Dec 29, 2006

TTC looking at new approach

A streetcar refurbishing contract that Thunder Bay's Bombardier plant appeared to have won is being sent back to the budget table by the Toronto Transit Commission.

Last summer, the plant was the lone bidder on a $110-million contract to refurbish 96 older streetcars and then-TTC chairman Howard Moscoe predicted the contract would be awarded by the fall.

However, new TTC chairman Adam Giambrone said yesterday the commission is now looking at replacing the entire 195-streetcar fleet.

Refurbishing the fleet would carry an estimated cost of $245 million compared to more than double that to replace it, at the going rate of $3 million per car.

Toronto's current streetcars were built in Thunder Bay in the 1970s. The plant is currently building advanced rapid transit cars for South Korea.

With thanks to The Toronto Sun for this report.

Bus deal becoming a fiasco for Broward

Broward County officials acted arbitrarily and used ''fundamentally flawed logic'' when they recommended that the county buy buses that cost at least $16 million more than those offered by a competitor, a hearing officer found in a report released today.

The recommendation that the county award the contract to the low bidder comes as Broward County Transit is struggling with a shortage of working buses and mechanics to fix them.

In fact, BCT is so desperate for buses that starting next month, it will use old Miami-Dade Transit buses that Dade had planned to retire.

Hearing officer Rafael Suarez-Rivas decided that the Broward County Commission, which has final say over the contract, should buy the buses from North American Bus Industries, whose bid was rejected earlier by Broward purchasing director Glenn Cummings.

''This will be a really good solution to the problems that Broward County bus riders have been facing with old buses,'' said John Dellaportas, an attorney for NABI. The county will get a fleet of new buses at a great price, he said.

The county could still take the dispute over the contract -- potentially worth more than $100 million for hundreds of buses -- to court.

But in a 35-page report, Suarez-Rivas concluded that county staff judged the bids ''in a random and haphazard manner.'' Broward wrongly declared that Anniston, Ala.-based NABI failed to meet its requirements, he wrote.

BCT Director Christopher Walton said Wednesday that he recommended the high bidder, New Flyer. But he declined to elaborate today and had no comment about the hearing officer's decision. Cummings was out of town and could not be reached for comment today, but has said in the past that NABI's buses didn't meet county requirements.

Earlier this year, Broward County procurement officials concluded that NABI's $116 million bid didn't meet the county's qualifications -- even though it was $25 million less than a $141 million bid from New Flyer.

PROTEST FILED

NABI filed a bid protest, which led to a hearing that concluded in late November.

BCT was looking to buy new buses to shore up its aging fleet, expand service in January and add a new route in March.

The agency could have saved money if it had bought some buses earlier this year. The cost will rise -- perhaps as much as $20,000 a bus -- next year in complying with new Environmental Protection Agency standards, Walton said.

USED REPLACEMENTS

Meanwhile, BCT has arranged to temporarily use about 20 buses from Miami-Dade for a nominal fee.

The buses have about 500,000 miles on them -- a typical benchmark for retirement, said Manny Palmeiro of Miami-Dade Transit.

But Walton said the buses are usable.

''Just because a bus has reached 12 years of age does not mean it is not a useful bus,'' he said. ``We'll do what is necessary to make sure the bus is functional and safe.''

Others are skeptical.

''Let's face it -- you get somebody else's junk, you are going to have problems,'' said Bill Howard, president of the union that represents BCT mechanics, drivers and other workers. ``If one agency is ready to retire them, they have seen plenty of action, that's for sure.''

Broward bus breakdowns increased 10 percent between fiscal 2005 and 2006. The county's buses rack up more than 53,000 miles a year -- more than 10,000 above federal standards.

PAY PROBLEMS, TOO

About 25 percent of the mechanic positions are vacant at BCT, which pays less than some other agencies like the Broward School District. And the union contract expired more than 14 months ago.

''Our pay scale needs to be addressed, and we are doing that in the current negotiations,'' Walton said.

Brett White said he got a $6-an-hour raise when he left his BCT mechanic job for a similar position in Washington state earlier this year.

''While down there, I was getting ready to file bankruptcy. I couldn't make basic credit card bills, utility bills, car payments and my mortgage. Up here, I am able to survive, make those payments and bring everything up to date,'' he said. ``They are not keeping up with the cost of living down there.''

Thanks to the Bradenton Herald for this report.

Dec 28, 2006

Washington Trolleys Go Back on Track

Washington residents cheered the return of professional baseball to the U.S. capital last year after a 33-year absence. Soon, they'll be able to look back to the future again.

