Dec 28, 2007

Barrie Go Train service returns

I have been excited about the return of the Go Train service to the City of Barrie, Ontario. The first day of service began on December 17, 2007. This was the day after a major snow storm wreaked havoc on Southern Ontario. I thought the storm would have thrown the shedules into disorder. According to Scott McCrindle’s web page… “despite a technical issue with the automated ticket vending machine, the first trip was smooth and comfortable. For a 5:43am departure, the train was relatively full.”

Would it be safe to say that Go Transit saves all of the delays for the Lakeshore service? (smile)

Related link:

Dec 24, 2007


I wish a Merry Christmas and a New Year to everyone. My one Christmas wish for transit is that the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1587 and Go Transit will be able to come to some kind of an agreement that will avoid a labour strike.

Below you will find a few photos of Christmas past from Ajax Transit.

Dec 20, 2007

Go, or no Go?

With a strike looming, will Premier Dalton McGuinty permit Local 1587 of the Amalgamated Transit Union to carry out it’s threat of strike action against Go Transit? The only way to prevent that now would be for both sides to return to the bargaining table and hammer out a solution. If the strike occurs would the McGuinty government order the workers back to work and into binding arbitration?

In 1974, all three unions went on strike against the TTC. It began on August 12 and ended on September 3. Premier Bill Davis convened the Legislature, passing a bill to enforce arbitration and an end to the strike. Since that time, this has been the policy of the government, regardless of which political party is in charge. It has never been done any where else in the province except in the city of Toronto. Will Go Transit emplyees face the same fate? A strike has been unprecedented in the 28 years the union has represented GO workers.

Dec 18, 2007

Gas tax funds transit

The gas tax figures have been released by the Ontario government. Durham Region Transit's share will be $7,186,949.

The government has set aside $314 million in gas tax funding. The formula for distribution is based on a ratio of 70 per cent ridership and 30 per cent
population. This means that 70 per cent of the projected 2007/08 allocation
($220 million) will be distributed to municipalities on the basis of their
transit ridership levels and 30 per cent ($94 million) will be distributed on
the basis of their population.

Municipality Gas Tax Allocation
Barrie $1,892,771
Belleville $707,803
Blind River $17,025
Brampton $6,843,401
Brantford $1,236,065
Brockville $218,350
Burlington $2,091,717
Chapleau $19,712
Chatham-Kent $829,971
Clarence-Rockland $248,086
Cobourg $185,949
Cochrane $27,994
Collingwood $164,265
Cornwall $550,214
Dryden $71,762
Durham Region $7,186,949
Dysart $12,143
Elliot Lake $141,550
Espanola $13,497
Fort Erie $172,707
Fort Frances $79,215
Greenstone $15,487
Guelph $2,625,440
Halton Hills $151,790
Hamilton $11,209,240
Hanover $370,234
Hearst $34,451
Huntsville $57,753
Ingersoll $66,281
Kapuskasing $45,334
Kawartha Lakes $656,729
Kenora $153,058
Kingston $1,969,117
Lanark County $176,246
LaSalle $33,164
Leamington $157,751
London $8,951,377
Loyalist Township $154,095
Machin $10,567
Meaford $49,193
Midland $133,585
Milton $317,859
Mississauga $15,477,828
Niagara Falls $1,141,019
Niagara Region $620,085
North Bay $1,195,138
North Huron $70,862
North Perth $20,425
Oakville $2,292,327
Orangeville $215,286
Orillia $352,178
Ottawa $35,948,701
Owen Sound $268,369
Peel $681,339
Pembroke $118,922
Perth East $42,616
Peterborough City $1,444,272
Peterborough County $58,844
Point Edward $25,262
Port Colborne $101,792
Port Hope, Town $148,273
Prince Edward County $37,500
Quinte West $215,493
Renfrew $182,988
Sarnia $915,438
Sault Ste Marie $1,171,137
Schrieber $24,508
St Catharines $2,494,141
St Marys $74,622
St Thomas $428,013
Stratford $455,440
Sudbury (Greater) $2,753,279
Temiskaming Shores $99,203
Thorold $249,993
Thunder Bay $1,898,649
Timmins $639,081
Toronto $161,225,413
Trent Hills $47,699
Waterloo Region $8,538,324
Wawa (was Michipicoten) $30,293
Welland $550,506
West Elgin $28,311
West Perth (was Mitchell) $42,953
Windsor $3,751,272
Woodstock $391,224
York Region $13,486,460
TOTAL $314,000,000

TTC hires U.S. expert to reduce injury rate

Is the TTC really short of cash? Nice to see they are able to come up with almost $9 million when needed.

To help reduce an employee-injury rate that has resulted in a one-third increase in days lost over the past five years, the Toronto Transit Commission has hired the company that helped NASA recover from the Columbia space shuttle disaster.

The TTC will pay U.S. consultancy Behavioral Science Technology between $7.3 million and $8.9 million to help reduce injuries by 40 per cent to 60 per cent over the next three years.

The reduction in injuries should lower absentee costs by about $3 million annually, said TTC chief general manger Gary Webster.

There were 20,826 days lost to injuries this year, the equivalent of 90 workers being absent all year, compared to 15,251 in 2002, according to a TTC report.

Behavioural Science consultants will implement safety programs and coach managers on how to take a more people-oriented approach to employees, counselling rather than disciplining whenever possible.

It was only about two weeks ago, that I was with some of my fellow pensioners from the TTC. The subject got around to saftey at the TTC. We all agreed, that it was very difficult to convince management that something was not safe.

I know that discipline is very high at the TTC. If the consultant, is able to convince them of this, it will be a win, win situation for both the the TTC and their employees.

Related links:

Dec 17, 2007

Mississauga’s BRT funding not there?

Back in March 2007 Prime Minster Harper annouced, that the Federal Goverment had entered into a partnership, with the Province of Ontario that saw close to $4.5 billion in spending that was ear-marked for public transit in the GTA. Now it’s December and Mississauga’s still has not seen any of the promised cash flow from the Feds. The province has come forward with its share, of $270 million. The problem is so serrious that Mayor Hazel McCallion is ready to accept a staff recommendation to place the BRT project on hold.

