Dec 31, 2008

Change is in the air

Durham Region Transit have made some name changes to the bus garages. It has been decided that Division will now be the the preferred word over Facility.

Present Name New Name
DRT West Facility Westney Division
DRT East Facility Raleigh Division
Pickering Works Satellite Facility Pickering Works Satellite Division
Whitby Works Satellite Facility Whitby Works Satellite Division

In the past DRT used "geographic references" such as Durham East and Durham West to describe particular regions within Durham. This has been changed to municipal names.

Present Name New Name
DRT West Ajax  Pickering
DRT East Oshawa  Clarington
DRT Centre Whitby
DRT North Brock, Scugog, Uxbridge

If you communicate with DRT staff, prepare yourself for email address changes. Effective January 2, 2009 staff email addresses ( will change to Your emails will be re-directed to the new email addresses.

One more thing. Durham Region’s Web site ( will change to

Dec 25, 2008

Christmas Day

Christmas gift suggestions:
  • To your enemy, forgiveness.
  • To an opponent, tolerance.
  • To a friend, your heart.
  • To a customer, service.
  • To all, charity.
  • To every child, a good example.
  • To yourself, respect.

Dec 24, 2008

Orion Bus Chassis

Stainless steel chassis

It's hard to believe that a product that has a volume of about 80% air sells for over half a million dollars.

Dec 23, 2008

Winter Storm

The last few days of winter storms have played havoc on all transit systems. This includes air, rail and buses. The force of nature is beyond the control of mankind. We are all at it's mercy.

To those that ventured out into the elements and went to work I commend you. Patience was the rule of the day. The men and women of the transit industry in these circumstances always go beyond the call duty. Many of them staying on the job beyond their finish time, ensure that everyone gets home safely. With my 42 year career in transit I only missed one day of work because of weather.

The weather also took it's toll on DRT's New Flyer buses. It appears that these buses built in Winnipeg, have a bad habit of freezing up. When this happens it requires a change off and a return to the garage for a thaw out. The change off count on the weekend past, was too high.

Winter has only just started and we still have a few months to go. One of the best weapons to cope with a winter storm is retirement. I am using it to it's fullest.
Happy trails to you!

Dec 20, 2008

Community Advisory Committee

You will find a media release posted on Durham Region Transit's web site about the Long Term Transit Strategy. DRT and iTRANS Consulting Inc. are inviting members of the public to get involved with the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Long-Term Transit Strategy. In my communication with iTRANS I received a bit more info about what would be involved for committee members.

The CAC’s purpose is to provide input and advice to the study. To ensure we have representation from all areas of the Region, we are putting together three CAC’s. We are seeking representatives from Whitby; Oshawa and Clarington to form Group One; Ajax and Pickering to form Group Two; and Uxbridge, Brock and Scugog for Group Three.

Committee meetings are to be alternately held at the following locations:
  • Group One: Whitby; Oshawa and Clarington
  • Group Two: Pickering and Ajax
  • Group Three: Scugog; Uxbridge; Cannington; and Brooklin
The first meetings are scheduled to be held on January 22nd, January 27th and 28th. The schedule of subsequent meetings will be determined in consultation with the CAC at the first meeting.

  1. CAC Meeting: Vision, Goals and Objectives (Whitby, Pickering and Scugog)
  2. CAC Meeting: Identification of Alternative Transit Strategies (Oshawa, Ajax and Uxbridge)
  3. CAC Meeting: Evaluation of Alternative Strategies (Clarington, Pickering and Cannington)
  4. CAC Meeting: Developing and Refining the Preferred Long-Term Transit Alternative (Whitby, Ajax and Brooklin)
Related Links:

Dec 19, 2008

On-time delivery

assistant vice-president, public affairs, CN
December 19, 2008

Your editorial urged the federal government to help commuter and inter-city passenger railways in Canada (Humans, As Well As Cargo - Dec. 15). You imply that CN is an impediment to these commuter authorities and VIA Rail's operations across the country by recounting the myth that 'passenger railways operate at the mercy of freight traffic.' In reality, CN, as the host railway, works very closely with Canada's passenger railways to help them deliver quality service to commuters and travellers.

Recent on-time performance rates for GO Transit in the Greater Toronto Area have exceeded 95 per cent year-to-date through Dec. 14. Equally impressive, our on-time performance for VIA Rail Canada was a record 95 per cent for June to November in 2008. On-time delivery:

Free Ride

Winnipeg Transit Bus
Offering free transit rides on New Years is a common event across Canada and the USA. I don't know when or how the program started, but it seems like it has been going on for decades. According to York Region this marks the eighth consecutive year they have offered free complimentary New Year’s Eve service to YRT/Viva riders. Public transportation authorities have made it their duty, to offer free rides on New Years Eve.

I have been comparing various transit companies on the free fare policy. Some need a sponsor before they commit to offering free rides. Then there are those that are able to do it without one.
  1. Mississauga Transit - free - no sponsor
  2. YRT/Viva - free - no sponsor
  3. Brampton Transit - free - no sponsor
  4. Go Transit - free - no sponsor
It was only a few days ago that the TTC offered free rides. This happened after more than one sponsor came forward to help out. It looks like all public transit within the GTA will be free for this event. This is what I would call seamless transit.

Related Link: DRT Holiday Service

Dec 18, 2008

Bus purchase

City View ElDorado bus in Collingwood Ont.
As reported December 12, 2008 on my blog, Metrolinx announced the largest joint bus purchase in Ontario history. Metrolinx signed contracts with New Flyer Industries Canada and City View Bus Sales in a deal worth an estimated $70 million for up to 160 buses in 2009. The contracts are for one year with an option year for 2010.

The 12 municipalities taking part in the purchase are Barrie, Burlington, Cobourg, Durham Region, Elliot Lake, Hamilton, London, Milton, North Bay, Sarnia, St. Catharines and York Region.

John Marinucci, New Flyer president said the Winnipeg Manitoba bus manufacture has 1,500 Canadian staff, buys steel from Russel Metals in Hamilton and deals with PPG Industries in Burlington for paint and coatings. City View vice-president Ray Burley said the 10 or so nine-metre buses being supplied in 2009 meet Canadian content rules, despite delivering a California model called the ElDorado.

Related Link: Metrolinx

Dec 17, 2008


The comment link is now back in working order. I'm sorry that I did not detect the fault sooner.

Dec 12, 2008

Transit plans

On December 12, 2008 Go Transit Board of Directors will meet. This is just their regular monthly meeting but we are told that something special will happen. The GO Strategic Plan, GO 2020 will be presented. The directors have invited Jim Bradley, Minister of Transportation, to attend the meeting and address the Board.

Go Transit is continuously making improvements to the system. With GO 2020 they promise this will be the most comprehensive blueprint of GO Transit's future plans that has ever been developed. Go has an objective of attempting to double its 170,000 daily ridership by the year 2020.

Not to be out done, Metrolinx has it's own announcement to make. On Wednesday, December 17, 2008 you can expect to hear an announcement about the largest cooperative bus purchase in Ontario history. I wonder how close they will come to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)? They have ordered ordered 900, 60 foot hybrid buses. These buses will be manufactured by New Flyer Industries.

