: The late services are meant to accommodate people who work in the evenings or who take night classes. They need to get around too.

    Christelle: I’m glad you liked it, and good for you for thinking ahead! :) I’m also hoping that the strike will be averted, but it’s best to be prepared just in case.

  5. segacs (unregistered) on May 22nd, 2007 @ 3:07 pm

    Thanks for trying to put a positive spin on this. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

    The essential services council, in its wisdom, has decreed that it’s only “essential” for people to work from 9-5. Those of us who work outside those hours are completely ignored. I work till 6:30 at night, which means that even if I run and catch the very last metro on the green line, I’ll never make my connection to the orange line, never mind to the bus to take me home.

    Sorry, walking or biking from Western NDG to the lower Plateau is not gonna happen. I’m one of the lucky few who *has* a car, but there’s absolutely nowhere to park it near work, so that’s out. (Gotta love the city, in its infinite wisdom, eliminating downtown parking spots to “discourage” driving. Now that’s foresight). I can’t leave work early, and I don’t have any coworkers in the same area of town who could carpool.

    So what do I do? Taxi every day? Pay daily to park in an expensive daily parking lot? Who’s gonna cover those expenses? Cause my pockets sure aren’t that deep. We can’t all be earning the kind of money that the maintenance workers earn. And what about the $65 I shelled out on my May bus pass? Should I sue them for not getting the services I paid for?

    Transit strikes don’t penalize management, they hurt the public. And they hurt the most vulnerable public the most. The poor, the elderly, the students, the parents who have to get their kids to school, the shift workers, the people working two jobs or long hours to support their families, all of them getting left stranded just because they’re not considered “essential”.

    The next time the city has a campaign to try to get people to give up driving in favour of “reliable” public transit, people are gonna remember this, you can bet on it.

  6. Sacha (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2007 @ 1:52 pm

    … As one of those people who own a car, which I have to use due to limited mobility (ie I am too disabled for public transport; but not enough for Adapted service…)

    I have been thinking of what we as car owners could do to help.

    The last strike, I lived in Montréal-Nord. People who wanted a lift anywhere would gather at their normal bus shelter and automobilists would pick them up; and drop them either closer to their destination or where they needed to go; if it was on the way.

    This being said, I did give a lift to an elderly gentleman this morning…

    I would love to carpool if I knew anyone going my way.

  7. Basil Berntsen (unregistered) on May 24th, 2007 @ 3:23 pm

    Here’s another way to survive the strike- protest. According to (, it looks like the users are demonstrating to protest the strike. If this happens, I think it will send a very serious message to the government and unions about how the public thinks publicly supported unions can act.

    I’m all in favor of the right to strike, as long as I have the option to take my business elsewhere. Since this is a government run monopoly on public transit, I have no other options. We should end this strike now, by any means necessary. Then we should privatize the system, and subsidize the winner of the contract so the prices stay where they are.

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