The city is planning a $25 million project to bring back the trolley cars that last rumbled along its streets during the Kennedy administration. The revival will begin next year with a 2-mile (3-kilometer) line in southeastern Washington that, fittingly, will pass near the Washington Nationals' new downtown ballpark, which is to open in April 2008.

``To have baseball and streetcars come back somehow makes the city seem whole,'' said Eric Madison, a city transportation agency worker. Madison, 32, volunteers at the National Capital Trolley Museum, which saved parts of the trolley fleet after the lines were torn up in 1962 in favor of subways and buses.

City planners are looking beyond the dreams of nostalgia buffs for trolleys to help spur economic development, cut pollution and ease traffic congestion. The Washington area ranks third in the U.S. in gridlock, behind Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to a 2005 study by the Texas Transportation Institute, a College Station, Texas-based research group.

``Light rail is the wave of the future if you care about the environment,'' said Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington's delegate to Congress. Norton, 69, said she expects fellow Democrats, who take control of Congress in January, to boost funding for such projects across the U.S.

Counting on Revival

The streetcar line, being financed by the city, is part of an initiative to revitalize one of Washington's poorest neighborhoods, along the Anacostia River. Almost 30 percent of its residents live below the poverty line and unemployment is three times the national average, according to East of the River Community Development Corp., a local group.

``A lot of times, when streetcar systems are put into areas that are distressed or undergoing some kind of economic change, economic development occurs around the area of the fixed investment,'' said Catondra Noye, the city Transportation Department's coordinator for the streetcar project.

Washington is mainly counting on the Nationals' $611 million ballpark to draw $1 billion in investment for housing, stores and offices in the waterfront neighborhood, replacing a drab 1960s- era mall and rundown nightclubs. The city has spent $150 million on riverwalks and parks along both banks of the Anacostia. Trolley and pedestrian bridges are planned, starting in 2011.

Modern Look

The new red-and-yellow articulated cars, built by Prague- based Inekon Group, will have a ``sleek, modern look,'' Noye said. They will run on electric power from overhead wires. While initial plans only call for the Anacostia line and another along H Street in the northeast, the city eventually wants streetcars along seven major transportation corridors.

Streetcars once dominated Washington's traffic grid. From the first electric cars in 1899, the system reached its height during World War II as rationing of gasoline and rubber halted conversions to buses and a once-sleepy town hummed around the clock for the war effort, transporting 536 million riders in 1943, according to the 2001 book ``Capital Transit'' by Peter Kohler.

In August 1945, servicemen stood on the tops of trolleys owned by Capital Transit Co., which ran the city operation, to hear President Harry Truman announce Japan's surrender, according to the book.

Postwar prosperity, cheap gasoline and a surge of automobiles spelled doom for the streetcars, which were plagued by a reputation for clogging streets and being ``too cold in winter, too hot in summer,'' Norton recalled.

By January 1962, the streetcar ended its run, with the no- longer-needed cars sold to European cities from Barcelona to Sarajevo.

Fast Growth

Today, light rail is the fastest-growing type of public transportation in the U.S., according to the American Public Transportation Association. The number of light-rail riders increased 9.4 percent in the first half from a year earlier, the Washington-based group said.

Portland, Oregon, opened a 2.4-mile light-rail system in 2001 and is planning two half-mile extensions.

Commercial and residential growth in an area once dominated by old warehouses and industrial buildings has boomed, said U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat whose district includes Portland. The Pearl District, a high-density zone with parks, plazas and public art, has drawn $2.3 billion in investment within two blocks of the streetcar line.

San Francisco operates six streetcar lines and is considering a $50 million extension of its vintage streetcars. The city's N-Judah Muni light-rail line runs directly past AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.

Economic Boost

``Washington seems to be following what many cities are doing: to see how the use of streetcars might be helpful in not only solving transportation problems, but in helping with economic-development issues,'' said William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, an industry lobbying group.

Washington's plans are welcome news to streetcar buffs at the National Capital Trolley Museum in Silver Spring, Maryland, where a handful of the surviving old cars are kept in working order by volunteers.

``Streetcars don't pollute the air,'' said Wells Drumwright, an 82-year-old retired dentist from Colesville, Maryland, who rode the vehicles to Washington's Paul Junior High School in 1936. ``And they don't smell bad like the buses do.''

Thanks to Bloomberg for this report.

Fast Times At Edmonton Transit

I found this article about Transit Manager Charles Stolte and Edmonton Transit very interesting. There is a big shortage of manpower in Manitoba. If you are looking for a career change this just might be the place for you to go. Read more...