Is this a sign of what is going to happen to the rest of GTA transit projects? Thanks to Hazel, maybe not. Her comments were heard by federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon. He has since assured the Mayor that cheque is in the mail. He also sent her tongue lashing and said that Hazel’s comments were “misleading and ill-informed.”

Way to to go Hazel!

Related links:

Dec 16, 2007

Go Transit's double decker bus

The double decker buses are on the way. These buses are expected to be delivered before the Spring of 2008 and will likely be used on the 407 and 403 Hwys. service. The buses will be equipped with two wheelchair positions.

The estimated seating capacity:

  • Upper deck 46

  • Lower deck 29

  • Wheelcairs 2

Dec 12, 2007

The Auditor General's criticism of Go Transit

The Auditor General of Ontario audits the province's financial statements and value for money oriented audits of selected government activities annually, in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards. This type of financial audit is known as an attest audit. After his audit, the Auditor General expresses an opinion on the financial statements of the province.

Jim McCarter, the Auditor General has come up with a report that points out an unacceptable pattern of service delays that Go Transit is providing it’s customers on the Go Train routes. His report does not give an account of anything that Go train customers were not aware of. Mr. McCarter is a infrequent user of Go Train service and has personal experience of some of the long delays of the daily commute.

We can only hope that something good will come from his report. If the delays in service continue, Go will end up driving away more passengers than it attracts.

The good news: It was pointed in the Auditor General’s that an audit by the American Public Transportation Association, did provide an overall positive opinion on the safety and security of GO Transit’s operations.

Related link:

  • Auditor: GO Transit Not Ready For Future

  • Bus pilot program to continue

    The pilot program that gets children to school on public transit at a discounted rate has been extended.

    In June, Regional Council approved a Durham District School Board bus pass pilot program on a three-month basis. It began in October, but Durham Region Transit's (DRT) general manager, Ted Galinis, recommended to the transit executive committee that it be extended.

    "We need more time to make sure everything is in order before we make a full commitment," he said.

    The project was extended to coincide with the conclusion of the school year. DRT staff will evaluate the bus pass in the 2008 transit servicing and financing study. If it isn't being used, the pilot project will be cancelled.

    "A six-month extension will allow us to better evaluate the program," Mr. Galinis said. "But, it appears to be going very well."

    The program lets the public school board purchase discounted, bulk rate restricted student passes for DRT. The Catholic school board already has a deal with DRT and purchases nearly 5,000 passes a month.

    Related links:
  • Dec 8, 2007

    Ottawa new partner with Presto fare system

    Metrolinkx now has the City of Ottawa as partner with it's Presto smartcard technology.

    The City of Ottawa is joining with transit agencies in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to make its goal of smartcard technology a reality by 2010, using “Presto”- the automated fare system developed in partnership with the Government of Ontario.

    Related link:

  • Ottawa partners up for "smarter" transit technology.

  • Dec 7, 2007

    More on service reductions

    “If ridership isn’t there to support the service, we are not going to run empty buses all day,” Phil Meagher, deputy general manager of DRT. That makes sense, but you can still expect the empty bus syndrome to continue on Sundays. Ridership on Sundays is extremely low and is well below DRT’s minimum service standards. All you have to do is look at the Go train parking lots, to realize that Sunday public transit, is not very successful in Durham Region.

    By the way. Weekend service in DRT west has been filled with a number of drivers working overtime. (increased cost) Under the old labour contract with CUPE there was an agreement that saw a system in effect that ensured that almost all work was filled at straight time rates. This changed in the last labour contract with CAW when for some reason a lot of small things were not resolved and filling Sunday work was one of them. If you don’t take care of the small things, the big things will not work.

    The local DRT/GO co-fare agreement, allowing customers travelling on DRT buses to board GO Transit buses with a pre-paid DRT ticket, pass or transfer, was more successful than anticipated. What a strange statement. More people are using transit than anticipated but it’s being used as an excuse for cuts to the service. DRT has made a presentation to Metrolinx requesting funding of $82.3 million for a Bus Rapid Transit service along the Highway 2 corridor. If service is along Hwy 2 is so important, why remove the R-10? If the DRT GO fare agreement is adding extra cost why remove the R-10?

    Durham Region has noted that that only 27 people per hour take the R-10 bus every hour. What they don’t mention is that the mid day service runs only once per hour. The entire route takes 25 minutes. That works out to more than one person per minute. If it was to run twice per hour like the rest of the routes, would they pick up twice as many customers? These passenger counts are not much below what the rush hour R-915 Taunton carries. In order for DRT to reduce cost… let Go Transit handle more. Interesting.

    These are just a few of the cuts that you are able to see. There are hidden cuts that are not known to the general public. One of the things that make transit work is having spare drivers that are on standby. These spares fill in for other employees that do not report for their work in time. There are various reasons for this happening… sickness being the major one.

    Transit is not an industry that can afford to operate short handed. Thus the need to have spare drivers on standby at work locations. It appears that one of the bean counters at Durham Region’s Ivory Tower (not DRT) has noticed that some days the spare driver received no work. It resulted in the driver getting about 3 hours pay for not actually doing physical work. Even though the employee was able to get a bus on the road within a moments notice, this did not sit well with the bean counter. Thus some of these spares have been removed. When you are operating a bus service that runs every 30 minutes it is important that these runs show up on time. Keep your fingers crossed.

    One small note... a bit of good news. Durham Region Transit is doing very well in Brock Township.

    DRT employees go above and beyond

    Going that extra mile for their customers is a every day occurrence for all DRT employees. This includes everyone from mechanics, to office, to drivers. There are many unsung heros in transit that never get their stories told. Below you will find one of those stories that went above beyond.

    When an Oshawa senior found herself stranded on a Durham Transit bus, she didn't know what to do.

    That's when three good Samaritans stepped in to help her out.

    Esther Pacione's wheelchair lost power while she was attempting to transfer buses at the Oshawa Centre after coming back from the veterinarian in Whitby with her new special skills dog, Pilgrim. Her other special skills dog recently died.

    "I was panicking because I couldn't move and Pilgrim is brand new, we haven't even had the chance to bond yet," said Ms. Pacione.

