Nov 29, 2006

Drop in TTC rides puzzling

There has been a slight drop in the number of people riding the TTC. Is this a sign that the bubble is ready to burst? Read more...

Nov 28, 2006

Tower plan alarms critics

Paul Moloney has a column in today’s Star (Click here) about local politicians plans to squeeze a large number of people into an area that already has gridlock in both the morning and afternoon. The madness continues to make sure that there is no plan in place to end the gridlock. Gridlock not only makes a mess of the roadways but also can be applied to overcrowding at doctor's office or hospitals. Will it ever stop?

Moscoe rejects P3 option

With thanks to the National Post and reporter Jacqueline Thorpe.

Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister, yesterday said GTA transit authorities must consider partnerships with the private sector if they want federal funding.

"We need people to be able to move and do business in the Greater Toronto Area so there will be more to come on that," Mr. Flaherty told reporters after speaking to a packed crowd of business leaders in Toronto.

Public-private partnerships -- known as "P3s" -- run the gamut from contracting-out arrangements to private financing of public utilities to outright private ownership of public assets. They have become a major plank in the Conservative government's infrastructure strategy.

This week, Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, confirmed that Ottawa was considering making a major expansion of the Windsor-Detroit border crossing a P3.

And they got a big boost on Thursday when the Finance Minister said in his fiscal update he would set up a federal P3 office and make consideration of P3s mandatory for all national infrastructure projects. Provinces and municipalities, meanwhile, would be required to consider P3 options for larger projects receiving federal funds.

Yesterday, Mr. Flaherty said Toronto public transit could be considered national infrastructure. Like the Detroit-Windsor corridor, it is of national economic significance, he said.

"If you look at the Greater Toronto Area, and you look at some of the transportation and transit -- public transit issues in the Greater Toronto Area -- they are also of national economic significance," Mr. Flaherty told reporters in Toronto yesterday.

"This is the headquarters of the financial-services sector in Canada, employing more than 600,000 people.''

TTC chairman Howard Moscoe, however, said P3s were a non-starter for public transit in Toronto. The profit motive was contrary to a public utility, he said.

"In transit we call them public-pirate partnerships," he said in a telephone interview from Ottawa, where he was attending a meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. "All the experience has been bad. There's no profits to be made on sewage and there's no profits to be made on transit."

He discounted arguments that the private sector could run utilities more efficiently and less expensively.

"Sure I could do things quite efficiently if I fired all my public transit workers and paid minimum wage," he said. "Is that what efficiency is? I don't think it's possible. Transit service is a unionized sector. Whether it's run by the public or the private, you're not going to save money on the wages, and that's where the big money is."

Many Torontonians' negative experiences of Highway 407 has discoloured their view of P3s.

Some argue it it was sold for a song to a private consortium by the previous Conservative government of Mike Harris. Tolls have skyrocketed, and there have been endless problems with the electronic equipment used to track drivers, with many ending up being charged for trips they never took.

Mayor David Miller has urged the city to consider P3s for some of its public infrastructure needs but has said he believes the scope for them is fairly narrow and that governments can usually borrow money more cheaply for infrastructure than can private companies.

P3 proponents argue huge cost savings over the lifetime of the projects swamp lower interest payments. Cost overruns are tightly contained so they don't eat into profits, whereas cost overruns in the public sector have to be absorbed by taxpayers.

P3s have swept countries such as Britain, Australia and have taken off in British Columbia and Quebec, which each has its own provincial P3 agency.

Nov 25, 2006

Bike rack safety

With thanks to CKNW 980 Local News Vancouver British Columbia

A bit of a wrinkle for Translink and some of their new buses.

According to Translink spokesperson Drew Snider, new buses from the New Flyer company can't carry bicycles after dark because the bike racks obstruct the headlights, "The headlights are set in such a way that when you deploy the bike rack, and you put a bike on it, they obstruct the headlights. The bottom line is, after dark you can't put bicycles on there right now because they wouldn't be running legally because of the obstruction of the headlights."

Snider says 90 buses are affected, including the new compressed natural gas, diesel and trolley buses.

Coast Mountain Bus Company is contacting the manufacturer about the problem.