Dec 25, 2006

Boy, 15, sentenced for driving stolen bus

This is a follow up to my post of October 30, 2006 . If this had happen in Canada the kid would have more than likely been given the young offenders royal treatment.

FERN PARK, Fla. -- A 15-year-old boy has been sentenced to four years in a juvenile treatment program after deputies stopped him driving a stolen bus along a public transit route, picking up passengers and collecting fares.

A judge also sentenced Ritchie Calvin Davis last week to an additional four months in a treatment program for trespassing and theft linked to an unrelated break-in at a United Way office, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Davis also lost his driving privileges for a year, though he doesn't have a license. The sentence means he won't be able to drive for a year after getting a permit or license.

He was already on probation for taking a tour bus and driving passengers around in January, authorities said.

Davis took the city bus on Oct. 28 from the Central Florida Fairgrounds in Orlando, where it was parked awaiting sale at an auction, according to a Seminole County sheriff's report. The bus belongs to the Central Florida Transportation Agency, which runs LYNX public transit services in the Orlando area.

Passengers and deputies noted Davis drove the bus at normal speeds and made all the appropriate stops on the route. One passenger, suspicious of the driver's youthful looks, called 911.

Bridge will be gateway to city

It will look pretty, but will it work?

City of Mississauga councillors have voted to spend an extra $2 million to make a new city bridge the prettiest in the GTA.

When opened to traffic by the end of next year, the Confederation Pkwy. bridge over Hwy. 403 will boast features befitting a main entrance to Mississauga's City Centre, said Ward 4 Councillor Frank Dale.

"There will not be another bridge like it on the 400 series highways anywhere in the GTA," Dale said.

The $2 million will be spent on additional lighting ($500,000), landscaping ($500,000), railings, abutment enhancements, streetscaping and consulting fees ($1 million).

"The extension of Confederation Pkwy. provides an opportunity to create a gateway entrance from the city's northern communities and will have a significant profile from Hwy. 403," said Commissioner of Transportation and Works Martin Powell, in a report to Council.

Concept drawings show an open type railing, replacing the typical concrete railing, which will reduce the massing of the structure. The south side of the bridge features extensive terraced landscaping.

"The design," Powell said, "will encourage and attract pedestrians and cyclists."

The bridge has also been changed from a three-span to a four-span structure to accommodate the future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) facility. Since this section of the BRT is the responsibility of GO Transit, the agency has agreed to fund the $1.5 million cost of construction.

Dec 22, 2006

Edmonton Transit tries out hybrid buses


Edmonton Transit is engaging in a little bit of tire-kicking this winter.

Two diesel-electric hybrid buses went into service in Edmonton on Mon, Dec 18. The buses are manufactured by Mississauga’s Orion Bus Industries, a division of DaimlerChrysler, and are designed to use as little as 50 per cent of the fuel burned up by traditional diesel buses in optimal operating conditions.

Under ordinary operating conditions in cities where similar buses are already in use, however, the real number is closer to 80 per cent, but it is unknown how the buses will fare in the city’s cold climate and relatively high altitude.

As such, ETS will be working with the University of Alberta to monitor the two buses, which are currently servicing route 106 between West Edmonton Mall and Capilano, as well as two different kinds of hybrid buses built by Winnipeg-based New Flyer—who also supply Vancouver and Toronto’s transit systems—which go into service once they are delivered sometime next year.

The Orion buses, which cost upwards of $530 000 US—60 per cent more than traditional diesel buses—are already a major part of transit systems in several major cities, including New York, where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority already has more than 500 of the buses in service and is in the process of adding 300 more.

According to a recent study by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the fuel efficiency of MTA’s hybrid busses is 30 per cent better than its traditional diesel buses and between 60 and 120 per cent higher than natural gas vehicles.

“The test is part of Edmonton Transit’s commitment to explore innovative new technologies to help provide safe, efficient and environmentally friendly service,” said ETS bus fleet, equipment and maintenance supervisor James Bryant in a press release, which also noted that the new buses’ performance, maintenance costs, fuel economy, reliability, noise and emissions will be recorded and analyzed, while customers will be surveyed to gauge their reaction to the new vehicles.

Dec 20, 2006

GO Transit to make significant investments

GO Transit has identified in its 2007/08 capital budget an environmental assessment to extend its existing rail services east and construct a new East Oshawa station in Durham Region. In conjunction with this study, GO Transit will be looking at more extensive train-meet bus service into the new East Oshawa rail station. Recently GO introduced a bus park-and-ride lot with 85 spaces in Bowmanville.

Yield to "The Bus" Law?