    At that point an unidentified mechanic tried to help Ms. Pacione get power to her chair. When it was clear that wasn't going to work he wheeled her off the bus so it could continue on its route.

    Once outside, the mechanic went to find help. When he returned he was with Steven Leaper, a supervisor with Durham Region Transit. Luckily Mr. Leaper had an extra driver on standby just in case an extra route was needed during rush hour. Mr. Leaper saw Ms. Pacione was in distress and decided to send the extra driver, Richard Oldfield out to personally chauffeur Ms. Pacione home.

    And their kindness didn't end there. Once Mr. Leaper and Mr. Oldfield got Ms. Pacione to her building they helped her off the bus and even called her building's security service to ensure Ms. Pacione made it to her apartment safely.

    Mr. Oldfield and Mr. Leaper said it's not totally unusual to help patrons out when they are in desperate need of a ride. But these situations are usually at night after certain routes are no longer running and a patron still needs to get home.

    "This was the first time I had done this during the day," said Mr. Oldfield. "It was clear she needed our help, it was a cold day and it was getting dark."

    Mr. Leaper said they were happy to help Ms. Pacione who was clearly stranded.

    Ms. Pacione said she can't say enough to thank Mr. Leaper, Mr. Oldfield and the unidentified mechanic for their help.

    "I am so thankful because I didn't know they would go above and beyond the call of duty like that," she said. "I couldn't believe it."

    Thanks to for the report.

    Christmas gift for Go Transit customers

    GO Transit, has reached a tentative agreement with the bus drivers, station attendants and other employees removing the threat of a strike that could have happened on Monday morning. These employees are members of The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1587. The members of the union still have to give final approval to the contract.

    Related link:

  • Canada Now

  • Dec 6, 2007

    New route maps

    Below you will find two new route maps that will be effective on December 31, 2007.

    Dec 5, 2007

    Name change

    The Greater Toronto Transportation Authority has a new name. It will now be known as Metrolinx. Chairman Rob MacIsaac said the name modification was need because of continual confusion between the old acronym, the GTTA, Greater Toronto Airports Authority and the Greater Toronto Transit Authority, the official name for GO Transit.

    Related links:

  • Metrolinx

  • Toronto Sun

  • Spacing Toronto

  • National Post

  • The Toronto Star

  • Dec 4, 2007

    Durham Region Transit service reductions

    Effective January 1, 2008 DRT will be slashing service. It was mentioned in the 2007 budget that low performing runs would be reduced or removed. Most of the reductions will take place in Ajax and Pickering. According to DRT’s web page they still have to finalize the changes. That astonishes me because the run guides are already post in the work locations for drivers to select their work. Expect to see some minor changes to the routing of some of runs. The M3 Amberlea weekday mid day and Saturday, R10 and M10 Ajax and the M26 Duffins mid day services will be eliminated.

    There are only two things that surprise me about the cuts. The first one would be the elimination of the M-26 Duffins. Number two... I am amazed that the R-29 Elm and mid day Elm survived the cuts.

    Personally I believe, DRT should present some facts as to why the cuts were necessary.

    Related links: DRT media releases

    Nov 29, 2007

    Low life Pumpkin throw - follow up

    A 15 year old boy has been an arrest in the incident of a Pumpkin that was thrown through the windshield of a TTC bus last Halloween night. Read the full report from the Toronto Star here.

    Nov 28, 2007

    ATU LOCAL 1587 Rejects Contract Offer

    GO Transit bus operators, support staff and ticket agents members of Local 1587 of the Amalgamated Transit Union employed by GO Transit rejected an Offer of Settlement presented by the employer. The membership rejected the offer of settlement by a vote of 96%.

    A provincial conciliation officer has arranged a meeting with the Union and Employer for December 5th in an attempt to conclude a collective agreement.

    The parties will be in a legal strike/lockout position as of 12:01 am December 10, 2007.

    This dose not mean there will be a strike. At the present time it is another step in negations.

    Nov 24, 2007

    Greater Toronto Transportation Authority

    The following projects will be recommended by the GTTA to the provincial government for funding consideration.

    - Yonge-University subway capacity and service improvement, as the first phase of expansion of the line to Richmond Hill. This includes automated signals and 126 new, larger "Toronto Rocket" subway cars, increasing capacity by 15 per cent by 2012, setting the stage for a 30 per cent increase in capacity by 2017;

    - Bus "rapidway" connection on Yonge Street between Finch Station and Steeles Avenue, offering dramatic service improvements for travellers between Toronto and York by 2011;

    - Kick-off investment in Transit City Light Rail Transit (LRT), a rapid transit network on Toronto's major avenues, and potentially extending out to Durham, Peel and York Regions;

    - A new Toronto Pearson International Airport multi-modal hub
    connecting the Mississauga Transitway, GO, TTC and Brampton Transit;

    - An additional 22 hybrid buses for improved capacity and service
    frequency on the Hurontario and Dundas corridors in Peel Region and first steps towards future rapid transit service;

    - Bus Rapid Transit service along the Highway 2 corridor connecting Durham Region's lakeshore communities;

    - Investments towards VIVA Rapid Transit service improvements along Yonge Street and Highway 7;

    - Bus Rapid Transit service along Dundas Street in Halton Region, linking Halton's growing communities to GO Train service, Hamilton and Mississauga; and

    - Investments in Hamilton's James and King-Main transit corridors, and a new platform to accommodate future GO and VIA rail service to James Street North station.

    It's difficult for me to understand why the Ontario government needs the GTTA. Is it only going to be a rubber stamp for wish lists that local transit authorities present? If so, are the cost of having such an agency worth it?

    Related links:

  • GTTA Board announces $791.3 million in transit projects
  • GTTA survey
  • TTC revamps approved
  • Transit upgrades eyed
  • Hamilton will get the transit it deserves

  • Nov 23, 2007

    Go Transit strike looming?

    GO Transit bus drivers are in contract negotiations. Transit workers' negotiating committee of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1587, has recommended members reject the latest offer from Go. The results of their vote on the offer will be known Nov. 27 and they will be in a legal strike position by Dec. 9, 2007.

    'Car sewers' not the answer to gridlock

    Rather than simply widening existing roads, a plan prepared for the Town suggests getting more people out of their cars and using other transportation methods.

