I survived the transit strike of 2005. Well sorta.. Actually, what better way to finish a 10hr drive from the midwest ;) In fact, I was oblivious to the forthcoming surprise. Typically, I'm very much connected to the happenings in my beloved city; however, I had not peeped the Gothamist, prior to my departure. Serves me right I suppose..
TWU Support - Local 100 Chairman Roger Touissaint
Anyway, it was roughly 6AM EST, I called a friend as I was getting off the NJ turnpike, heading to the Holland tunnel. I was informed that I would be turned around and sent away, as I only had one occupant in my vehicle. Obviously I figured I would be able to resist and get around the roadblocks. However, there were cops setup at a check point prior to the tunnel tolls. NYPD were using flashlights to check the occupants of _each_ car rolling to the toll booth. I figured that I could fabricate a makeshift mannequin with my triple phat goose w/hoodie and some of other junk in the rear seat, this would've given me an additional passenger. What I didn't realize was that I needed three additional passengers. Damn.. I couldn't fool anyone with a make believe southern accent. Couldn't get the yiddish out my gumbo, anyway, I digress. The cops had no freakin idea where I should go to avoid the crap. My buddy told me to head to the GW (read: George Washington Bridge), and then hit the Van Wyck to the Belt Pkwy to the B'klyn Bridge. I thought this is straight up bullshit. I was already grogged from a 10hr drive, and I really was pretty hungry too. I knew there had to be a better and more direct way. From that moment, I donned my BK hustler skullie, straight NY role. I was heated and definitely ready for rugged warfare.
For the benefit of my readers, I've included a map of the route to the city. Normally, the trip only takes 15min from the Holland Tunnel to B'klyn Bridge. On this day, my journey was extended to 6hrs. As the second maps illustrates, I had to retreat and head north on the NJ turnpike, and pay a second toll. It was pointless to explain my angst to the toll attendent. I thought it was stupid for me to pay another toll because of the strike. The complaint fell upon deaf ears. At this point I didn't really care about either side of the labor dispute. I'll summarize my thoughts on the labor disupute and its implications elsewhere in this post.
Well, I followed some of the advice of my buddy, as I neared the entry to the GW, I noticed that the traffic was getting more dense by the minute as it was now nearly 8AM. Normally, I would've been driving against the flow of traffic, but as we already know, single occupant motorists were being redirected to the GW. So, I follow the EZ pass lane as long as possible, and make a dash for the cash line, I was the fourth car in line. As I came closer to the gate, I finally caught my first break of the morning, the toll attendant was distracted by a phone call. I caught her sleeping and slipped passed her. Yeah, I know it was a bumrush, but it was a very small small victory in what turned out to be a very miserable morning. I saved $6, by not paying that stupid toll. I figured I could plead ignorance, while brandishing my out of town plates. Luckily five-o was busy handling the throngs of cars collecting at the toll gates. Ridiculous pandemonium.
Suddenly, I had another bright idea, instead of going all the way to the BX(read Bronx or Boogie Down), I'd hit the Henry Hudson(9A), and find my way to the FDR, and then hit the BK Bridge. The good thing about NY, there are at least ten ways to get to B'klyn or any other borough for that matter. So, I sped to the Henry Hudson, and made my way towards the FDR. I'm still listening to podcasts, and hadn't listened to the local news. As I neared 116th St, I observed lots of brake lights. Goddamn, there another Bravo Zulu checkpoint. Once again, my efforts to get home were thwarted. I was told to either wait until the suspensions were lifted at 11am or head back .... You guessed it the GW.
Now I'm furious and seething. The cops were really no help, but in all fairness, they were caught in the middle of this mess. Now, I'm thinking about the West Side highway.. I could jump on the West End Av, then catch the West Side Hwy. The problem with this rationale was that prolly a milllion other NYers had the same clue. So I'm sitting in Spanish Harlem in thick traffic. Getting hungrier by the minute as it's about 10am. I could go for some rice and beans or pasteles.
I eventually made my way across town to the west side. It took me close to two hours to go crosstown. For whatever reason, people wanted to stay near the HOV checkpoints, I wanted to get the hell away from all of that shyt. When I reached the West Side Hwy, it was noon and traffic was actually flowing. I later learned that prior to 11am, all traffic south of 96th St was deliberately stopped for inspection. What a royal PITA.
Well, I finally got to the BK Bridge, at roughly 1pm. Lots of pedestrian traffic on the bridge on this day. NYers are definitely resilient people in every sense of the word.
Regarding the Labor grievances.. It appears that both the public and private sector are experiencing the pain of huge legacy costs (ie, health care), due to an aging population. Frankly, the union workers in the northeast are also very interested in what is going on with Delphi in the midwest, as the labor dispute in that case could certainly send shockwaves and possibly set an undesirable precedent. Actually, I applaud the solidarity of the TWU, as it took much gumption to strike in the heart of the holiday season. Unfortunately, I do not believe the their management will be able to honor all of the demands. The rising costs of health care isn't going to be fixed overnight. I discussed the problem in earlier post.
I have friends who work for the MTA, so I certainly have mixed emotions. Having said that, I'm still annoyed at the extended travel fubar.
Update: Pretty good synopsis of the entire Labor dispute, NYC Transit Wiki