Related Links:
New Flyer Receives Bus Orders
Metrolinx To Partner With Municipalities
Joint Procurement of Transit Buses

Dec 11, 2008

Transit news

Metrolinx has recommended construction funding for the Sheppard East LRT and York Region’s VIVA system to launch the regional plan. According to Metrolinx these two projects could deliver 17,000 construction jobs just in its first year.

Reported by the The Oshawa Worker (CAW Local 222) DRT has run into delays with the start up of the Bus Rapid Transit that would operating along King's Hwy 2. It was originally to to start operating on January 1, 2010.

The Ajax bus garage needs an expansion to to facilitate, the storage and maintenance of the BRT buses. The shovels still have to be place into the ground. There is no mention of when the BRT might be up and running.

GO Transit is adjusting service during the holiday season with special early-afternoon trains and buses on December 24 and 31; and free late-night service on the 31st (New Year's Eve), starting at 7:00 p.m. Some New Year's Eve service will be adjusted. For details visit website at:

Effective Monday January 5, 2009, a new Eastbound train trip will depart Union Station at 17:10 and will operate EXPRESS to Pickering then make all stops to Oshawa (17:55). The UNION 17:13 - OSHAWA 18:07 train trip will be departing at 17:20.

Mayor David Miller has asked the Toronto Transit Commission to freeze public transit fares next year as the city braces for an economic slump. This will force the review of a plan to decrease bus service to a maximum of 20 minute headways.

Dec 10, 2008


The dictionary defines stranded as "to be brought into or left in a difficult or helpless position".

The following letter to editor appeared on

To the editor:

Last Friday night my son and I went downtown to take in the Neil Young concert.

We were going out for dinner so decided to do the responsible thing and take the GO Train and Durham Transit. Unfortunately, the GO Train was running late, so we didn't get back to Whitby until after 1 a.m.

There were about 100 of us getting off the GO Train and to my (and many other commuters') disappointment and disbelief, the Durham Transit buses had stopped running.

There were about five cabs that were quickly snapped up. There we were, standing in the GO Train parking lot with no way home. I usually drive to Toronto and after this experience will definitely drive next time.

Can these two agencies (GO and Durham Transit) not talk to each other and take care of their customers? So much for seamless public transport in Durham Region. With all the publicity this time of year about planning ahead and taking public transport, don't depend on Durham Transit to get you home.

Colin Arnott

There used to be a time when this would have never happened. When I was driving for Pickering and Ajax Pickering Transit Authority the last buses of the night were always instructed to wait for the arrival of the last Go Train. The longest I heard of bus drivers waiting was until 3 A.M. in the morning. Is this something that has been lost during transition to a bigger and better transit system?

To answer the writer Colin Arnott, yes Go and Durham Transit are able to talk to each other. It is a very simple task. I always used to get my info from the ticket seller in the Go station. They have to remain on duty until the last train arrives and the station is clear of patrons. Then the station is locked up.

This is something I never expected from DRT. Is it time for DRT to review it's policy? Yes.

Dec 9, 2008

USA Ridership Up

Recent reports from the USA suggesting that that even though gas prices continue to decline, riders are staying with public transit. This trend reaches as far north as Anchorage, Alaska and west to Oahu Hawaii.

The American Public Transportation Association says nationwide, mass transit use has seen a 6.5% jump from July to September. Light rail systems, have seen the largest increase. There is concern that November and December figures will show major declines as gas prices continue to fall.

There are a few of problems for public transit when ridership increases. The first one that everyone will notice, is the over crowding on transit vehicles. Next there is lack of funding to increase service and usually it will result in a fare increase.

Over crowding on buses is more noticeable now than it was 20 years ago. The major reason for this is the low floor bus. The floor space on these buses is considerable less than the older high rise or step-up bus. This adds up or should I say subtracts to lower load capacity and decreased productivity.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Boston has come up with novel idea on how to increase train capacity on the Red Line subway train. The transit system will roll out a Red Line train with two cars that have just two seats each, compared to the 53 seats on a normal car. The modified cars create standing room for 27 more passengers.

The TTC used to remove passenger seats near the rear doors of the buses. This was done after noticing that people would gather and stand, near the doors. So they were given more standing room.

In Ontario it is difficult to find information on passenger counts. It is something that seems is not made easily available to the public. DRT recently said the counts were up. The counts are mainly expressed in in percentage points. DRT also counts in millions. Tens of millions that is. Announcements are always made at plateau of every 10 million passengers. On Tuesday, September 9, 2008 DRT achieved a 20 million passengers milestone.

I always thought that posting rider counts on the internet would be a useful tool to communicate with. The only transit company that I know of that does this is Branrford Transit. If you happen to know of any others I would like to hear from you.

Dec 7, 2008

New Years Eve Fares

At the present time it appears that there will be no free TTC rides on New Year’s Eve. In the past there have been corporate sponsors that paid the TTC to operate a free service. With the lack of a sponsor, patrons will have to pay full fare.

Last year Durham Region Transit offered free transit along with Mississauga, Brampton and Hamilton. Go Train and bus users also were offered a free ride from 7 p.m. until service ended that night.

In 2007 thanks to Ontario Power Generation (OPG) DRT free transit was made available for passengers beginning at 20:00 on New Year’s Eve and extended until 02:00 New Year’s Day. The free DRT extended service met the last GO Train arrivals from Union Station on New Year’s Eve at the Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa Stations. It was DRT’s hope that it would encourage safe travel during the festive season.

According to the November 26, 2008 Durham Region Transit Executive Committee agenda, free New Year’s Eve service was one of the items to be discussed. Unfortunately as of this posting DRT has no info on their web site about New Year’s Eve service and free transit.

Dec 6, 2008

Ottawa transit strike?

Last Wednesday, Ottawa transit workers voted 98% in favour of strike action if no contract agreement has been reach by December 10. The majority of OC Transpo workers belong to the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279. The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 5500, representing supervisors and security workers, have approved a strike and could take place on December 23, 2008. Talks will resume Sunday with both sides having a common consent to continue Monday and Tuesday if necessary.

If a withdraw of service occurs, the city is considering taking action with some roads being turned into one way. This is in anticipation of a 20 per cent jump in car traffic as more residents use their cars to get around.

For more info: OC Transpo

Dec 5, 2008

New TTC garage

The TTC has a new bus garage. The Mount Dennis Division (bus garage) had been scheduled to be operational in October 2007. The opening was postponed because of the City Of Toronto's financial struggles. The garage which has space for indoor storage capacity of 250 buses opened on November 23, 2008. This was also the day that the TTC introduced more service on many routes and new Sunday service as well.

The official opening will be held on Thursday  December 11, 2008 at 11 am. The garage is located at 121 Industry Street. North of Eglinton Ave. West, west of Black Creek Drive, off Todd Bayliss Boulevard.

View Larger Map

The next garage is scheduled to be built on McNicoll Ave., in Scarborough. That is not likely to happen for four to five years.

Dec 2, 2008

N.Y. bus driver murdered over $2 transfer slip

"Ewin Thomas was murdered on his bus yesterday afternoon because he refused to give an irate fare-beater a $2 transfer slip, witnesses tell news organizations in New York.

Police say the man punched Thomas in the head after he refused to hand over a card that allows passengers to switch buses at no charge.

