New York's Taylor Law
made transit strikes illegal, but as we're seeing now, it's not so great at preventing strikes from happening.
The Taylor Law was enacted because the state leadership realized how important transit is to New York City. There are no close parallels anywhere else in North America. But laws are of little use if they are not followed and of even less use if they are not enforced.
Cox notes that at least more New York-area commuters have strike insurance:
But crippling New York and Manhattan is no longer enough to cripple the New York metropolitan area. Now, nearly two thirds of the population and 60 percent of the jobs are in the suburbs, outside New York City. Residents of Mount Vernon commute to their Stamford jobs, in confidence that Interstate 95 is not on strike. And no one needs to fear that the entrances to Interstate 287 in New Jersey or the Cross-Westchester will be closed.
Transit commuters in cities like London, where all subway and bus lines are contracted out, enjoy another kind of strike insurance. The NY Sun
editorial staff thinks
it's time for the Big Apple to break the MTA's monopoly. Competing companies, after all, don't have the luxury of captive customers. If they strike, they lose business:
And rather than every subway line in the city being shut down in a strike, there would be an alternate route. It's one reason that instead of a Metropolitan Car Rental Authority we have Hertz and Avis and Thrifty and Budget and Dollar and Alamo and National and Enterprise. Competition results in better pricing and service and reliability.
John Avlon (no link) notes another way to get strike insurance:
Already, trains in Paris, Cairo, and Calcutta operate with computerized or automated systems [London too]. In Paris, the Meteor Project was launched in 1998, with an automatic piloting system that controls the train line's traffic, regulates speed, manages alarm devices, and allows for traffic of automatic and traditional conductor trains on the same line. There have been no serious accidents reported since this system deployed in the late 1990s, and more than a billion people have been transported. Computers make the trains run on time and they don't threaten to walk off the job.
Back to Cox, who has some thoughts on those without strike insurance:
There is a sad lesson, both for transit and those who enjoy New York's unique urban lifestyle. It is the lesson of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Those who suffered most in New Orleans were dependent upon transit to get out of town, because, generally for want of income, they did not have the cars that provided the avenue of escape for almost everyone else. This large population of the forgotten poor learned that their incompetent city administration was not there when they most needed it. Throughout the New Orleans area, it was those fortunate enough to own their own cars that got out.
It is similar, with a twist, in New York. Of course, there are many households with insufficient income to have cars and, like in New Orleans, they are dependent upon transit. However, unlike anywhere else in the United States, New York has a large number of households choosing not to have a car even though they can afford it. They enjoy a high-quality urban life, at least in part, because of the service provided by the New York City Transit Authority. But today they, like less affluent transit riders, have been abandoned by a local transit labor movement out of control.