The following is a copy of a letter sent from a concerned bus driver of Kingston Transit to Noam Saidenberg of the Ministry of Transportation. It is followed with a reply that in my opinion, is totally unacceptable.

To:
Noam Saidenberg,
Ministry of Transportation
I am a driver with Kingston Transit, (Kingston, Ontario) and I, like many of my fellow drivers, have several issues with the yield to the bus law. Mainly that it is not enforced. The police consider it a very low priority, and therefore pretty much ignore people who fail to yield to the bus. This is not just an issue in Kingston, but everywhere, as I have learned from talking to other bus drivers in other municipalities.
It is easy for your office to say that enforcement is up to the local police forces, but isn't it your job (the MTO) to make sure they are actually enforcing it?
Subsequently, people have no fear of legal retrobution for their actions, so they continue to stream around buses attempting to re-enter traffic, like we are nothing more than a bag of garbage left on the road.
Section 142, subsection 3, states that: No driver of a bus shall re-enter the lane of traffic adjacent to a bus bay and move into the path of a vehicle or street car if the vehicle or street car is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield the right of way.
Obviously no-one at MTO has ever driven a transit bus. It doesn't matter if you are in a bus bay or stopping on the travelled portion of the road to load or unload passengers. The second you stop, the flow of traffic starts moving around you, and it doesn't stop until you signal and then force your way back into the stream of vehicles. If you don't, you'll sit there all day. It is always impractical for the driver to yield the right of way, because they see the bus signal come on and just speed up to get in front of you. Many people take stupid chances, even swerving out into oncoming traffic just to get in front of a bus, rather than be stuck behind it.
The law is vague at best. A $90.00 fine is a joke, and pocket change to most drivers. No points are lost from their licences. The law doesn't do anything to address buses stopping on the travelled portion of the roadway where 95% of bus stops are anyway. And the police don't bother to enforce the law.
Instead of doing it right from the start, it looks as if this law was put into place just to keep the transit authorities off your backs. If you people were serious about it, the fine would be a minimum of $250.00, with a loss of two points, the signs on the backs of the buses would be twice the size with the fine displayed as well, and the police would be strongly encouraged to enforce it.
While this opinion is just my own, and not that of Kingston Transit, it strongly reflects the feeling we all have as front line drivers out there. It's a tough job to begin with, but it's that much harder when the people who make the laws to protect you aren't doing all they can to help.
This law needs to be reviewed and taken seriously. If the Province is so dedicated to getting people to take public transit, then maybe the Province should start being dedicated to public transit.
Dave Shepherd
Bus Operator,
Kingston Transit


The reply:

Mr. Shepherd,
First, I would like to thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention. While we, at the government try our best to develop legislation that is effective and appropriate, I am sure there is always room for improvement. Therefore, your comments on the Yield to Bus law are appreciated.
I would like to respond to the issues you raised in your email and explain the reasons for some aspects of the law:
  • First, a little bit of background. The Yield to Bus (YTB) legislation was in direct response to municipal and municipal transit request. Municipalities specifically requested legislation to make it easier for buses to leave bus bays and better stick to schedule. This appears to be a problem in the bigger cities with congested streets and frequent service in rush hours. The law did not intent to give buses total priority on the road or to address bus stops on travelled lanes. As requested by municipalities, it was drafted specifically to make it easier for buses to leave bus bays.

  • The YTB law and the regulation that goes with it were developed by a working group made of MTO representatives, municipal transit representatives and a rep from the OPP. The municipal transit reps were asked to participate precisely because we realized that none of us has ever driven a bus. They contributed a great deal to our understanding of the issues and ensured the legislation is adequate, appropriate and workable.

  • This legislation in a way represents the beginning of a shift in view – it gives buses priority over cars. It is perhaps a small step in this direction, but a good and important one nevertheless.

  • As to the signs on the back of the bus: these signs were developed by the working group that included representatives from municipal transit. The size of the sign was determined after consultation with a large number of transit systems and review of similar signs from other provinces and states. The challenge here was to develop a sign that would be sufficiently visible and the same time would physically fit on the back of the many types of buses currently in use throughout the Province, each with its own space restrictions. It was felt that the size chosen was a good compromise.

  • The law does not change the responsibility of the bus driver to ensure it is safe to leave a bus bay. Bus drivers had this responsibility before the YTB law came into being and nothing has changed in this regard. This is no different from your responsibility to ensure safety when you turn or change lanes anywhere else on the road. You are always required to drive safely.