'He then stepped off the bus,' The New York Times reports. 'The driver was about to close the door behind him when the man suddenly turned, stepped back onto the bus, pulled out a knife with a slashing motion and drove the blade repeatedly into the driver’s chest and torso.'

The Daily News says Thomas, 46, died at a nearby hospital.

'It's crazy because the bus driver was cool,' witness Benjamin Stacking says, according to AP. 'He let me on. I was 50 cents short. He let me on and gave me a transfer.'

NY1 says the as-yet-unidentified killer has a $12,000 bounty on his head."

Relate links:
N.Y. bus driver murdered over $2 transfer slip - On Deadline -
NYC Bus Driver Stabbed To Death
Rider Fatally Stabs City Bus Driver and Flees

Nov 30, 2008

Observations of a bus chick

I found the following while I was surfing the internet. It put a smile on my face and I thought it was worth passing on...

So, I have started to think of reasons that determine if you could be considered a 'bus chick' as someone once mentioned: I came up with a couple...

1) You know how to put the handicap seats down
2) You know where every bus stop is on at least one route
3) You know which bus drivers let you have food and which that don't
4) Have explained to someone on the bus directions more than on one occasion
5) Can recognize the smoothness of the ride depending on the Bus number
6) Can calculate what time your current driver will be back on the current route next (despite how they may shift between 2 and 3 different routes during that time)
7) Know what time the bus stops at which stop to the minute, and consider a bus arriving any time thereafter as being 'late'
8) On more than one occasion you laugh at the people who cannot open the back sensor door
9) Your bus driver recognizes you
10) You are aware of the extra buses that run but are not on the schedules
11) You have a favorite seat
12) When you attend a gathering of sorts, you recognize someone from the bus
13) You know what type of bus the different numbers are (i.e 200 is a pretty Guelph painted Novabus, 188 is an older Red/White Novabus...etc).
14) You have a crush on at least one of the drivers... (ahem)...

Hmmm Yes, bus riding,

They must have named Oranges before Carrots...:

My Comment:
Bus drivers get to know their passengers pretty good. With me that showed up the most when I was working on Dial-a-bus. After a few days I knew where everyone was going without being told. Then there were times when my regular passengers were not at their the bus stop. I would stop the bus and start looking around and up the side streets. Somethings we got lucky and spotted them running up the street. It was a relationship that built up over time. I always felt like I was part of the community.

Nov 27, 2008

Bus Driver Shields

After recently announcing the new security cameras on buses aren't preventing assaults on TTC drivers, the transit commission has approved spending $5.2 million to equip its new buses with plastic shields around the drivers' seats.

New buses will come equipped with the shields and older vehicles will be retrofitted.
I predicted in my blog post of February 17 2007 that security cameras would not prevent crime. Now I can't believe what is happening. It is direct result of the lack of proper action by politicians to ensure that we have a safe environment in our cities and towns. It appears that they would rather have the criminals roam freely and the law abiding citizens locked up for their protection. This sends a lousy message to passengers on the bus.

There used to be time when drivers sold tickets and made change. I was one of those drivers. I always felt reasonably safe even though I might have had a small bundle of bills in my shirt pocket. The TTC discontinued this practice in 1975. Those were the days when everyone felt safe on TTC vehicle. If you needed to be rescued the drivers were always there to help. It was also a time when there were no communication systems on the buses and streetcars. Why were things left to deteriorate so much?

As adults we are sending a miserably poor and inferior message to our children.

Nov 26, 2008

Behavioral Science Technology consultant's report makes news

Back in December 2007 I made a post on this blog about the TTC hiring Behavioral Science Technology to reduce absentee costs at the transit commission. Over the past few days excerpts of the report have appeared in local newspapers.

Comments from members of focus groups made up of employees from the TTC's bus division:

- "I had a problem with school kids and asked for help. The superintendent had a supervisor drive behind the bus the next day."

- "If you drive as you are trained, you would always be late and would not make it past probation."

- "There is pressure everyday to have buses leave the property whether or not they are repaired."

- "Management never compensates us for extra time. We are not able to go home on time, and this adds stress and pressure."

- "I called and told the supervisor that I was nervous about a passenger on my bus. The supervisor stayed on the line until the passenger got off."

- "Supervisors will try to coerce operators to keep driving when buses have mechanical problems like the horn not working or the air gage not working."

- "Supervisors say, 'We are not paying you to think.'"

- "Supervisors say things like, 'Let me speak slowly to you, so you will understand.'"

- "I had no bus and started my route 22 minutes late. When I asked for a short turn to finish on time, the supervisor said he was not here to accommodate drivers."

- "I was forced to drive a bus without headlights and with the roof hatch open. I called, but since I had only six months on the job I was told to keep going."

- "I helped a lady load groceries on the bus. I fell and reported the injury to CIS. They did not ask about me. They asked about how late are you."

I looks like after 11 years of retirement from the TTC my comment still stands… “difficult to convince management that something was not safe.”

Durham Region Transit does not have the same problems. There are no negative or hostile state of mind towards employees. In my experience Pickering Transit, Ajax Pickering Transit and DRT were vast improvements over the poisoned work environment at the TTC.

Nov 24, 2008

Record setting transit ridership

With gas prices at their lowest in years, some public transit advocates are concerned that the record-setting ridership figures tallied across Canada in recent months could dwindle quickly if transit services aren't up to snuff. A Statistics Canada report, released Thursday, reported that 131.9 million public transit trips were made aboard city buses, subways, streetcars and light rail in 10 major urban centres in September, up from 126.6 million a year earlier,' Canwest News Service reported on Nov. 20.

'It was the highest total recorded since Statistics Canada first began recording monthly transit ridership in January 2003. The second-highest ridership reported was in March 2007, when 129.9 million passenger trips were reported.

'We were predicting (the start of the school year) would be important, but that's a seasonal trend,' Transport 2000's David Jeanes said. 'What's piled on top of that is the massive shift to transit that resulted from fuel-price increases in the summer.' But, he warned, with the current decline in fuel prices, 'we don't know if this will continue. People do change their habits fairly quickly based on gas prices. People tend to be reluctant to switch to transit until the price gets very high, but once they switch to transit, whether they switch back when the (gas) price goes down depends on the quality of transit they had.'

Transport 2000 Hotline:

Nov 15, 2008

Donate your old bus

GO Transit is donating a retired GO Bus to Centennial College's School of Transportation. The bus will be used as a training tool for students working towards a career in transportation technology. GO is a proud employer of many graduates from Centennial College's Truck/Coach and Heavy Duty programs.
This reminds of donating your body to science or medical school. The event takes place on November 17, 2008 at Centennial College Ashtonbee Campus 75 Ashtonbee Rd., Scarborough.

When it comes to transit, the CNW news release is typical. They do not supply directions on how to arrive via public transit.

Photo Opportunity - GO Transit donates bus to Centennial ollege's School of Transportation:

Nov 14, 2008

Brantford transit contract settled

In the early part of 2009 CAW and DRT will enter into contract negotiations. Lets hope that we will see results similar as to what happen in Brantford, Ontario.
Bus drivers, staff vote to support new transit contract

Bus drivers and maintenance staff voted 78 per cent in favour of a new contract hammered out over the weekend.

