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Leaning out the window of the driver cabin, a guard looks down the platform before closing the subway doors while stopped at the Don Mills station on the Sheppard line. Starting Friday, the TTC could stop subway, bus and streetcar service due to strike action.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Update: The Toronto Transit Commission and its main union reached a tentative agreement, averting a strike that would have disrupted travel for millions of residents. Read more here.

Toronto’s main public transit system could be on strike starting Friday morning, prompting concerns from citizens and businesses who rely on its subways, buses and streetcars to get around the city.

Toronto hasn’t had a TTC transit strike in more than 16 years. As negotiations with the main TTC workers’ union ATU Local 113 seemed to be at an impasse Thursday, commuters are being advised to brace for a major breakdown of transit services in the city.

From a work perspective, thanks to pandemic accommodations, many more people can avoid the office. However, that isn’t the case for everyone, and transit is used for several purposes - the agency still carries 1.4 million passengers on a typical weekday. About one-third of Toronto adults do not own a car.

Here are latest updates on the probability of a strike, and ways to get around the city, without the subway, streetcars or buses running:

What are the latest updates from the TTC and the union threatening to strike?

The head of Toronto’s main transit union warned Thursday that labour negotiations were faltering and that his members were ready to start walking out at the midnight strike deadline.

Marvin Alfred, president of ATU Local 113, which represents about 12,000 workers at the Toronto Transit Commission, said that he was not seeing an offered deal that he could take to his members.

“We’re ready to pull the pin,” he told a news conference, backed by other labour unions.

“It doesn’t have to happen, if they come to the table. But without that … transit will not move.”

Mr. Alfred also said that transit workers will also keep limited service running a few hours past midnight so as not to strand anyone in the system. But the implicit message was clear: Don’t board in the late evening and expect to have a seamless trip.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green acknowledged that there were some sticking points at the table, but said that “things are still very much on track.”

He noted that TTC negotiators have a bargaining mandate from the agency’s oversight board within which to make offers.

For how long could a strike actually last?

As Mr. Alfred warned that labour negotiations were faltering ahead of a midnight strike deadline, a senior provincial source said Queen’s Park might not be able to quell any job action for weeks.

In the past, TTC strikes have been snuffed out with back-to-work legislation in just days. But this time, a government source said, Premier Doug Ford’s office has received legal advice that recent court rulings have raised the threshold required to force workers back to work. A strike would have to cause severe economic harm or severe effects on health and safety for weeks before such legislation could be used, the source said.

But Gilles LaVasseur, a professor of management and law at the University of Ottawa, said he thinks the government could still justify back-to-work legislation after a few days of a strike, which would give it time to demonstrate the economic effects and safety risks from a work stoppage that snarls traffic, slows emergency vehicles and denies many people of the ability to get to work.

“Several weeks? You are going to put a city in chaos,” Prof. LaVasseur said. “The court will say after a few days, listen, we’ve reached a tolerance point.”

Wheel-Trans services will still run

Wheel-Trans is the city’s para-transit service that allows wheelchair users to book pick-up and drop services in accessible buses. Both TTC and the union said they will keep operating the service.

“We recognize the importance of the Wheel-Trans service to riders who are dependent on this important transportation service to get to and from their needs, including medical care,” the union said in a statement.

Metrolinx services to run as normal

GO trains, buses and UP Express trains will run on their regular schedule, as they are not part of the TTC system.

“While we have contingencies in places to address increased demand where possible, the TTC is a critical service that moves almost 2.5 million commuters every day, whereas GO Transit currently moves 200,000 commuters every day,” a Metrolinx spokesperson wrote in an e-mail sent to the Globe.

“We do anticipate that our trains and buses will be busier than usual and ask customers to please plan extra travel time,” she added.

Taxi and ride-hailing services preparing for increased business

Taxi and ride-hailing companies are also preparing for a spike in business, on extra-congested roads.

Kristine Hubbard, the operations manager of Beck Taxi, the city’s largest brokerage, said that they would not be taking scheduled bookings because all their 1,300 vehicles will be circulating.

“We’re treating it like an ice storm,” she said. “That’s what it’s like. You can’t really predict how bad it’s going to be.”

Ms. Hubbard said that they would not boost prices in response to high demand.

A spokesperson for Uber Canada said in a statement that the company would cap its surge price multiplier. She did not respond to a follow-up e-mail asking what that cap would be.

If you can drive, car-share services like Communauto and Enterprise Carshare could be helpful alternatives, though if you’re not already a signed-up member, getting approved can take anywhere between two to four business days.

Toronto’s bike share system will be available, but weather conditions might be rough

Bike Share Toronto will have normal and e-bikes available at their various docks throughout the city, but rain may not allow for the best conditions to bike Friday.

With files from Oliver Moore and Jeff Gray

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