  • In order to advertise the new law and bring it to drivers’ attention, we spent roughly a year and the half developing and implementing a public awareness campaign including presentations to various conferences and shows, communication with various associations (CAA, bicycle & motorcycle associations, etc.), posters in public libraries and schools throughout the province, working with school boards and driving schools to ensure YTB is included in their driver education, reference to YTB in the drivers’ handbook, there were numerous articles in newspapers, and coverage on radio and television, and so on. In other words, real attempt was made to reach as many drivers as possible. As well, we made presentations and explained the legislation to many police forces across the province.

  • In term of “doing the job”, the law and the associated regulation are good and adequate. They clearly require drivers to give buses priority when they try to leave bus bays. It is not vague in any way. However, the YTB is no different than any other law. Most people obey it, but there is always a small minority that will not obey or will try to circumvent the law. There is not much any government can do short of enforcement and education. As the YTB legislation applies almost exclusively on municipal roads (not provincial) enforcement, as you suggested, is a municipal issue. Each municipality and each police force has their priorities and it is totally up to each municipality and each police force to determine the degree to which they will enforce the YTB law. The Province has no jurisdiction to enforce on municipal roads. As is the case with many other traffic offences, we provide municipalities with the tools, but it is up to them to enforce the law. If the Kingston bus drivers feel enforcement of the YTB is not adequate, perhaps you can discuss it with your management and this issue could then be discussed with your police force or be brought to your Council.

  • As to the $90 fine, it appears to be in line with other traffic offences of similar nature. Not every traffic offence results in points.
    Mr. Shepherd, I hope I have addressed your concerns and that you have a better understanding of the YTB legislation now.

  • Noam Saidenberg
    Transit Policy Office / MTO
    416//235-4086

    Dec 18, 2006

    North American cities take to the hybrid bus


    The recent popularity of hybrid cars has obscured an even more impressive surge in North American demand for diesel-electric city buses.

    Daimler Chrysler, whose Orion brand has close to a 60 per cent market share, estimates that, based on existing orders, the number of hybrid buses on US and Canadian streets will grow by three-quarters over the next year from 1,200 to 2,100.

    "They're selling very well," says Brian Macleod, senior vice-president at Gillig, a Californian bus manufacturer.

    Since Gillig began commercial production of hybrid buses in 2005, these models have grown to a fifth of its output. By contrast, hybrids make up less than 1.5 per cent of US car and light-truck sales.

    Politicians are under pressure to cut smog and adopt environmentally friendly policies. Hybrid technology typically delivers bigger fuel savings for a city bus than a car because of the bus's low speed and frequent stops.

    The batteries are barely used at speeds over 20mph. Buses in New York, which has the world's biggest hybrid fleet, travel at an average speed of just 7mph. Much of the battery power required for acceleration comes from energy stored whenever the brakes are applied.

    Gillig has experimented with various alternative fuels, including methanol, ethanol, propane and natural gas. All were "somewhat successful" in cutting emissions" Mr Macleod says, but some – such as methanol – produced other toxic substances. Furthermore, he adds, "none of them was as efficient as a diesel engine". However, with the help of ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel that went on sale in the US last month, "you've got a very clean vehicle".

    Gillig's hybrid technology comes from a General Motors subsidiary, Allison Transmission. GM also supplies New Flyer Industries, another bus builder based in Winnipeg. Orion uses BAE Systems' technology.

    GM, in partnership with DaimlerChrysler and BMW, is adapting Allison's bus technology to cars and light trucks. GM plans to launch a hybrid sport-utility vehicle followed by a pick-up truck.

    An evaluation by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded last month that the fuel economy of New York's hybrid fleet was a third higher than its diesel buses and 60-120 per cent better than vehicles powered by natural gas.

    In addition, the hybrid vehicles' reliability was well above minimum standards, and drivers liked their acceleration. New York is in the throes of expanding its Orion hybrid fleet from 500 to 825 vehicles. In Canada, hybrids are set to make up a third of Toronto's buses.

    "We believe that over time, the bulk of transit bus procurements will be hybrids," says Pat Scully, chief commercial officer in DaimlerChrysler's North American bus division.

    Hybrids' political appeal has helped offset their price. A hybrid bus costs about $530,000 – 60 per cent more than a diesel model. In the US, the federal government foots 80 per cent of the bill for new municipal buses.

    The price premium is a barrier in some markets, including Europe. According to Mr Scully, "the hybrid phenomenon is, for the time being anyway, a US-Canada event".

    Dec 17, 2006

    Bus project hits a snag

    Mississauga's long-delayed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project may be sidetracked indefinitely.

    And residents can blame Ottawa if that happens, say City officials.