    This is an interesting article. Will Ajax council finally wake up to the fact that when building new subdivisions they might also need a transit plan in mind?

    "Roads aren't just car sewers, but opportunities to be multi-modal," Tyrone Gan, of iTrans Consulting said, adding the focus shouldn't just be on "carrying the maximum number of cars, but carrying the maximum number of people. There's an opportunity for HOV lanes in Ajax and outside Ajax."

    The roadways in Durham Region have not been designed with public transit in mind. Without a decent grid system it becomes difficult for Durham Region Transit to incorporate bus routes that take people directly to where they want to go. In Ajax and Pickering the road layout ends up becoming a transit planner’s nightmare.

    One thing that the report does not take into account, is that shopping should be close to home. The residents in the Audley south and Ajax north areas have no local shopping available. There is not even a convenient store within walking distance.

    The article posted on has some interesting things to say.

    Related links

  • 'Car sewers' not the answer to gridlock- Durham News.
  • Transportation Master Plan Update Award
  • Transportation Master Plan
  • Nov 21, 2007

    MTA to reduce proposed fare increase

    This is something transit users in Canada are not used to.

    Yesterday, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced it will reduce the amount of a fare and toll increase first proposed in July.

    Updated budget forecasts revealed MTA’s year-end balance was $220 million higher than preliminary budget figures due to additional farebox revenue, higher-than-expected real estate taxes, and reduced expenses and debt service costs.

    So, MTA will lower the proposed 6.5 percent fare and toll increase, and maintain the base subway and bus fares at $2.

    Read the full report here.

    Nov 19, 2007

    GO Train Service to Barrie

    Barrie Transit has confirmed that Go Train service will commence on Monday, December 17, 2007. They have posted a survey along with the draft schedule from Barrie to Toronto. It looks like the survey will be used to assist Barrie Transit in planning service to and from the Go Station.

    Nov 16, 2007

    What's Cooking?

    If you are public transit user in Kilmarnock Scotland, the answer would be cooking oil. Stagecoach, one of UK’s largest transit bus, train, and intercity coach operators has eight buses in Kilmarnock that will run on 100% biodiesel fuel.

    All Passengers on the Service 1 route, will be able to trade in used cooking oil for reduced fares. They will receive a free container to recycle their used cooking oil. It can then be taken to East Ayrshire Council’s recycling plant at Western Road, entitling customers to a voucher for money off their bus travel. the scheme featuring the eight bus fleet, aims to cut harmful emissions by more than 80%. The initiative will run for the next six months and operators hope it could roll out nationwide.

    This does not eliminate the need for a diesel engine. For the first 10 minutes of the morning, the buses run on diesel until normal engine operating temperature is reached and then the system automatically switches over to bio-diesel, which powers the vehicles all day.

    The UK Government is encouraging the use of renewable fuels as part of its drive to cut carbon emissions.

    Read the full report here.

    Related link.

    Nov 9, 2007

    Bombardier awarded Go train contract.

    Beginning in June 2008, Bombardier will be responsible for train operations and train crew management for six of GO Transit’s seven commuter-rail lines. Bombardier plans to recruit more than 100 train operators and several supervisors.

    While the new workers will be unionized, just like CN's, the deal will be better structured to satisfy commuters. For example, if a train cannot run because a crew member does not show up for work, Bombardier would have to pay a financial penalty.

    The Empire Strikes Back

    It looks like my blog comments about Laidlaw Transit Rescues War Veterans has caught the eye of the DRT management.

    General Manager Ted Galinis explained prior to regionalizing transit services some local municipalities provided charter buses to veterans. That is no longer the practice.

    "In the old days of Ajax /Pickering transit we had a budget for that," Mr. Galinis said. "Since (DRT's) creation the free services that were budgeted for in the local municipalities have to be budgeted for locally."

    This is to avoid disparities in service, with one municipality receiving an increased level of service that the rest of the region pays for through their taxes, he said.

    "If you gave one you would probably get a lot of requests," Mr. Galinis said. "Part of our policy is we don't give charters. The DRT way is to make sure it is uniform across the Region."

    Read the full report at Free transit for veterans.

    The follow is something that I posted Friday, October 20, 2006 on my blog. It is not my quote but this seems like the appropriate time to repost.

    I don't know about where you live, but here the political ads for the next election are showing up in full force. Here are my thoughts on modern politics:

    • Politics should be about right or wrong, not right or left.

    • Choices in leadership are so poor I more often seem to be voting against someone rather than voting for someone. That sucks.

    • There are too many Liberals and Conservatives in office...and not enough Canadians.

    • We jail the stupid criminals, and re-elect the smart criminals.

    • I don't believe anything a politician says...until he or she denies it.

    Yeah, you get the picture, I don't like politics, I don't like politicians, and I don't like what the political process has devolved into.

    I agree with Plato, "Mankind will never see an end of trouble until lovers of wisdom come to hold political power, or the holders of power become lovers of wisdom."

    Read my full post from Friday, October 20, 2006 posting.

    Canadian Military Personnel Killed

  • First World War: 66,655
  • Second World War: 44,893
  • Korean conflict: 516
  • Peacekeeping: 121
  • Afghanistan: 71

    This time of year is our chance to hold up our end of the bargain by remembering and hourouring their sacrifice.

  • Nov 8, 2007

    Bombardier to run Go Trains

    GO Transit - lambasted for delays in recent years - plans to hire Montreal-based transportation giant Bombardier to crew most of its trains, a move intended to improve customer service and help the locomotives run on time.

    This is not a done deal. It still has to be approved by GO Transit Board of Directors. Only time will tell if Go will be able to run a better train service due to a change in contractors. The trains still have to operate on tracks owned and maintained by CN and CP Rail.

    Read the full report here.

    Bus drivers declare Nov. 7 worst traffic day ever.

    Bus drivers in Durham have said that the morning rush hour of November 7 turn out to be the worst traffic day ever. It all started with an overnight drop in temperatures to a few degrees below zero. This cause a number of road surfaces on the over passes to freeze up. Icing at the Rouge River bridge on the 401 hwy. is believed to be a factor in an accident that closed the westbound lanes. This incident occurred around 5 am. This in turn caused a backup of the local artery streets of Ajax and Pickering.