Nov 21, 2006

New TTC token unveiled

A new gold and silver colour TTC token with ridged edges should make it harder for counterfeiter to make copies of the dime-size coin.

The TTC unveiled the new token today, saying “the latest in technology” makes the token “next to impossible to reproduce.”

The transit agency says it has lost about $10 million from the sale of counterfeit tokens over the past two years.

That’s exactly the amount TTC officials estimated a counterfeit token scam had cost the system when a key arrest was made earlier this year. That scam prompted the token re-design.

“(It is a) much more complex token. There are edge markers. It’s textured. It’s got a swirling edge,” said TTC spokesperson Marilyn Bolton.

“We’re not announcing what the metals are.”

Aside from discussing the new colour scheme and texture of the token, Bolton said officials would not disclose other security features.

The TTC has ordered 20 million new tokens at a cost of $1.7 million.

Bolton said another advantage to the new token is it should be more easily picked out in a handful of change.

“It’s distinctive,” she said. “It doesn’t look anything like a dime.”

On average, the transit system loses about $7 million a year through fraud, including gate jumping and the use of fake tokens and metro passes.

That loss represents just under 1 per cent of the system’s total revenue.

Nov 19, 2006

TTC to introduce two-colour token

This coming Monday, the TTC will unveil a new token designed to combat the counterfeits that have flooded the system. According to a TTC press release, the special unveiling ceremony will take place on Monday, November 20 at 2:30 p.m. in Toronto’s City Hall, Committee Room 3.

According to the press release, “the new token is designed with the latest in technology, making it next to impossible to re-produce.”

That, of course, remains to be seen. The release gives few other details, but hopefully these will be provided on Monday. One key question: will the TTC stop accepting the current subway tokens, some of which have been in circulation for over fifty years. If the tokens we have stocked away in sock drawers are to become obsolete, how long will the TTC accept these before phasing them out, and what program will the commission provide to allow individuals to exchange old tokens for new?

Studies suggest that the TTC has lost approximately $10 million due to the sale of counterfeit tokens. Riders report that the counterfeits have become so pervasive that some have been included with legitimate tokens dispensed by token machines.

The TTC has ordered 20 million new tokens at a cost of $1.7 million.

Nov 17, 2006

Nova Bus unveils its first hybrid-electric bus

Nova Bus unveiled its first hybrid-electric vehicle at the Canadian Urban Transit Association Trans-Expo held November 7.

The Nova LFS HEV features a GM Allison Ep40 system, which combines an electric drive and a diesel engine.

“The LFS hybrid electric application shows Nova Bus’ commitment to high quality vehicles and environmental conservation,” says company president and CEO Gilles Dion.

The new hybrid vehicle offers significantly reduced fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Other advantages are a smoother and quieter ride as well as reducing brake and engine wear.

Standard features include a unique stainless steel structure as well as corrosion-free outside skin panels.



Nov 15, 2006

New GO station

Uxbridge residents will soon have less distance to travel to hop on a train into Toronto, following the announcement of plans to build a new GO train station on the outskirts of the township.

The Region announced Friday that a new station will be built near the south part of Uxbridge, on the west side of the York/Durham boundary. Roger Anderson, Durham's regional chairman, told the Times-Journal that he hopes the station, an extension of the existing Stouffville GO route, will be completed in 2007 or early 2008.

"The (GO) board has authorized the execution of a contract for the preliminary design, detailed design and construction supervision of a new station near the southern part of the Township of Uxbridge," said Mr. Anderson. "This is incredible news for residents in our northern municipalities. Access to GO Transit services for these residents is long overdue, and I thank GO for recognising and acting on this matter."

He noted the new facility will be "where the (GO) trains park overnight now" in the northern section of Stouffville, bordering on Uxbridge.

Ben Chartier, executive director of Durham Transit, said finding a way to get residents to the station "will definitely be in our plans.

"The (station) wouldn't work if we can't get people there," he said. Mr. Chartier added that Port Perry residents can also be worked into transit plans. But, "It's a little early" to determine full details of a new transit route. "We're not sure what (GO's) timing is."

Outgoing Uxbridge Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor said of the new addition, "I think it's great, it's something we can work on." She feels the next step should be a station in Goodwood, and if officials "can get the tracks in good enough shape, it could carry people right from our train station (in town).