    They're running out of patience because, with another year almost gone by, they're yet to see a penny from the federal government to fund the project, despite Ottawa's promise to chip in $58 million of the cost.

    "If we don't get the money, we won't be moving ahead," director of finance Rob Rossini told councillors during discussion on the 2007 budget.

    The City has already received $62.8 million from the Province and it has set aside $64 million of its own money. All the funding is in place, except Ottawa's share. Without it, the project cannot proceed.

    "We don't have that kind of money," Rossini told The News.

    But it seems the funds won't be coming soon.

    "We're in the process of reviewing the project," said Natalie Sarafran, an aide to Minster of Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities Lawrence Cannon, when contacted by The News.

    Despite Ottawa's lack of cooperation, several initiatives directly related to the BRT are going ahead. These include a BRT office ($640,000 in start-up costs set aside), and a environmental assessment of the project ($250,000 approved). The City is also spending $150,000 on a business case.

    But the City isn't giving up hope. Mayor Hazel McCallion has been persistent - and vocal - in her lobbying efforts. This may become easier with federal elections looming next year.

    Decades in the planning, the BRT is envisioned to run across the GTA as a seamless service. Mississauga's segment, slated to be completed by 2011, would see bus-only lanes and stations run from south-west Mississauga along the Hwy. 403/Eglinton corridor to Hwy. 407. In time, the plan calls for BRT links to the Kipling subway station to the south and, possibly, Pearson International Airport to the north.

    If the BRT is shelved, it would be a severe blow to transit planning in Mississauga: A study estimates that in five years the Mississauga portion of the BRT network could attract nearly 10,000 passengers an hour in the peak direction during rush hours.

    "The BRT is a key project for the City of Mississauga, the Region of Peel and the Province of Ontario, including the proposed growth plan for the Greater Horseshoe," Martin Powell, the City's commissioner of transportation, has said.

    However, there was one bit of good news on the transit front: After 15 years of lobbying, ground was broken Dec. 8 for the new GO Station in the northwest corner of the city. When completed next fall, some 800 riders will go through the station each day, taking pressure off the area's roads.

    Rob MacIssac, newly-appointed chair of the Greater Toronto Transit Authority (GTTA), which will set the transit agenda for the GTA for decades to come, hailed the new facility.

    "In the next 25 years there will be nearly two million vehicles on our roads within the GTA," said MacIssac. "New stations like Lisgar will make it easier for people to leave their cars at home."

    The BRT may be stalled, but other transportation initiatives are moving ahead. Between 2007 and 2009, the City plans to spend $5 million on feasibility and environmental studies on "higher-order" public transit along the Hurontario St. corridor, a thoroughfare that attracts nearly a quarter of Mississauga Transit's daily users. Ideas include a LRT (light rapid transit) system where dedicated rail lines are installed. Eventually, it will connect with Brampton's $280-million AcceleRide.

    With Islington Subway Station slated to be vacated by 2009, the City has set aside $5 million to build a new facility at Kipling, envisioned as an inter-regional hub, for Mississauga Transit. Currently, MT carries 21,000 passengers to the subway every day.

    The City is budgeting $98 million over the next decade to expand its fleet by 165 new buses. Another $162 million is earmarked to replace 242 aging vehicles. Commuters may ride in hybrid buses by 2010.
    Thanks to The Mississauga News for this report.

    Dec 16, 2006

    Fighting traffic and parking woes at Lakeridge Health Oshawa

    Lakeridge Health and the City of Oshawa are teaming up to alleviate traffic congestion at the Oshawa hospital site and prevent the problem from worsening when the new north wing opens in January.

    The two organizations have developed a parking enforcement and traffic management plan for Hospital Court, which is owned by the City and patrolled by City staff and Parkwood Court, which is owned and patrolled by Lakeridge.

    "City of Oshawa staff and officials have been very supportive and together with hospital initiatives, are making every effort to put measures in place to help alleviate traffic congestion on Hospital Court," said Marion Saunders, chairwoman of the Lakeridge Health board of trustees.

    Once the new north wing opens, the hospital will be moving significant traffic patterns, such as hospital patient transfers and staff pick-up and drop-off, to a renovated entrance at the site of the current ER entrance on Parkwood Court.

    Hospital security will be diligent in ticketing illegal parking on Parkwood court.

    While parking enforcement on Hospital Court remains the sole responsibility of City bylaw officers, the hospital has hired additional security on a pilot basis, to help keep traffic moving.

    In advance of the opening, security staff are speaking with drivers and placing reminders on vehicles illegally parked on the street. On average, about 200 drivers a day have been asked to move their vehicles.