    Every bus driver with Durham Region Transit that I had conversation with, have confirmed that this has been the worst traffic day that they had ever seen. This was not a jam up caused by weather but rather the closure of a major express highway. It became impossible for DRT and Go Transit buses to maintain a schedule.

    This must of been a change for Go train passengers that have become used of train delays. This time Go was on time but the customers were not able to get to train station on time.

    It just goes to show, how important the 401 hwy. has become in keeping traffic off the local roadways. One of the shortfalls of the City of Toronto has been the lack of expressways that move traffic in and out of a city.

    Nov 6, 2007

    Laidlaw Transit Rescues War Veterans

    The following is a correspondence that I received from my friend Cyril Best. Cyril and I worked together for many years at the TTC. I had the honour of working with him again at Durham Region Transit. He is a former member of the armed forces and deeply involve with The Royal Canadian Legion.

    Below is his story of how local transit and the Legion were at one time able to give a small token of appreciation to War Veterans. Unfortunately some of todays' politicians are more concerned with being politically correct... read on.

    Cyril writes...

    Each year on the Sunday before November 11th it is the tradition for many Legion Branches to have a small parade to a local church for a Service of Remembrance.
    This type of setting prior to the official ceremonies on November 11th is favoured by many Veterans because it gives them a chance for reflections that tends to be more personal by the fact that it is held in a church and they are sheltered from the elements.

    After all most of our Veterans are in the twilight of their years and for health reasons must pay attention to the weather before deciding on whether to visit the local War Memorial on the 11th. Of course a few of them can no longer manage the march to the church even though it is a short distance and because of this transportation required.

    For a number of years the Ajax / Pickering Transportation Authority provided a low floor handicap accessible bus, which was operated by a volunteer and the Veterans were able to ride to the church. As you well know Transit was taken over by the Region of Durham almost two years ago and the Ajax Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion requested that the Region consider continuing the tradition of providing a bus suitable for transporting our Veterans to the church service. They agreed and a volunteer (DRT employee) stepped forward to drive and thus reduce their costs which were minimal as the journey only covers a couple of blocks, a small distance for you and I but for some of our Veterans a marathon.

    Thankfully 60 odd years ago when needed they were only to willing to trudge across Europe, Asia or the Deserts of North Africa for our freedom.

    This year the Legion approached the Region of Durham in early October with the request for the use of one of their busses and were informed that things had changed and all requests must now be approved by the Executive Committee. In other words the Regional Councilors. Upon contacting the Regional Chairman Roger Anderson for him to intervene, the answer remained the same.

    If we do it for one we have to do it for all. For Gods Sake these are the same people who were willing to lay down their lives for us all, they deserve special treatment as do the men and women who today serve our country.
    Oh, I forgot to mention that the reply from Durham Region stated that we could charter a bus from them. The cost of a charter bus on Sundays… ninety-two dollars per hour with a three-hour minimum.

    But my friends there are still good Corporate Citizens amongst us. One of those in Ajax
    is known to us all as Laidlaw Transit Ltd. They will be honoured to assist our Veterans in getting to their church service. Well Done Laidlaw and shame on the Region Councilors and Chairman Anderson.

    Of course, now the Region Councilors will probably be too embarrassed to attend the Veterans Dinners this year or will they, probably not as it is free.

    Cyril Best.

    Nov 3, 2007

    A low life human being

    TTC driver hurt by flying pumpkin: I read this in news and at first did not want to publish anything to my blog about the incident. It just made me count my blessings that I don't have to live or work in the city of Toronto. Since that time I have received via email some pictures of the incident. Looking at the photos, I was shocked by the amount of damage a pumpkin can do to the front of a bus. The pumpkin was thrown when the bus was moving, causing it to smash through the windshield. The impact sent shards of glass into the driver's eyes. A woman passenger sitting at the front of the bus was also hurt by the flying pieces of sharp debris.

    Nov 2, 2007

    Go Transit testing new locomotives

    Go Transit is now in the process of testing the new locomotives. Below I have posted a YouTube video of GO transit's 602 undergoing testing. It looks like this video was taken from the Whites Rd. bridge, with the camera facing west.

    Nov 1, 2007

    York Region Transit - Lunch Express

    Reporter Jordan Michael Smith of the Toronto Sun has an interesting column in today’s paper. He writes about the Lunch Express bus route in Richmound Hill and Markham. The shuttle bus is part of Smart Commute 404-7. There is no charge for the service and it offers riders coupons for restaurants along the route. The goal of the service was to to increase business and to reduce traffic congestion along Highway 7 during busy lunch hours. Read the full article here.

    Oct 31, 2007

    Jim Bradley Minister of Transportation

    Ontario now has Jim Bradley as its new Minister of Transportation. He is a sixty two year old longtime St. Catharines MPP and was first elected in June 1977. Before that he was employed as a school teacher. You can read more about him here.

    During the election campaign, Bradley said that GO Transit would be coming to Niagara soon. On Tuesday, he said that until he meets with ministry staff, he could not say exactly when that would be.

    Send a message to the Honourable Jim Bradley.

    Audited for Transit Credit

    The follow has been reposted from a blog known as "Go Transit Safety". I am curious to know if anyone else has had a problem with their transit tax credit.

    I have been asked by revenue Canada to send in all my receipts for transit. Not just the metro pass but the official receipts. I called TTC and it seems they were not always handing them out but will allow you to bring your passes to the Davisville station to get them. I am interested in how many are in the same boat or if they are simply picking on me. If I don't hear anything I will assume they are picking on me because I am writing this blog.

    If you are in the same boat and are facing the task of faxing in every receipt then please email me at as well email Mike Wallace at so he will have ammunition for this issue.

    Oct 30, 2007

    Customer Surveys 2007

    Beginning Oct. 29, DRT will be conducting their annual customer survey program. The survey will be available to passengers on all DRT buses and at ticket sale locations throughout the region . The survey is also available online.

    You can also read the News Advertiser report online.

    Unfortunately, I think the survey may not be asking all of the right questions. It is only meant for present users. It does not address the problem of none users. Understanding why people are not using local transit should be a factor in DRT surveys. There is nothing in the online survey that gives you chance to leave comments.