The Wednesday vote represented almost all of the 60 people in Local 685 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said union president Phil Hotte.

While he declined to release any details of the contract, Hotte said the settlement included a wage and benefit increase that was in keeping with what other city bargaining units had achieved in their recent contracts.

City council has yet to vote on the agreement, which will go before the politicians on Monday night.

The union was poised to strike at midnight on Sunday, a position that worried transit users.

"I must have had 14 people on Monday morning saying how glad they were to see us on the road," said Hotte. "There's quite a bit of relief out there."

This transit agreement doesn't affect the ongoing Operation Lift strike even though those drivers are in the same local.

Operation Lift drivers and dispatchers walked off the job at the end of September, seeking a first contract.

Nov 11, 2008

Day Of Remembrance

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid. 
Dwight D. Eisenhower 

This is a day to remember and be thankful to those who defended us from tyrants and their armies. Also lets not forget the peacekeepers that were also placed into harms way. Thank you.

Remembrance Day video is worth viewing...

Nov 10, 2008

Brantford City and transit union reach tentative deal

City buses will be running normally on Monday. The City of Brantford has reached a tentative agreement with The Amalgamated Transit Union (Local 685) representing about 60 Brantford Transit operators and service personnel. Brantford Transit service will be operating normal weekday service beginning Monday at 6 a.m.

This agreement requires ratification by the membership and city council. The union had set a strike deadline of midnight tonight. The strike of about 20 unionized workers at Operation Lift continues.

Brantford Expositor - Ontario, CA

Nov 9, 2008

Slowly, changes are coming

Two routes heading to the campus, the 915 Taunton and the 401 Simcoe, are operating at maximum capacity said Neil Killens, DRT's deputy manager of support services. The buses run every 15 minutes during peak times, but even then, DRT has to send clean-up buses to accommodate students who simply can't fit on the bus.

Starting on Monday November 17, 2008 we will see enhancements begin, on the 915 Taunton bus route. DRT has recognized the need to redefine peak hours on this route, as being different from the normal rush hour service. See my post The purse strings are tight.

At the present time the peak hours in the AM end at 8:30. This is the first bus, that carries a 30 minute headway. The next bus to Durham College departs the Pickering Go Station at 9:00 AM. You can now look forward to the 15 minute service carrying on until 10 AM. After that the next bus will depart at 10:30 AM and every 30 minutes.

Presently the 3:35 PM bus from Durham College is the last one to carry a 30 minute headway. The next bus after that at 3:50 PM, is the first bus with a 15 minute headway. That will also change with the 1:20 PM bus to be the first with a 15 minute headway.

Ridership to the campus is increasing with 750,000 to 800,000 UPass riders predicted by the end of the year. DRT reports that is 10 per cent of total ridership for 2008.

The bad news here is the speed that DRT moved at to make changes. The improvements took over two months to be made permament. This is reflected throughout DRT, whether it is a simple thing like moving a bus stop, programming luminators or correcting errors in the driver's running boards.

Nov 8, 2008

TTC assaults increase

An article in The Toronto Sun...

Despite investing $19.8 million on security cameras, TTC drivers are still being assaulted at an alarming rate. But TTC brass hope the cameras will prove to be a deterrent once more people realize they are there.
This is after almost spending $20 million on the cameras. The assaults are something that are happening on other transit systems. Passengers are also at risk.

My blog post of February 17 2007 did not prdict an increase in assults but I did predict these cameras would not protect anyone from a crime.

Nov 6, 2008

Rob MacIsaac has a new job

According to the Hamilton Spectator Rob MacIsaac has a new job as president of Mohawk College. At the present time he is the chairman of Metrolinx, the provincial planning agency responsible for the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.. He takes over his new position on February 1, 2009. 

Related link: CNW/ - NEWS Rob MacIsaac

Nov 1, 2008

Essential service & strike

Toronto City Council voted to ask the province to deem the TTC an essential service. It was voted down 23 to 22. This was a surprise to me. I was expecting it to pass. If it had gone forward to the provincial government I believe the MPP's would also have rejected the essential service label.

Meanwhile in Brantford, the strike at Operation Lift (Handi-Trans) continues. The work stoppage started on September 29. Don't expect the Ontario Government to legislate them back to work. This immunity is only granted to the wussies in Toronto.

Oct 21, 2008

Online petition

Toronto city councillor Cesar Palacio has an online petition for you. If you think the TTC should be declared essential, sign on the dotted e-line.

What about the rest of the GTA? Shouldn’t the residents outside of Toronto get the same protection with their transit systems?

Online petition:

Oct 19, 2008

Mobilien: Paris’ Version of Bus Rapid Transit

Is this what DRT have in mind for the planned BRT in Durham Region? I found it interesting that taxis and emergency vehicles were also able to use the bus lane. The only thing that I did not like was that bicycles were also allowed into the lanes.
“Mobilien” is French for MOBI-lity plus “LIEN” which means link.

Related Links:

Oct 18, 2008

Hybrid glitch

I was listening to City of Toronto Councillor Rob Ford on a “talk radio” show. He was explaining ways he thought the city could cut cost. One of the ways was for the TTC to stop purchasing hybrid buses. Diesel buses cost about $200,000 less than the $700,000 hybrid models. According to the Toronto Star Rob is about to get his wish.

For the TTC the benefits of hybrid technology has not lived up to expectations. One of the biggest problems has been the shorter than expected life span of the batteries. Instead of lasting 60 months they are proving only to last about 18 months.

Durham Region Transit has been using "clean diesel" buses and the TTC will be switching over them. DRT will recieve their first hybrd bus for implementation of BRT services on HWY 2. It is expected they will purchase 26 hybrid buses for this project alone. Let’s hope that DRT will be able to over come the TTC problems.

Oct 16, 2008

Hoile loop remains intack

At this time I have nothing else to say on this subject. I am just posting it for your information only.

The bus stops here. And there. And over there.

And at 5:30 this morning, Rashna Dadachanji will happily climb on board Route 222 to get to work. Not so happily, Wayne and Sandra Cassidy will hear the bus rumble past their bedroom window, having just lost a months-long battle to stop it.

Yesterday, Durham Region Transit's executive committee sided with Dadachanji and dozens of riders in the south Ajax subdivision and made a swift decision to keep the route intact. That means the bus will continue its run past the Cassidys' lakefront house every half-hour during rush hours.

The Audley Rd. S. couple had asked the transit commission to eliminate a loop of several blocks, arguing the bus is smelly, exceeds noise standards (they paid to have sound studies done), and poses a safety hazard on the narrow street. They also said the three bus stops along the loop were barely used.

Phil Meagher, DRT's deputy general manager of operations, said the loop averages 28 riders per hour.

But Wayne Cassidy told commissioners his own survey disproves the numbers. "I'm there every day at 5:30 and I'm not seeing anyone get on the bus."

Transit users must be wearing "invisible cloaks," he said.

Cassidy said rerouting the bus would only mean an extra minute's walk for a handful of people.

But Dadachanji argued the longer walk in howling winds along ice- and snow-covered streets would take some "at least 15 minutes."

"The service is a benefit and convenience to the entire community."

Not so for John Fisico, who supported the Cassidys' proposal.

"It's a slam dunk," he told commissioners. "I'd rather have more peacefulness than convenience."