    Lakeridge has also arranged for additional volunteers to wait with patients and escort them to and from the hospital's units, allowing drivers to park or retrieve their vehicles from the parking facility.

    Members of the Oshawa Accessibility Advisory Committee also participated in the initiative, sharing first-hand experience with the dangers of traffic congestion due to illegal parking at the hospital site.

    "There have been a number of near misses and very dangerous situations for the disabled and Durham Regional Transit Specialized Services drivers because of illegally parked vehicles," said Scott Pigden, chairman of the accessibility committee. "I don't think people realize the very serious consequences that can quickly arise when they park illegally, even if only for a few minutes."

    Thanks to The News Advertiser for this report.

    Dec 15, 2006

    Great transit map!

    Thanks to the Torontoist web page I just found out about this absolutely incredible transit map of Toronto that incorporates the TTC, Go Transit, VIVA, Brampton Transit, Mississauga Transit, and Vaughan Transit into handy-dandy Google Map form, meaning you can easily input a location and find the nearest transit routes that surround it. I'm hoping that in the future that it will take in Durham Region.

    Dec 14, 2006

    New Flyer gets $9 million

    New Flyer Industries is receiving $9 million from the U.S. government to develop hydrogen fuel cell buses for the Federal Transit Administration.

    The Winnipeg company - which employes 1,800 Manitobans - is one of three companies working together on the projects, announced Wednesday in San Diego.

    The FTA offered New Flyer $6 million to develop a hydrogen fuel-cell bus for Washington, D.C. in conjunction with California-based ISE Corporation, which makes hybrid engines.

    Another $3 million is being offered to develop advanced hydrogen fuel-cell buses for the hot, dry weather in Thousand Palms, Calif. That project will be done with the California company SunLine Transit.

    The projects were announced as part of Premier Gary Doer’s trade mission to southern Ca

    Tunnel repairs to force rare subway detour

    On seven weekends in the new year, Bay station will close and Bloor-Danforth subway trains from both directions will do something they haven't done in 40 years -- turn south and head down the University line.

    The radical rerouting is necessary, the TTC says, to allow crews time to repair the "severely deteriorated" tunnel roof between Bay and St. George stations.

    "That work has to be done, and it cannot be done with trains in operation," said Mitch Stambler, the Toronto Transit Commission's manager of service planning. "So we have to circumvent the affected part of the tunnel."

    The detour will see Bay station closed, on Saturday and Sundays only, from Feb. 18 to March 31. Eastbound and westbound Bloor-Danforth trains will bypass the station and turn south, terminating at Museum.

    Passengers who want to continue west or east will have to change trains at Museum, and TTC staff will be on hand to answer questions about what train to take, Mr. Stambler said.

    The trains will travel on a little-known track connection between the city's two major subway lines, called in rail terminology a "wye," which was used briefly for passenger service when the Bloor-Danforth line opened in 1966. The extra tracks are now usually reserved for out-of-service or work trains. This type of rerouting would be impossible elsewhere on the system.

    Westbound trains will pass quickly through "Lower Bay" station, which is no longer used except as a movie stand-in for stations in other cities.

    Scenes in the 1994 science-fiction film Johnny Mnemonic, starring Keanu Reeves, were shot there. Subway trains will not stop at this phantom station.

    TTC officials say the unusual rerouting will save passengers the inconvenience of having to switch to shuttle buses, which cannot handle subway passenger volumes.

    On the affected weekends, trains across the system will operate less frequently, however -- every six minutes instead of every four to five minutes -- a change the TTC says is required because both routes will be using the same tracks going into Museum. The lower level of St. George station will also close, and all trains in and out of the station will use its upper tracks.

    The TTC says there will be major structural repairs of the roof of the Bloor-Danforth subway tunnel, almost directly under the Park Hyatt Hotel at Bloor Street and Avenue Road. The existing roof must be replaced.

    The demolition will take place over three weekends; the other weekends will be used for preparation and cleanup.

    Thanks to the Globe and Mail for this report.

    Dec 13, 2006

    New logo and Hybrid Bus

    On Monday, December 11, the Hamilton Street Railway unveiled the winning design for Hamilton's new articulated hybrid buses.

    Dave Kuruc of Mixed Media on James North won the design contest. 51 submissions were sent into the HSR for the design of these new buses, but clearly the transit committee made a great choice in selecting Kuruc's sharp design.

    The purchase of seven of these articulated (bendy-bus) hybrids along with several diesel and hybrid 40 foot buses represent the largest single purchase in the history of the HSR.

    Also, these 60-foot articulated buses will be the first in North America delivered by New Flyer with the restyled exterior and interior enhancements.