    Oct 26, 2007

    Weekend and holiday GO Bus service extended

    Would this be a good time to inform Regional Chair, Roger Anderson about the improved service to Durham. In the past, he has neglected to understand that Go, is major people mover in Durham.

    Weekend and holiday GO Bus service extended.

    DRT Transit Map

    Durham Region transit has released a system wide map of their routes. This is something that has been over due, but it was worth the wait. It is a large size map and printed on both sides. It is similar in size to a road map of Ontario. The size is a good choice by the planners. The large size places a lesser strain on people (like myself) that have a closeup vision that is fading. It is also the first map in print that includes the complete R-9 Rouge Hill route.

    This is much more than a route map. You can find a explanatory list of the symbols on a map that contains information if route runs AM or PM rush, midday, evening, Saturday or Sunday. You can find a list of ticket sales locations. They are listed according to district. This map, is a job well done by the planners.

    The image below is only a small portion of the map. You should be able to get the maps from your driver.

    Oct 25, 2007

    TTC takeover

    Will the Ontario Government take over the TTC? Is it a rumor or fact? What ever the outcome, this is not the first time something like this has happened.

    Not so long ago, the TTC used to have a subsidiary known as Gray Coach Lines (GCL). It was a bus company that used inter-urban coaches to link Toronto to outlying areas throughout Southern Ontario. It was run very successfully by the TTC.

    On September 8, 1970 Go Transit took over Gray Coach Lines commuter routes. TTC and GCL under contract provided the drivers. During the 1980's GO transit assumed complete responsibility for suppling buses and it's own drivers. Gray Coach was eventually sold in 1989 to Stagecoach Holdings of Scotland. They in turn down sized operations and sold the remaining routes to Greyhound in 1992.

    Oct 19, 2007

    YRT hikes cash fare

    York region has the most expensive ride in the GTA. Will Durham Region Transit be far behind? I am sure that the riders in Durham will see a fare increase in 2008. The last DRT fare increase occurred on July 1, 2007.

    York Region - Riding public transit in York Region is about to become the most expensive bus ride in the Greater Toronto Area. Effective January 1st, 2008, the cash fare for York Region Transit and Viva will increase by 25 cents to an even $3.00. The only fares not affected are children's, seniors' and students' tickets and passes. York Regional Council approved a fare hike at its monthly meeting Thursday.

    680News - YRT hikes cash fare but also announces service improvements.

    Oct 17, 2007

    Canadian Hybrid Passenger Train

    A new Bombardier train has entered service in France. While not technically a hybrid its dual-mode (electrical and diesel) and dual-voltage (1500 and 25000 V) technology enables the train, known as a … more

    Oct 14, 2007

    Phileas BRT

    This is a follow up to my recent post about the Hwy. 2 BRT. I made mention of the Phileas Bus Rapid Transit system in the Dutch city of Eindhoven. Below you will find three videos about the Phileas BRT. They are well worth taking the time to view them. The videos should be viewed in order, as they are continuous.

    Oct 12, 2007


    It is official. I have retired from Durham Region Transit. You can read the entire report on my other blog. Life With Gramps - Retirement

    PS: This is not the end of this blog.

    Oct 11, 2007

    Rider happy with DRT routes

    The following appeared on

    To the editor:

    Re: Terry Price letter, 'Durham transit needs to address routes'.

    I must respectfully disagree with the assessment of Durham Region Transit, especially in Ajax.

    I am a regular user and am happy with Ajax routes. The concept of public transit is 'serve the masses' and the majority of DRT users are GO Transit users and high school students. There are hundreds of daily Elm Route riders who might object to having their route eliminated. As well, there already are "real" bus routes on Kingston Road (partnering with GO), Taunton (from Oshawa to the Pickering GO station via Westney and Bayly), Rossland (from Oshawa to the Ajax GO station via Harwood) and Ajax/Pickering (Liverpool, Kingston, Westney, Bayly) throughout the day. They are on a steady schedule not aligned to GO Train departure/arrival times.

    I take exception to his assertion that if you have a job in Toronto, you're rich enough to drive to the train station. Many families have one vehicle where one person must take a bus to the station since the other person drives. Not every job in Toronto is high paying, but there is not always a job in Durham, so people must go into Toronto to work. As well, most students can only afford a bus to the station. The writer is obviously not thinking about the environment or gridlock, since driving to the station would pollute the air and cause traffic jams across Ajax. Traditionally, transit funding from federal and provincial levels has been ridiculously low for the 905 area, especially Durham Region.

    If he has some constructive ideas about how to improve DRT across Durham given its limited funding, he should contact DRT through its website,

    Caryn Antram


    PS: You can expect to see changes to the routes in 2008.


    Oct 8, 2007

    New boss on Mississauga Transit

    According to the The Toronto Star, Geoff Marinoff has been hired as Director of Mississauga Transit. He left his former job of Deputy General Manager, Subway Operations TTC. In the article he appears to have an excellent awareness of how urban transit should operate. I like his comment that a subway gives riders a spine of frequent service. Personally I have always preferred a subway over light rail or BRT.

    Oct 7, 2007

    Hwy. 2 BRT?

    Last week two consultants showed up at the DRT Ajax garage. They said they were doing a feasibility study for Go Transit of a Bus Rapid Transit along the Hwy. 2 corridor. At this point in time they were questioning drivers about areas on Hwy. 2 that were delaying buses. They spent a number of hours listening to the driver's concerns.

    Nothing bugs me more than having an employer that deliberately throws up roadblocks to one of their departments. In this case Durham Region the owner of Durham Region Transit is spending millions of $$$ on transit. They also own the majority of traffic lights in the Region and they are making very little effort to make the system transit friendly. Myself along with other drivers pointed out areas that require a very simple fix to this problem. I really don't believe that Durham Region will opt for the simple way to set things right.

    Anyway back to the BRT. After I questioning the consultants, it became very clear that the BRT is still in the very early stages of planning.

    Below I have included some photos and information about a BRT that is already operating in Europe.

