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