Shortening the route, he pointed out, would save buses five to six hours of driving time a week.

For Vivian Huang, who goes to work in Toronto every day, it's faster to take the bus to the GO station than drive there, find parking and walk back to the train. Route 222 connects to the rest of Ajax and the GTA, and "is really appreciated in the winter" by workers, students and senior citizens alike, she said.

Route 222 was added in 2006 as part of a mandate to offer service within 400 metres of customers.

Ajax Councillor Scott Crawford said he'd never seen so much correspondence from residents on a single transit issue. The majority urged them not to change the route. | GTA | Ajax couple loses battle against bus.

Oct 14, 2008

The little bus that got lost

This is a sad story of a detour and a bus that can not find it's way back.
Route 106 Bay Ridges Detour - Effective June 2, 2008 until construction is complete (approximately two months).

The above notice appears on DRT’s web page under detours. This detoured involved the sewer construction and the Bay Ridges bus had to avoid Haller, Douglas, Browning, Front and part of Annland.

The detour ended almost to the day as predicted on September 2. It had to be extended for a few days to allow for completion of the work. It is now reopened and the city staff has assured me that it will remain open.

One would think that this would be a signal to DRT that the bus would pick up again on the regular route. Well, it’s been over a month since the roadways opened and still DRT continues to operate over the detour. Silly,eh?

Oct 11, 2008

The purse strings are tight

I just finished reading David’s post at Durham Transit Review about a possible lack of funding for transit improvements in Durham Region for 2009. DRT is are already in that situation right now.

Two of most successful routes in Durham Region would be the 915 Taunton and the 401 Simcoe. The main reason for this success is the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College. See my post of September 6, 2008.

Since then there has been improvements to the Taunton service. DRT has sent out extra buses to accommodate the the passengers. These are buses that you would not find on the schedule. They are there to catch the overflow from the regular runs. Because they are extras and not regular service runs this means the driver is more than likely working at overtime rates. The DRT management team would like to change that and make them permanent.

As it turns out this is not an easy task. The region has such a tight rein over the purse strings that decisions like this can’t be made without the approval of the Durham Region Transit Executive Committee. I expect this will be presented to them at their next meeting. So we just have to wait and see if the politians are able to give a favorable outcome.

Begging is much more difficult than it looks. Contrary to popular belief, it’s a high art form that takes years of dedicated practice to master.

Oct 10, 2008

Winnipeg bus fire

A City of Winnipeg bus caught fire on October 7, 2008. There were as many as 40 people on board, witnesses say. No one was injured and the cause of the fire is not known.

Bus fires are not the norm. Never the less, they still happen. It is an experience that can send a person into a state of fear and fright. Personal I have been involved with two on board fires. They were flame less with the bus filling up with smoke. That was only two in over 42 years of driving.

Back in the days of Ajax Pickering Transit Authority (APTA) there was a problem with some of the new Orion buses catching on fire. This resulted in all of new buses being pulled from service. APTA in turn had to borrow (lease?) buses from the TTC. When the cause of fire was discovered the vehicles were repaired and returned to service. There have been no problems since.

The video below demonstrates how quickly things can happen. Be prepared for a short commercial at the beginning.

Oct 9, 2008

No surprise here

The arbitrator, in the ATU and TTC contract dispute, has handed down his report. Originally, the union and TTC had come to an tentative agreement on the contract but the union members later turned it down at a ratification vote. This resulted in a 38 hour weekend strike that ended with the Ontario Government legislating the workers back onto the job.

In a case like this when union members turn down an agreement that had been tentatively agreed upon, an arbitrator will not make any changes to the original settlement proposals. In this case, he did up by 35 cents an hour a premium to engine mechanics and electrical engineers. The TTC in the terms of settlement had offered 25 cents per hour.

TTC chair Adam Giambrone, the councillor for Davenport, said the arbitrator’s solution amounts to a mere $1 million extra over the life of the contract or about $300,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Toronto and his executive committee have rejected the call to ask the province to declare the TTC an essential service. No surprise here either. 

Oct 3, 2008

More on transit strikes

I have received a couple of comments from Nick Boragina, about my post Transit strikes and settlements. I was going to make another reply to his last comment, but instead I decided to turn it into this post.

Nick, when DRT and CAW had their strike the union offer to continued to operate the Specialized Service division. The Region turned them down. Then as part of the settlement both sides wrote into the contract that Specialized Service, in the event of a future strike, would be an essential service and would continue to operate.

When we talk transit, we seem to forget that most urban transit operate a handi trans service. Not being able to get to your dialysis appointment, should be enough of a reason to declare transit an essential service. Right now, Brantford's handi trans drivers are on strike. The city council does not like it one bit. The work is contracted out and the city as very little control over the strike.

Should the Ontario Government legislate them back to work? Yes of course. The Government is supposed to interfere and take part when the safety of others is at risk. Certainly when a person can't get to their life saving treatment this should be enough of a reason.

Maybe it's time for the people of Ontario to ask why only the transit users in Toronto get special status when it comes to transit strikes. The government falls short of declaring the TTC an essential service but still the workers are forced back to work in a matter of days. This happens to no other transit service in Ontario. What gives?

Related link: The question is - essential or not?

Oct 1, 2008

Transit strikes and settlements

The union representing workers of Mississauga Transit has reached a tentative agreement with the City.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 1572, representing bus drivers, garage maintenance staff and service employees, hammered out an agreement with the City Saturday at 5:30 a.m., and with it has averted the threat of a possible strike.

The current collective agreement expires today. Union president Vito Thomas did not divulge details of the new agreement. He said the settlement will be presented to members Oct. 1 for ratification.

The union and management have come to an agreement. In order to have the issue finalized, the members will vote as to whether it is acceptable. If the union members turn the offer down they will be following the same path that was taken at the TTC and Veolia Transportation (Viva).

This trend is not only limited to the GTA. It is occurring across the country. The union and management negotiating teams come to an agreement on paper, then the members vote it down. There appears to be a break down between the union executive and the union members.

The Viva transit strike in York Region continues. Under the guidance of a provincial mediator talks are scheduled to begin again today. Yesterday York region applied for a court injunction to limit picket delays at regional terminals. The action was dropped after an agreement with the union on the amount of delays cause by pickets.

I would like all those people that are calling for transit to be an essential service to please take note that Ontario Government is nowhere in sight with the Viva Veolia strike. If this had happen in Toronto, the transit workers would have already been forced back to the job, but they still would not be classed as essential service.

The labour contract at Durham Region Transit expires in 2009. This will affect transit in the entire region except in the town of Whitby. Presently DRT contracts the Whitby routes out to Trentway Wagar Coach Canada. They are unionized but have a seperate contract from the rest of DRT.

The Mississauga News -

Sep 24, 2008

$50 Billion

Only $50 billion. It does not look like much if you write it that way. How about if we do it this way... $50,000,000,000. It suddenly looks like more. I am certain that the final cost of the Metrolinx transportation plan for the GTA will be much higher than the predicted cost. How could anyone expect anything less when the government gets involved. Their cost always seem to go over budget.