    The Phileas BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) vehicle, developed by the Dutch company Advanced Public Transport Systems (APTS) can drive itself automatically on a dedicated track as well as being manually driven on normal roads. The Phileas system is already in use since 2004. A hybrid-electric drive makes the vehicle up to 30 per cent more fuel efficient than other buses of comparable size.

    In semi-automatic mode the driver accelerates and brakes manually, while the vehicle steers itself. In automatic mode all three functions are performed by the vehicle with speeds up to 70 kilometres per hour (44 mph). An electronic guidance system is following the magnetic markers mounted every 4 to 5 metres in the road surface for reference. If deviations of more than half a metre (1.6 ft) occur, either in automatic or semi-automatic mode, the vehicle is automatically stopped.

    Oct 6, 2007

    Tell me WHY?

    I’m sorry to hear that the so called "pedestrian accident" of October 3, on the Via tracks near the Exhibition has turned out to be suicide. It’s sad when people run out of hope that they become so desperate that they have to end their gift of life.

    This in turn sent Go transit into a tail spin. I really don’t understand how or why Go handles problems that delay trains. This incident occurred west of Union Station. This prevented or slowed trains from moving east or west through that area.

    It would seem to me that the trains that were east of Union could still operate. Surely they could have operated west into Union. Once there, they could have off loaded anyone that wish to travel further west. Then using a track cross over the Go trains could have headed back east. This would have kept service operating in the east.

    I know I don’t have the big picture… but was there really a need to shutdown or delay the entire Go Train system?

    Report revives road tolls

    It's nice to see we have someone in charge at GO Transit and the GTTA that is making sense. GO Chair and GTTA vice-chair Peter Smith has the awareness and understanding of the problems that road tolls will will cause without a more than adequate transit system in place.

    The bigger problem may be how to meet the sudden increase in demand tolling would produce.

    Already, TTC ridership is breaking records, and GO Transit just passed a major milestone in the 12 months from July 2006 – 50 million annual riders. Officials at both admit they aren't supplying enough service to meet the demand.

    So if more people are taxed onto transit, where are they going to go, wonders GO board chair and GTTA vice-chair Peter Smith.

    "We already have people standing from Hamilton to Union Station," he said, adding he's not opposed in principle, but, "the last thing we need to do is impose congestion taxes in the absence of expanding the transit system." | News | Report revives road tolls.

    Oct 5, 2007

    Pedestrian scrambles

    I have just finished reading an article in the Globe and Mail that the City of Toronto among other things, is now proposing “pedestrian scrambles”. This is a pedestrian crossing system that stops all traffic and allows pedestrians to cross intersections in every direction at the same time.

    It sounds like a great system for the pedestrian. If you go to Toronto and watch any busy intersection you will soon realize that the colour of the traffic light makes no difference as to when someone will attempt to cross the road.

    One of the numskull reasons that is given for the scramble, by committee chairman Glenn De Baeremaeker, is that the proposal would also help drivers, by getting more cars off the roads. He doesn't explain why, but I assume if you bog traffic down more that it is now people will abandon their cars.

    Has someone not noticed that public transit also has to use the road ways? What every happen to traffic light priority for transit? Wake up Toronto. You are in this mess because of your hatred of the automobile and your failure to build mass transit systems across the city. When you increase the dwell time of a bus or streetcar you only increase the cost of transit. Don't fix it unless it is broken. The only thing wrong with the present system is the lack of enforcement by the police against people that cross on red lights.

    Sep 23, 2007

    What ever happen to...?

    Every wonder what happens to old trains when Go Transit no longer needs or wants them? This one ended up in Dallas, Texas. Thanks to Jersey Mike for these great photos.

    Sep 22, 2007

    GO TRANSIT on-time service status

    Go Transit had this posted on their train and bus on-time status web page.

    Here is the information we have to report at 19:52, September 21, 2007:

    GO train service is currently operating on time with the
    following exceptions:

    Because of yesterday evening’s events, some train crew members have now exceeded federal regulations limiting the number of hours they can work. We will make every effort, along with CN, to avoid delays.

    GO TRANSIT on-time service status.

    Sep 12, 2007

    Revisit The Step Back System

    The problem of implementing a “Step Back System” on Route 915 has been resolved. The order came down on September 11, that drivers will no longer be required to off load passengers mid route and return the bus garage. This is win win situation for DRT customers.

    Sep 11, 2007

    DRT - $2-million deficit

    The local transit system is facing a potential deficit of $2 million and if things don’t turn around it could mean cutbacks.

    “The size of this deficit was a surprise to me and a wake up to all of us on (Regional) council about trying to expand programs after the budget in which we haven’t budgeted for that expansion,” said Scugog Mayor Marilyn Pearce, the chairwoman of the Region’s finance and administration committee.

    Read full report here... Regional transit faces $2-million deficit.

    It seems strange that the timing of this announcement has been made on the first official day of the start of the provincial election. Has someone at Region been taking pointers from the City of Toronto and the TTC?

    Discount transit passes expanded

    Along with offering restricted monthly passes to eligible students for $43 a month, a savings of $22, a partnership between Durham District School Board and Durham Region Transit is allowing the pass to be upgraded to unrestricted for $13 more. The restricted student pass provides access Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    Read the full report here.

    Sep 6, 2007

    Step Back System

    DRT has come up with a strange way of ending Operator's (Drivers) shifts or giving them a break on the 915 Taunton route. As an example, the bus leaves Pickering Go Station and travels approximately 10 minutes of the 50 minutes of the total trip to the Ajax Go Station where the driver goes on break. This is accomplished by having all the passengers disembark from the bus and wait for the relief driver and the relief bus. When the system is backed up due to weather or traffic problems, the passengers have to leave the comfort of the bus and wait on the platform in all kinds of weather for whatever time it takes for the next bus to arrive.

    The most logical thing to do would be for another Operator to come up from the Ajax garage and relieve the driver without disrupting the passengers. This way the passengers remain on the bus in comfort and it continues in service. That is what happens with the Flag bus. In transit, it is known as the Step Back System.
    One would think that the Route Planners went to sleep on this one.

    In this instance they not speak up loud enough for the customers. It seems that the service department doesn't know how to keep track of their buses when more than one Operator drives a single bus. That is a hard one for me to understand. There are number former experienced TTC employees in management positions at DRT who are familiar with the Step Back System. Surely, they could have spoken up and explained how to use this to the customers' advantage.

