It was a rocky year for Toronto's transit system.

It started with a fare increase, then probably its worst customer service crisis ever, culminating this month in a decision to declare the Toronto Transit Commission an essential service.

Whether the last matter turns into a boon or a bust will be determined by time, if and when the province approves the city's request. But the implications are already a matter of debate.

The decision to make the TTC an essential service was a central campaign promise in the successful mayoral run by Rob Ford.

He said people and businesses depend on transit to work without fail and that the designation would prevent costly strikes.

The move would remove the union's right to strike during labour disputes, which proponents of the decision say will save the city millions of dollars in lost productivity.

But according to Duncan MacLellan, a professor of politics and public administration at Ryerson University, the decision could result in a heavier financial burden for the city.

If contract negotiations fail to come to a resolution they would be sent to an arbiter, which has a tendency to side with the employee group over management and award wage increases.

"Some of the representatives from Toronto transit have said that if you want us to be an essential service then we should be paid salaries that are comparable to firefighters and to police service members," MacLellan said.

If the TTC became an essential service it would essentially tie the hands of the union by taking the biggest weapon out of its arsenal. A union that is unable to strike has little recourse and less ability to fight for their members, MacLellan said.

"The stick that is used by the union against management is the threat of a strike. If that has been taken away from you, what can you say to management?"

Union president Bob Kinnear told CTV Toronto that his union would still have the ability to do a "work slowdown," which could be as effective as a strike.

"Even if we're deemed an essential service, that would not restrict us from going on a work to rule," he said, suggesting that option could be just as disruptive as a strike.

The decision to make the TTC an essential service has to be approved by the province, which Premier Dalton McGuinty said he would consider as long as the proposal made sense.

MacLellan said the province will also make sure Ford understands that it will be up to the city to cover any cost increases if the arbiter decides to award wage increases or better benefits in the future.

"That money has to come from somewhere. It either has to come from the box, where people pay more, or they have to reshuffle in terms of staffing."

Here is a rundown of the Toronto Transit Service in 2010:

January 3: The price of a single adult fare jumps from $2.75 to $3.

January 22: A photograph of a sleeping TTC worker incites a public outcry about customer service.

February 4: The TTC suspends a driver for taking an unscheduled break as the public launches a witch hunt into bad customer service.

February 9: Kinnear demands the public show respect to TTC workers and announces a series of town hall meetings.

February 10: TTC Chair Adam Giambrone pulls out of the mayor's race amid a scandal surrounding a series of affairs.

February 17: McGuinty says the provincial would not be giving the TTC any money for projects in 2010 budget.

March 16: A TTC driver is suspended after failing a breathalyzer test.

April 14: A TTC driver is charged with assault after a scuffle surrounding a disputed fare.

May 13: An TTC employee is charged with impaired driving.

June 14: Metrolinx, Ontario's transportation agency, orders 182 new streetcars from Bombardier.

July 23: The province lashes out at the TTC over plans to develop a new instant fare system that is not in line with the province's own strategy.

September 19: A stabbing on board a bus sends the driver to hospital.

October 23: Toronto police ended a program that placed special constables on duty around the transit system.

November 28: George Robitaille, the TTC worker caught napping in a photograph, dies of a stroke.

December 1: Newly minted mayor Rob Ford halts construction on all Transit City programs and abandons the plan. He promises to build subways instead.

December 17: City Council votes to ask the province to declare the TTC an essential service.