    These new buses should hit the streets in February 2007, and I'm sure will be a big hit with the public.

    My comment: It appears that Durham Region Transit is still dragging it's feet on the purchase of hybrid buses. In the past they have cited cost as the major factor for not upgrading their fleet to more environment friendly buses.

    Dec 9, 2006

    Transit drivers skip school route

    About 175 Ottawa high school students waited in high winds, snow and freezing rain for public transit buses that never came on Dec. 1, a school board official said.


    OC Transpo temporarily cut off service to Louis Riel high school last Friday afternoon when a bus driver reported that youths mocked his accent, pelted him with slush balls and broke the front panel on the door of his bus while it was stopped in front of the school.


    Bus driver Ravinder Singh Jande called OC Transpo for help during the incident, which made his bus unfit to take passengers. A supervisor decided to cancel the remaining three buses on the route that were scheduled to serve the school that day.


    School board spokeswoman Lucie Boileau said OC Transpo overreacted to the incident, which took place the same day a violent winter storm cut off power to thousands of homes in eastern Ontario and suspended school bus service in Ottawa.


    "A hundred and seventy-five students were left standing in the rain and the snow … because of one incident that involved maybe one or two students," Boileau said.


    "We don't think that it was acceptable."


    But a spokesman for the union that represents transit supervisors and security personnel said passengers who get on at the school have caused problems for drivers since September.


    "We are having seats slashed, windows broken, we are having operators assaulted, threats," said Wayne Watts of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.


    OC Transpo spokeswoman Helen Gault defended the decision to cut off service.


    "Obviously we have to be concerned about the safety of our operators," said Gault, OC Transpo's acting director of transit services. "We really want to provide a good service, but customers have an obligation also to show respect and restraint."


    Gault said students were not informed that bus service to the school had been cancelled for the rest of the day, but many should have known because they were there when the incident took place.


    Service to the school was restored Monday.


    Officials from the school, the French public school board and OC Transpo were scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the incident.


    Gault said she hoped the meeting would generate guidelines to prevent similar situations in the future.

    Dec 8, 2006

    Bob Kinnear wins re-election

    The outspoken and often controversial young president of the union that represents workers at the Toronto Transit Commission has been re-elected over two rivals by a massive majority.
    Bob Kinnear, 36, received 78 per cent of the 5696 votes cast yesterday at 22 polling locations around Toronto, crushing his main opponent, Larry Davis, who received 16 percent, and a third candidate, Leonard Attard, who got six per cent. Fourteen other Local 113 Executive Board members and dozens of shop stewards were also elected in the triennial contest.
    I am overwhelmed by this strong show of support from the membership," Kinnear said. "I thank them for their confidence and I pledge to work even harder for them during the next three years."
    Kinnear has become the best-known local union leader in Canada's largest city since he was first elected three years ago, coming directly off the shop floor to beat long-time union officer Vince Casuti. Since then, he has been a highly visible public champion of issues his members felt had been neglected by previous administrations such as assaults on operators, the contracting out of maintenance work, the service cutbacks, workplace health and safety, and oppressive managers "who treat skilled and dedicated workers like children.
    "Bobby stands up to TTC management like no leader before him and the members love that," said Frank Grimaldi, a Local 113 executive board member, also re-elected.
    "Management thought he was a rookie they could push around when he was first elected. They quickly learned that he could push back even harder. They were surprised. Now he has their respect."
    Kinnear frequently locked horns with outgoing TTC Chair Howard Moscoe over a host of transit-related issues. The two had a well-reported public shouting match in the closing moments of last year's ATU/TTC contract negotiations and often debated head-to-head on radio, television and at Commission meetings.
    Kinnear says he will lay out his plans for the next three years at the first General Membership meeting in the new year.
    "Public transit is Toronto's single most important economic and environmental asset," he says. "It deserves more investment and attention from our political leaders at all levels. But most of all, the great people who operate and maintain the system so well deserve more respect and consideration than they now get from TTC management. Whatever else our union plans to do - and we plan to do a lot - that will always be our number one priority.

    Dec 7, 2006

    Go Train to Niagara Falls


    If Regional Chairman Peter Partington has his way Go Transit will be running trains to Niagara Falls by 2008. Read the full story.

    Go Train to Niagara Falls

    If Regional Chairman Peter Partington has his way Go Transit will be running trains to Niagara Falls by 2008. Read the full story.

    Dec 3, 2006

    Moscoe's name was nowhere to be seen

    What's going on? Howard Moscoe's name has not been submitted to lead the TTC. What is this mysterious man up to? Read the interview here.