    Up until now the policy (in Ajax - Pickering) has been for an Operator to finish the run at the end of the route. That way passengers will be inconvenienced as little as possible. Otherwise they should leave the passengers on the bus and have a driver waiting to take over so that they are not disrupted and the bus continues on route.


    The Federal Government has a $80-million transit security contribution program. Round three of "Transit-Secure" has begun, with up to $19,067,586 to be provided
    to rail and urban transit operators in some of Canada's largest urban centres.
    Up to $712,500 will be provided to smaller operators to help them develop risk
    assessments and comprehensive security plans. Durham Region will receive $56,250 for Risk assessments and security plans. The Feds consider DRT to be one of the smaller transit operators. You can read the full press release here.

    Sep 2, 2007

    Low-Floor School Bus

    To best of my knowledge low floor school buses are not being used in Ontario. It seems to me if public transit needs to be accessible then it makes sense that school buses should also comply. When it comes to transit the British Isles and Europe are much further advance than North America. Have a look at this web page.

    Go track expansion to Guelph, Kitchener and Waterloo

    Thanks to Stephen Rees for the above photo. According to reporter Doug Hallett of The Guelph Tribine, GO Transit have approved an environmental assessment of what would be involved in double tracking the rail line to Guelph, Kitchener and Waterloo. After about 90 years, history is getting ready to repeat it's self.

    Aug 29, 2007

    Free Transit

    Thanks to the Welland Tribune for the following.

    A recent report to Port Colborne council on the merits of a free transit system has now been shelved. As much as we support transit in the city, we're not sure a free transit system was something worth pursuing. free bus rides sounds like a great idea and all, but we feel it under values the importance of public transit.

    The cost of a bus ride is a bargain for people who need to get across the city to do business. Most people can afford the fare and don't expect it to be free. What perhaps would be better than a free service is to offer vouchers or coupons to those who truly cannot afford the price of a ride.

    It is in keeping with the idea that those who can pay should and those who can't pay shouldn't have to. Offering the service for free may have helped to increase ridership but it might have opened up the doors to other problems - such as the need for more buses to handle the growth. That would have increased costs on a free system and put the burden on the taxpayer. That might have made transit less popular come budget time.

    Better in the long run to grow the system slowly and steadily based on true ridership numbers.

    Osprey Media. - Welland Tribune - Ontario, CA.

    New GO Transit Station To Serve North Stouffville

    GO Transit will be building a new GO station in Stouffville, extending the Stouffville GO Train line one stop north, Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield and GO Transit Chairman Peter Smith announced today.

    The station will feature automatic ticket vending machines, a bus loop, a kiss-and-ride passenger drop off area and fully accessible platforms to accommodate customers with disabilities.

    The new station, yet to be formally named, is located on the Stouffville
    GO Train line. With 140 parking spaces planned, it is ideally located next to
    GO's Stouffville train storage facility just north of the Bethesda Road and
    10th line intersection.

    View Larger Map

    Aug 21, 2007

    New Go bus

    Go Transit has new buses with a new look.


    Aug 19, 2007

    San Diego working on robot buses for mass transit

    It was the second hour that did it. When his 60-mile commute became a full fingers-drumming-on-the-dashboard 120 minutes, San Diego County CTO Samuel Johnson was finally convinced that something had to change. His idea: buses that practically drive themselves. Over the next three years, workers will carve a narrow lane down the shoulder of the increasingly congested Interstate 805, exclusively for buses and commercial trucks modded with lane-keeping sensors and adaptive cruise control. Neither technology is new, but most auto makers tune adaptive cruise control to keep cars farther apart than normal, making traffic worse. In the robot lane, vehicles will be packed like train cars. They'll still have drivers — everyone has to leave the freeway sometime — but they'll be out of the main flow. If the new lanes work, public transportation will move faster, trucks will speed safely along approximately 20 miles of the main US-Mexico shipping corridor (UPS has signed up for the test), and traffic on I-805 will be reduced. "Fixing this problem is going to require some radical thinking," says Jake Peters, founder of transportation startup Swoop Technology, which is designing the system. "And, hey, it could be a way to make a trillion dollars."
    Thanks to Wired Magazine. for that report

    About 40 years ago when I drove streetcars for the TTC I had something in mind like this. I thought that Robot Streetcars would be a great thing for Toronto. It would cut down accidents (warning… never cut a streetcar off) and human error.

    Since that time the RT line has been constructed in Scarborough. It was suppose to be a drverless train that was controlled by computer. They had so many problems with it that the TTC brass decided to revert to a human driver. Besides the TTC always needs someone to blame when something goes wrong.

    When I was in Washington DC in the late seventies the driverless subway line had only been in operation a few months at that time. The transit company still placed personnel in the driver’s compartment . They were there to override the computer if necessary.Robot buss

    Now San Diego would like to have robot buses on the road. Perhaps they should read here to find out the problems that have occurred in Rotterdam.

    Aug 11, 2007

    How to get more people to take mass transit

    Here's a little humour for you. One of the pressing questions is how do you entice more people to take mass transit. I think Amtrak, in the USA might have solved this problem. All aboard the booze train... I figure if all of us buy tickets for the same trip we could have one hell of a party.

    Aug 4, 2007

    New green buses for Whistler Olympics

    A well-known Winnipeg company will build the world's first fleet of Hydrogen buses under a $46 million contract awarded by B.C. Transit.

    New Flyer Industries (TSE:NFI) will build the 20 green machines, promising delivery by the end of 2009. The fuel-cell powered, low-floor buses will have a top speed of 90 kilometres an hour and a range of 500 kilometres.

    The zero-emission fleet will be based in Whistler, B.C.

    The B.C. government, which has promised to cut the province's greenhouse gas emissions by one-third by 2020, says the hydrogen buses will be a visible part of public transportation during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

    Ballard Power Systems (TSE:BLD) of Burnaby will provide the fuel cell modules and Calgary's Dynetek Industries (TSE:DNK) will supply the hydrogen storage system.

    After the games, the buses will become part of the standard BC transit fleet.