15-year plan map (.pdf)

transportation plan

Spending $500 million on 7,500 kilometres of bike lanes and paths does not make sense. It is commanding a high price and especially one that is not based on worth. In fact the whole cost of the Metrolinx project is very high. In Canada, the average working person already pays over 50% of their income towards taxes. Don't get me wrong transit is in need of vast improvements but we need something to ease the burden of cost on the tax payers.

Sep 23, 2008

New look

I got tired of the look of my blog... so I have given it a face lift. The look is new but it is still the same old me in the back ground.

It's about the same as painting you house. It looks new but it's still the same house.

The web page is now wider and I have three columns rather than two. I hope this makes it easier for you to navigate the site without having to scroll down as far. Let me know if you spot any bugs.


Sep 20, 2008

Don't miss the bus

I like this editorial comment from The Scugog Standard.

Change can be hard for some folks to accept. In smaller locales like ours, change can strike a mixture of fear and anger into the hearts of longtime residents while it is welcomed by younger, less settled, citizens.

The last couple of weeks, that has been shown in letters and comments that have floated around town about the arrival of Durham Transit in the form of the big ‘green rockets’ traversing our streets.

Both formal comments seen on these pages decry the lack of travellers on the buses and the fact that taxpayers will pick up some of the deficit cost of the service while it is in its infancy.

The comments are well-meaning and, to a degree, well thought out, but fall somewhat short of a long-term view of transit and its place in our future.

Comments made about the lack of ridership must surely be based on seeing the bus go by during the day and at off-peak periods because The Standard offices are within sight of a DRT stop that each and every morning has at least 12 or more folks, many with book bags and backpacks, waiting for the bus.

Many routes in Durham - and in fact in Toronto - are little used during off-peak periods but service delivery cannot be a piecemeal thing. You either provide it or you don’t.

Think about the parents who, instead of a $9,000 used car and insurance payments, can buy their kids a bus pass to get to college or university. Ask them what they think of transit.

Think of the seniors who have not had regular access at a reasonable cost to Oshawa - or Toronto for that matter - and ask what they think of transit deficit funding.

Finally, remember that growth and development are a steady thing and that in the formula a good planner does not wait for the need before providing the service. That’s not how municipal planning works.

Transit does not follow growth and development, growth and development follow transit. The service provides the ability to grow, not the other way around. We foot the bill to allow for the growth and prosperity that will follow.

If we miss the bus on planning, well, there won’t be another one along in a little while!

One of the problems with transit is, that it is arriving into new neighbourhoods regrettably too late. When people start moving in and there is no local bus service available, they will begin to find other forms of transportation. When transit does startup, it is usually at a later date when it becomes difficult to attract passengers back from their other forms of transportation. DRT needs to bring the buses where they are wanted or needed. The routes must be up and running when the residents begin to move in.

Sep 19, 2008

Union President slams TTC random testing

TORONTO, Sept. 18 /CNW/

The President of the union that represents
9,000 workers at the Toronto Transit Commission today slammed TTC management's
proposal to introduce random drug and alcohol testing to the TTC. Kinnear told
the Commissioners that the proposal was an attempt by management to deflect
attention from their incompetence when it comes to protecting employee safety.
Kinnear also called Commissioners "hypocrites" if they did not agree.

Following is the text of Kinnear's deputation to the Commission meeting:

Let me begin by making it clear that the Amalgamated Transit Union never
has and never will dispute that every worker should report to his or her job
only when they are capable of performing their work safely. And if at any time
during their shift they become unable to continue performing their duties
safely, they should stop immediately and report to their supervisor, if they
can. That is our policy, our members know it.

ATU 113's opposition to this proposal cannot be twisted to imply that we
condone anyone coming to work impaired. As a union we are opposed to anyone
being impaired on the job, no matter what their job.

There are three reasons why the Commission should reject this proposal.

First of all, it is a shameless attempt by senior management to deflect
attention away from their incompetence when it comes to protecting our
members' health and safety. The worst example of this is their attempt to
rewrite history and blame Tony Almeida for his own death in the subway tunnel.
On page five of the report, under the headline "Working Committee Review," the
first sentence begins, and I'm quoting word for word:

<< "The fatal asbestos abatement accident of April 23, 2008 and other employee alcohol and drug related incidents..." >>

On page 5, the accusation against Tony was repeated. It reads: "In
response to this serious incident and other employee alcohol and drug related

This is a clumsy and despicable attempt to blame the victim. Nowhere in
the report does it mention that TTC management pleaded guilty to health and
safety negligence in this case and was fined $250,000. Nowhere does it say
that the TTC's own investigation concluded that Tony Almeida was not
responsible for the accident. Nor does it say that it was a supervisor who
told Tony to proceed on the run that would kill him. Nor does it quote what
Chief General Manager Gary Webster said when the report was issued, only three
months ago. So let me quote back to him what he told the media back then.

<< "Safety was taken somewhat for granted over the years," chief general manager Gary Webster acknowledged to reporters. "Whenever you have an incident like this, you find a lot of stuff you wished you'd acted on more quickly. We're a very good company in reacting to problems. What we need to get better at is being proactive." Webster stressed that the TTC is not blaming its workers for the accident. >>

All that seems to have now changed. Management has shamefully tried to
rewrite history to deflect attention away from their guilt in Tony's tragedy.

The second reason you should reject this policy is that it would not pass
a reasonable cost/benefit analysis. Management can throw all kinds of
statistics and studies from other countries at you. But here in Toronto the
facts are these: In the 109 years our union has been serving this city, there
has never been a single fatality caused by employee impairment.

This report claims that 39 employees were impaired on the job since the
beginning of 2006. We dispute that number but let's say for argument's sake
that it's true. That's one worker in every 150,000 shifts, and no fatalities
or even serious injuries. By contrast, there have been 220 people murdered in
Toronto in that same period and about a thousand more wounded seriously by
guns or knives.

How many millions of dollars would this testing program cost? And how
would it reduce the number of people killed by impaired TTC workers from the
present figure of zero? If the City has the money for testing TTC workers, it
would be better spent trying to get guns off our streets. That's an actual
public safety problem as opposed to a theoretical problem.

Finally, we oppose this proposed policy because it is degrading to
workers to have to pee into a cup, probably while someone watches to make sure
it's your urine. TTC senior management thinks they have been clever to include
themselves in the testing. On page 17 of the report it says that:

<< "Executive positions will be included in random testing because the role of these executives in making significant business decisions that affect the health and safety of the employees and the public." >>

This is an obvious attempt to avoid criticism of elitism but let's follow
this logic. Let me ask you, the TTC Commissioners, whether you make
significant business decisions that affect the health and safety of the
employees and the public. If yes, will you agree to let someone watch you pee
into a cup? But if you don't make significant decisions that could affect
public safety, why am I even talking to you? What do you do that's so

How about all City Councillors and the Mayor? How about all the senior
managers in Police Services, Fire Services, Emergency Medical Services,
Toronto Public Health and the other city services that affect the health and
safety of the public?

So unless you are willing to say that every single public official who
makes decisions that could affect public health and safety must be randomly
tested in the way it is proposed for ATU members you're just a hypocrite who
looks down on workers.

Our union acknowledges that the police have the right and duty to keep
our roads safe from impaired drivers. We do not object to the police
conducting impairment tests and laying charges under the same rules that apply
to all other drivers. We trust the police and have confidence in their
judgement, their professionalism and their fairness. We do not have that
confidence in TTC management and I have difficulty imaging that we would gain
that confidence anytime soon.

