So, the strike i finally over - at least I assume it is since I managed to actually catch the Link bus yesterday after a long week of walking and taxi-ing to work. As a leftie I'm all for strikes, unions, pay rises, lunch breaks where you actually have time to eat something and let your food digest briefly; however if there's one group of workers that shouldn't really show just how much better the roads are without their existence, it's bus drivers.
Auckland roads have been much less congested, the traffic down Queen Street through normal peak hours has been almost non-existent and the initial annoyance at having to fend for yourself on the roads to get to work pretty much disappeared after two days. Perhaps my personal situation of living in the inner city anyway means the extra five minutes added to my journey is a moot point; however I do feel it's important to point out that if you want to get more money, rights, etc, perhaps one shouldn't go about it by showing just how much easier it is to go about your day without being at the whim of buses that arrive late - if at all. As someone that uses the Link bus, it boggles my mind how ridiculous the public transport system is, for example the Link bus actually comes to a complete stop at Victoria Park, Newmarket, and K'Road for anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes, why? Well, the Link bus is meant to arrive every ten minutes, so if it's five minutes late, they actually wait five minutes so they're on time for when the next Link bus is due. Yep, it makes no sense to me either and as you can imagine it means very often you have two buses arriving at the same time, which seems pointless. I talked to one of the drivers of the Link route and asked why they did this, his answer was, "It takes us 45 minutes to complete the circuit, we have 8 buses on from 7am to 6pm - four each way - and so we have 15 minutes to fill every hour otherwise we overlap too much and our lunch breaks get messed up."
Shall we pause and consider the mathematical intricacies of performing an eight hour shift where fifteen minutes of every hour is spent sitting doing absolutely nothing, in fact one bus driver actually has a PSP he plays in the wait time. So, if one works an eight hour shift, that would be 8 times 15, which would be 120. That's two hours where you're not actually doing anything, add in a half hour lunch break and you're only actually working 5 and a half hours a day. Now I know that this is an isolated story amongst hundreds of other bus drivers that have to deal with the scourge of Auckland getting to work from places like Onehunga, Albany, Pakuranga, Glen Eden and dare we say the dreaded Glen Innes, where the travel time is a topping an hour, with maybe five minutes leftover to sweep the bus then turn around and do the same thing again. But I think the Link bus route actually provides the basic sickness that's inside public transport in Auckland, the laissez-faire attitude of, just wait and be on time for the next one - the level of procrastination has to rank the all-pro category.
Now I know the drivers' have very little say with regards to policy, scheduling and what not, but there is a fundamental truth that they seem unable to understand: what drives up wages is more profitability. What drives up profitability is better productivity. (And so to unravel the business jargon.) Perform a better service then more people will catch the bus, which means more money for the bosses, which in turn means more buses on the road and more money for the people driving them - yes I know it's trickle down theory; however this is how businesses actually work: you're not going to change the beast by whinging about it, you tame it by working with it. It's a brutal reality but it's how the system works, yeah it would be nice if we all got paid what we're worth but it's not how the business world works, the business world works via numbers - increase the numbers and you find a very friendly ear, do nothing and your pleas fall on deaf ears.
And so to finish off the rant, which I know has a very right leaning slant to it, I hope the drivers' got what they wanted and I hope they haven't worked counter to what they actually need to do to achieve it, because I want them to get what they want, I want them to have more money - they have a hard job - but if they want it, please don't piss off most of Auckland to do it, we have cars that we're trying not to use, and have legs we wish we didn't have to use. Remember, we can actually get by without you, the late buses, the waiting, the running to catch the bus when you don't see us signalling you - we can turn on you if you force us to, and if petrol went down in price - not that it's going to happen - you'd be absolutely screwed. This is just a friendly reminder, we've got our eye on you now.