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Access is Essential

Kingston Access Bus strikeAfter weeks of leaving Kingstonians with mobility limitations stranded, the Kingston Access Bus (KAB) strike has finally come to a close.  The following update was provided through KAB’s website earlier today:

We are pleased to announce that the CAW strike is over. Yesterday the CAW voted on a tentative agreement, with a KAS Board vote to follow. Service will be restored on Sunday June 21 2009. We are sorry for the inconvenience this CAW strike has had on 3600 registered passengers.  The weekend dispatch service for KAS will resume on Sunday June 21 2009, from 9am – 1pm.

Over the course of the strike, I happened across some KAB employees and passengers, who were protesting outside Kingston City Hall.  In passing, I couldn’t help but empathize with KAB users who were carrying signage, which declared that the access buses were an essential service.  This got me thinking about the definition of an essential service, and which services Kingston cannot function without.  From the outset, I think it’s importation to differentiate critical emergency services from essential services.  In that respect, police, fire, ambulance and in some cases, utilities would fall under the umbrella of a critical service.  While the interruption of an essential service may not be as important, prolonged disruption could pose a serious risk to health, safety and perhaps economic welfare.

During my formidable years at a highschool in the Limestone District School Board, our teachers went on strike, or worked to rule, 4 out of 5 years. That’s got to be a world record.  Miraculously, I do not think that the teacher’s actions hindered GPAs, delayed post-secondary dreams and the like.  Nevertheless, many argued that education was an essential service, and without classroom stimulation, young minds would turn into a gelatenous goo.  Had any of these strikes caused students to be held back a year, I imagine more people would have called for education’s official classification as an essential service.

Regarding other possible essential services, one could easily make a case for Utilities, Kingston Transit as well as the Kingston Access Bus.  However, if Ottawa’s devastating transit strike, or Toronto’s inability to make the TTC an essential service have taught us anything, it’s that cities aren’t taking the business of people moving seriously.  Public transit exists to decrease congestion on city streets, and it reduces vehicle emissions.  Many pass holders can’t afford automobiles, and thus they’ve come to rely on the buses to get to their jobs, and everywhere else.  Similarly, KAB passengers rely on the bus to get to medical appointments, the grocery store and everywhere in between.  Take away my access to either my physician or my food supply, and I’d want to label the culprit as an essential service.  Wouldn’t you?

Special thanks and credit to Chris Daniel for the image of the derelict handicap parking sign.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

One thought on “Access is Essential

  • June 17, 2009 at 9:04 pm
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    Thank you for writing about the Access Bus strike. I am the one holding the sign in the picture.

    This service is vital to those who have a disability and who live on their own so I really appreciate this public support.

    Many people can’t drive, or can’t afford to buy, a modified accessible van because it is far too expensive, especially for those who are unable to work. Therefore services like the Access bus are essential to our health and well-being.

    Your last line, “Take away my access to either my physician or my food supply, and I’d want to label the culprit as an essential service. Wouldn’t you?” is perfect because it makes people think. Thank you.

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