Thank you.

Sep 17, 2008

Transit strike in York Region

A major stumbling block in negotiations that began last April has been the employer's policy of firing workers who are off sick, even if only for a short term, unless they visit a doctor for a sickness certificate. Even with such a certificate, workers are not paid for their sick time. Moreover, workers with serious illnesses, such as cancer, are fired if they cannot return to work within 12 months.

According to The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, that is one of the issues that is standing in the way of a labour contract settlement at Viva transit in York Region. The strike dead line is set for 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

York Region Transit will continue to operate it's other services if the VIVA drivers go on strike. The Region is able to do this because they tender the VIVA transit operations service by contract, to the private sector. Negotiations do not involve the region.

York Region signed an agreement with Veolia Transportation to operate and maintain the VIVA bus rapid transit network. York Region determines the service and fare levels, and retains ownership of vehicles and terminals.

CNW Group | AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, LOCAL 113 | York Region Viva bus operators poised for strike over Veolia \punish.

Sep 13, 2008

Ridership increase

The passenger counts at Durham Region Transit are on the increase. According to DRT’s Corporate Services Co-ordinator, passenger counts are up an average of 13.8%. The largest ridership increase occurred in April 2008 with a increase of 23.75%. The summer months also proved to be productive with a 12.4-per-cent increase in ridership in July. These figures are formulated by comparing a similar period in 2007.

According to Ted Galinis, General Manager for DRT, there has been an 18 per cent increase in Co-Fares since January 2008 . This is a special reduce fare (65 cents) for customers that travel to or from a Go Train Station. Passengers also require proof of a valid GO Pass or ticket. Go Transit contributes a subsidy on Co-Fares.

Ridership at Go Transit continues an upward trend with an 8.2% jump, comparing June 2007 and June 2008. The month of July has produced a 11% increase in passengers. Even with the increase July and August are still normally a time when numbers decline.

Another reason for Go Transit increase is that it has added several new bus routes and expanded service on existing routes. GO Transit reached a new milestone in September, surpassing 2,000 bus trips on an average weekday. The Hwy. 407 GO Bus service continues to experience the highest increases, with weekday ridership up more than 20% from last year. More frequent service along this route, along with the growing enrollment at York University, have made this service one of GO's busiest bus routes.

This increase of passengers is just not restricted to the Greater Toronto Area. It is something, that is happening across North America. Interviews with commuters have suggested that high fuel ($1.369 Friday September 12) and operating cost of a car have contributed to th switch. I also see other reasons such as reliable and frequent service. Newer vehicles with air conditioning, are also attractive options for new and potential customers.

The real test now begins as we wait to see, if DRT will be able to handle an increase in passengers. If Route 915 Taunton, is used a benchmark (see previous post) there is still a lot of work left to do. If these situations of over capacity are permitted to continue, would it be correct to place the blame on Durham Region for lack of proper funding?

Sep 6, 2008

915 Taunton

When it comes to Durham Region Transit the first week of September is a time of year when the routes return to normal. After two months (July and August) of low summer passenger counts those figures now go up. With schools closed and the summer months being prime time for vacations, ridership takes a dive. This is common for any transit system in Ontario and perhaps Canada.

One of the most successful routes at DRT is the 915 Taunton. The sole reason for this, is the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College. During the school term ridership soars on this route.

The 915 route runs with 15 minutes between buses in the rush hour. Between the AM and PM rush hours, the headway switches to 30 minutes between buses. The problem begins with this route in what DRT has defined as rush hour. The 8:30 AM bus is the last bus, with a 15 minute headway to depart Pickering Go Station for for Durham College. The next bus is at 9 am. I am not going to include the one that departs at 8:45 am because it only travels east to the Ajax Go Station.

This is a period of the day, when there should be a reduction of demands on the service. In this case, the reverse is true. These buses are still carrying loads that are above capacity. Usually, somewhere past the Ajax Go Station the buses are full and start to bypass stops. This now results in in passengers having to wait one hour between buses. This is only true, providing the next bus is not full. This seems to be the trend until after the 10:30 AM cycle.

Starting about 1:05 PM the same thing is happening on the return trips. The buses departing the College are fully. Passengers are being left behind and the drivers are unable to accommodate intending customers en-route.

The students are the highest group of passengers that DRT has. They should should treated as if DRT would like them to return the next day and the next. To start running buses into the garage at 8:45 AM is a good sign that DRT does have the equipment to extend the rush hour operating times on this route. Let us also not forget the person who is relying on the bus to get to work or going to a doctor’s appointment. Is it time for DRT to review the passenger patterns on the 915 Taunton?

Sep 4, 2008

TTC and bus tracking system

The Toronto Transit Commission has given its approval for Grey Island Systems International, to develop a system that gives travellers constantly updated information on the arrival times of their TTC rides.

Grey Island says its Next Vehicle Arrival System, or NextBus, will use GPS satellite technology, the Internet, interactive signs and cellphones or other wireless devices to inform the public of when vehicles will arrive at a stop.

The TTC has decided that it is going to enter into the 21st century. The system will provide actual arrival times, not scheduled times. This would be great for people that have to wait in bad weather or alone at night. The toal cost is just a mere $9,920,000.

The Canadian Press: Toronto transit to award $9.2M contract to Grey Island for bus tracking system.

Sep 3, 2008

Hoile loop, will loop into October

Latest news on the Hoile bus loop...

The fate of the Hoile loop on the 222 Audley Road South bus route will be up in the air another month because the committee meeting set to deal with the issue has been canceled.

The meeting was cancelled Tuesday afternoon due to lack of quorum.

I find it interesting to note that the members of the Transit Executive Committee that would not be in attendance, only one resides in Ajax. That would be the Regional Chairman Roger Anderson. The rest of the committee members from Ajax were going to attend. At least they were willing to face the music.

If you had intentions of showing up at the meeting, you would have been disappointed unless you read about he cancellation on the internet. At the time of my post, according to Durham Region's web page, the meeting is still a go. If you just happened to read the News Advertiser's report you would know the meeting as been cancelled. The printed version will not be delivered until the evening of Wednesday September 3rd. To late for you to find out.

Sep 1, 2008

Labour Day

Today is Labour Day. Take the the day off and enjoy yourself. There are still thousands of people that continue to work on statutory holidays. Fire department, hospitals, police and transit are among the many that continue to work on this day.

This is a good day to remember those people that came before us and made safe work places, medical care, unemployment insurance, fair hours and wages. Despite the obstacles, they made sure that working conditions were better for us.

Aug 27, 2008

Alstom graft probe

The TTC news release announcing the three short list finalists in its search for a company to build low floor streetcars. They are the French firm Alstom Transport, Germany's Siemens and Montreal based Bombardier.

According to Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun

The Request for Proposal (RFP) process came down to two companies -- Tram Power and Bombardier. Yet Tram Power was eliminated and Siemens and Alstom -- who were not part of the RFP at the end -- were brought in.

Another news report has this to say about Alstom Transport...

Alstom is the target of a wide-ranging investigation by French and Swiss authorities over suspected bribes worth tens of millions of euros (dollars) to secure tenders in Asia and South America between 1995 and 2003.