"I wish that GO would look at taking over the CN (Canadian National) line from Havelock to Union Station (in Toronto)," the mayor noted, adding the track is not yet fully suitable for passenger trains.

But Mayor O'Connor said the newest addition is welcome. "People can get to downtown and not fight traffic... they can come into work relaxed and come back (home) relaxed," she said.

Mr. Anderson said his next goal is to secure a station for Goodwood.

Thanks to the News Advertiser for this article.

Nov 11, 2006

It's A Go

At long last Go Transit will be extending it’s train service through to Oshawa on the weekends. Effective Dec. 30, GO Transit weekend riders will be able to take the train from Union Station, as far east as the Oshawa GO station. This is good news for Durham Region Transit. A recent 26-day strike as done considerable damage to the ridership counts at DRT. This should help to increase ridership and boost the number of jobs for transit employees. Read full story...

Nov 4, 2006

I'll be Back

The first one's back after the strike were the Service Employees. In the pictue below the bus on the right is worth a lot of money to the mechanics. There are three of these buses and they are lemons. The mechanics are kept employed at union rates (more hours than they should) repairing them. You can see these buses mainly being used on the Flag Bus routes... or check the repair bays.

After Support Services and Dispatchers the Convention and Specialized Services Operators were the last group to return to work. The Flag bus on the right had to be changed off later on in the day. Another repair for a bus that can't keep on ticking.

Nov 2, 2006

Canadian Auto Workers Local 111

Friday September 15, 2006

Transit workers’ union amazed after bus driver stops pick pocket from robbing elderly passenger and faces criticism and "corrective coaching" by Coast Mountain Bus Company for his actions

VANCOUVER – The union representing GVRD transit workers is amazed today after a bus driver who stopped a pick pocket from robbing an elderly passenger was criticized by the Coast Mountain Bus Company and faces "Corrective Coaching" for coming to the aid of the bus rider.

Steve Sutherland, President of the Canadian Auto Workers Local 111, said today a bus driver who last month spotted a thief stealing an elderly women’s wallet from her bag and intervened to stop the crime has been reprimanded by his employer and told he needs "Corrective Coaching", which can be the first stage of a disciplinary process.

"This is unbelievable – our member came to the aid of an elderly passenger by stopping a crook from getting away with her wallet and Coast Mountain Bus thinks he’s the guy who did the wrong thing!" Sutherland said. "What kind of a message is Coast Mountain sending to its customers when bus drivers who stop crimes face possible disciplinary action?"

The union intends to grieve the incident but Sutherland said management at Coast Mountain and TransLink should smarten up and reward the bus driver for being a hero instead of making him into the bad guy for doing the right thing.

"TransLink and Coast Mountain have big ads up right now saying ‘On my street we always look out for one another. It just so happens my street is the bus route’ but obviously that’s just pure spin when a driver is criticized for looking out for a passenger," Sutherland said.

The incident occurred on August 26 on a 135 Burrard Station coach heading westbound into Vancouver, while stopped at Hastings and Nanaimo Street.

The driver spotted a male passenger acting suspiciously as a female senior citizen exited the bus and questioned the suspect on his actions. After the suspect pushed past the driver to escape, the driver quickly gave a short chase. The suspect dropped the wallet and escaped. The driver picked up the wallet, spotted the victim and returned her wallet, which she did not know had been stolen from her.

For more information: Call Steve Sutherland at 604-519-1110 ext *2288 or cell 604-992-1781 or Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, at 604-844-7827 or cell 778-896-0964.

Strike Fare Media Policy

According to Durham Region Transit, customers with valid October DRT passes, are permitted to return their October monthly pass in exchange for either a November or December DRT Monthly Pass of the same classification and receive a complementary 10 ride card, or 10 ride ticket pack. This is a nice deal.

DRT needs to concentrate on winning it’s customers back. The strike has done untold damage on the ridership counts. Some attribute the first week decline to commuters sticking to car pools and the other bus alternatives they used during the strike. Strikes at other transit systems have suggested that the rider counts can remain down for periods of up to one year. DRT needs to concentrate on customer service and reliable equipment.