The Swiss prosecutor said the latest raids were not linked to other Alstom-related proceedings such as a bribery case against a Swiss national whom press reports have named as Oskar Holenweger, former head of the Zurich bank Tempus Privatbank.

In June French judges charged a former consultant for Alstom over links to suspected bribes paid for lucrative contracts. The company registered as a civil plaintiff in that case, claiming it may have suffered from embezzlement.

The Wall Street Journal reported in May that Swiss authorities found evidence Alstom paid some 20 million euros (31 million dollars) via "shell companies" to marketing people in Singapore, Indonesia, Venezuela and Brazil.

Alstom is suspected of paying 6.8 million dollars to help win a 45-million-dollar contract for the Sao Paolo subway and suspected bribes linked to a Brazilian energy plant.

Brazilian authorities announced in May they were investigating Alstom for suspected tax avoidance and money laundering.

I am only a bus driver (a retired one at that) and not up to the wheeling and dealing of billion dollar contracts. Yet something about this one is starting to get my attention. It would be very interesting to be a fly on the wall.

AFP: Switzerland announces arrest in widening Alstom graft probe.

Aug 26, 2008

$28 million for Durham infrastructure

The Ontario government is handing out an additional $1.1 billion in municipal infrastructure to improve roads, bridges, expand public transit and build other municipal projects. Already there are warnings that this will not be repeated next year.

Durham Region will receive $28 million. How much of that will go towards public transit? If the Regional Council sticks to it’s past record you can expect very little will be spent on transit. Council has already diverted all of the region's gas tax funding towards a proposed incinerator in Durham Region. They are still sitting on the $240,000 received from Metrolinx for bike racks on buses.

Aug 23, 2008

Bombardier streetcar deal

AlstomTramIt appears that Bombardier will lose out in any streetcar construction deal to Alstrom Transport. See my post of July 20 Streetcar deal - what is the truth? about the original bids. Alstrom Transit is located in France.

There are several parts to this issue. First the TTC determined that Bombardier's original tender would not meet the requirements. The TTC stated that the cars would de-rail on some of the tighter turns on their streetcar lines. That claim was refuted by Bombardier.

In sales, telling a prospective customer that they are completely wrong rarely results in good customer relations, in this case it led to the entire deal being re-opened.

There is a Ontario 25% Canadian Content requirement. The McGuinty government plan only requires 25% Canadian content, not 25% of the assembly being done in Canada. That means the French company could order parts, which could be made in Southern Ontario and shipped to France for assembly.

With no one in government that is willing to protect Canadian industry and workers, this this three billion dollar deal could end up in France.

There was a time when the Ontario Government would tell the TTC that they had to buy their buses in Ontario from General Motors. A contract worth $3 billion should be spent on jobs in Ontario. We are losing to many  jobs. 

Aug 21, 2008

Third track opened for Scarborough GO users

The third track on the Lakeshore East line between Scarborough GO station and the Don River was completed in April, but the track wasn’t up to full speed until this past weekend.

Greg Ashbee, manager of the rail expansion program for GO Transit, said the track needs to settle in after it is laid, first allowing trains to run at just 25 miles per hour before being bumped to 40 mph. On Friday night it was tested at 60 mph.

The Scarborough station is on St. Clair Avenue west of Midland Avenue.

The third track can be used by express GO and VIA trains to help ease congestion on the other two tracks used for trains making frequent stops on the line.

Following the completion of the third track, it still wasn’t able to make a difference in service because of the speed constraints.

“Now we can see it will start ... to figure into daily operations,” Ashbee said. “It will make our on-time performance much better and allow us to improve our rush-hour service.”
GO Transit, will host an event to mark improvements to the Lakeshore East rail corridor on August 22, 2008 at 10:30 a.m. It will be held at GO's Scarborough Station on St. Clair Avenue East west of Midland Avenue.

Third track opened for Scarborough GO users.

Aug 17, 2008

Kingston Transit bus ad

I am still laughing at this photo of a ad on the rear of a Kingston Transit bus.

This is from a transit service that has been doing so well. Ridership has been going up and in August 2008 Kingston Transit introduce "My Cards", reloadable "smart" cards. Customers only have to tap "My Card" on the fare box when they board Kingston Transit and the system will automatically tally their ride.

Certainly, this bus ad must have been a boo boo.

Aug 15, 2008

Hoile loop

The last few days the the Hoile loop on 222 Audley South DRT bus route issue has been read in the Toronto Star, The News Advertiser and again with a editorial. Since April 3, 2008 David Harrison as been posting on his blog Durham Transit Review about the issue.

"It just comes roaring down the road. We can't open our windows because of the smell and noise," says Sandra Cassidy the Ajax homeowner. This quote in the Toronto Star is right beside a photo that shows a DRT bus going past her. If you are posing for a publicity photo, the noise from the bus and pollution from its exhaust becomes a none issue?

She is also quoted as saying her husband Wayne, a "well-respected" architectural technologist who designed the subdivision, has some clout with local politicians who know him through business and charity events, Cassidy says.

"Not to sound like I'm bragging or anything but we have more (influence) than the average person."

Judging by the quotes, it appears as she might have ticked off Carola Vyhnak, the Toronto Star reporter more than Reka Szekely the News Advertiser reporter. The News Avertiser went much easier on her. I wonder why? Could it be that in Toronto is a transit city?

These articles have resulted with comments on disscussion boards going wild. Some of the comments are not very nice. DRT customer service has also recieved an increase in emails in favour of keeping the Hoile loop.

According to the minutes of the Durham Region Transit Executive Committee the issue will be dealt with at the next regular Durham Region Transit Executive Committee meeting being held on Wednesday, September 3, 2008 commencing at 1:30 p.m. in the Lower Level Boardroom, Regional Headquarters Building, Whitby.

After they finish dealing with this issue the Executive Committee should start planning mid day service on the Audley South route.

Jul 31, 2008

Fallout from Human Rights ruling

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the TTC violated the rights of blind lawyer David Lepofsky by failing to call all stops on surface routes. Since that time transit systems across Ontario have been instructing their drivers to announce all stops.

This has become a complicated project for Mississauga Transit. Drivers were to announce stops in advance by shouting or using a microphone. The employee’s union rejected Mississauga Transit’s plan as being unsafe.

The union filed a complaint using the Health and Safety Act. After an investigation the Ontario Ministry of Labour agreed with the union’s position.

As result of the findings Mississauga Transit has spent $40,000 moving the microphones to position so that driver’s do not have to lean forward to make an announcement. Other changes in policy were also required. It is expected a computerized system of stop announcements will be up and running in two years.

People with vision impairments should be able to use public transit with confidence. We are living in a day and age when progress is being made with accessibility for all. My own personal experince with announcing stops has shown me it can be a challenge for transit drivers to call stops in today’s driving conditions. Over my years of driving I don’t ever recall having a vision impaired person missing thier stop. This was not because I had been announcing the stops but because I tried to take the extra effort to ensure they reach their destination. In fact many times at the TTC I have let blind people off between stops and escorted them to the building they wanted. I know that I was not the only driver making transit user friendly for blind commuters.

Complaints complicate Mississauga stop announcement plan