Jan 27, 2008

Mid-day service is a slipping and sliding

The more I think about the service cuts and changes that have been made the more I think that DRT is going in the wrong direction. Daytime service to the GO train is declining further and certain sections of Ajax and Pickering have very little or no service during the daytime hours.

Regarding the GO train, Midday Route 7 is now among those routes that can no longer be guaranteed to make it to the train on time. This is a major problem for these riders because they cannot take an earlier bus in order to make the train like some other routes can during the day as they only have hourly service. If someone wants a 1:00 p.m. train for example, they have to take a bus that leaves the Pickering Town Centre at 11:25 a.m. in order to guarantee that they get to the 1:00 p.m. train on time. Otherwise if they miss a train, they will have an hour wait for the next one but unfortunately if they take an earlier train, they will be an hour early for whatever it is they are doing.

Other routes that run 30 minute service that are gambles on catching the train are the midday Route 18 (Beach), Route 20 (Westney), both in Ajax, and the midday Route 2A/12 & the midday Route 2/11 in Pickering. Passengers who ride some of these routes are advised to take a bus 30 minutes earlier to ensure they catch their train.

Federal tax credit for public transit

It is that time of year again when we are compelled to file our income tax forms for our 2007 earnings.

If you use public transit — including travel by bus, subway, commuter train and ferry — and buy monthly (or longer duration) passes, you are eligible for the new transit pass tax credit. It may be as simple as saving your expired passes for when you file your next tax return. If family members also use monthly passes to travel by public transit, you can choose to claim the credit for yourself, your spouse or common-law partner and for children under 19 years of age.

Related links:
  • How to claim your Tax Credit for Public Transit Passes
  • Calculate your tax credit
  • Jan 24, 2008

    Durham needs a transit advocate on Council

    I read David Harrison's blog and his comment about Durham Region Council's unwillingness to pay for transit improvements out of property taxes. This is something that needs to be changed. The recent and future cuts to local transit are the direct result of the twenty-eight members of council. When it came to cuts in service, (they call them service adjustments) there is nothing in the Transit Executive Committee minutes of the November 28, 2007 meeting indicating, any councilors spoke up to protected transit users. At the January 9, 2008 meeting transit staff responded to several questions by members of the Committee with respect to customer concerns regarding transit service route adjustments and reductions, specifically R/M10; M3 and M26. The General Manager, Ted Galinis advised that 57 customer concerns have been received to date.

    At the November meeting staff was asked to provide the Committee with information on what percentage of Durham Region’s budget is allocated to transit and what portion of other Region’s budgets are allocated to transit. What a coincidence!
    The Sustainable Urban Development Association
    (SUDA), has done a recent survey of property taxes across the GTA. They found that Durham Region spends just 2.74% per cent of its property taxes on public transit. SUDA found the highest investments in public transit were in Toronto and York Region, where the percentage of property taxes in support of transit operations were 6.61 and 5.26 per cent respectively.

    It's unfortunate but no follow up was forth comming at the January Transit Executive Committee meeting about what potion of Durham Region’s budget is allocated to transit. Was it too embarrassing to bring it up? Maybe they did not have enough time. After all the meeting only lasted twenty-two minutes.

    Regional Chair Roger Anderson calls for more provincial and federal funding for public transit. This study claims that Durham Region is not spending enough on public transit.

    DRT is a very young transit system of only two years old. It does not need any cuts in transit service. In order to have a transit network, top performing routes should be allowed to support other lower performing routes. These routes feed the base network and connect communities. There should have never have been such a drastic cut in service such as the M-26 Duffins mid-day. Perhaps an extension of the flag bus into the area would have worked better. Durham Region Transit truly needs a transit champion on Region Council.

    Jan 22, 2008

    New GO Locomotive

    New GO LocomotiveFive new GO locomotives are making their way to the GO Rail Willowbrook Maintenance Facility in Mimico for commissioning and testing in the next few weeks. Units will be shipped by UP and the CPR. The 600 possibly shipped by CNR.

    Shipments were delayed from September 2007 pending several road tests of the 602. Technical bugs which had plagued the 602 have been reportedly worked-out, and modifications done to the others by the builder. Delivery of the first of the remaining 26 locomotives to begin immediately from Motive Power Industries in Boise, Idaho.

    GO indicated that it will be introducing the first of these new locomotives into regular service sometime in March, operating on the Lakeshore and Milton routes. GO has been testing and working-out several technical bugs on the 602 for the past few months.

    More TTC violence

    The same day that the Toronto Star newspaper released it’s report about TTC drivers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder another driver has been assaulted. This driver was spit on and physical abused by three punks.

    These thugs, attempted to board the southbound bus on Donlands Ave. near Sammon Ave. These guys decided they were special and did not have to pay a fare. The driver asked for fares and in turn, before leaving the bus they spat on the driver.

    The bus proceeded south and within a short time it returned north. The three aggressive young men had now crossed the street and again made an attempt to board the bus. This time these cruel and vicious punks kicked, hit and attempted to drag the driver off the bus. Police showed up and after a pursuit one arrest was made.

    All this happened because these thugs wanted to ride for free on a TTC bus? I think not… this happened because our politicians are not doing enough to combat crime.

    When this driver returns to work he has to face the fact, that he will more than likely meet up these three thugs again. Remember, one was arrested and two got away. The one that was arrested has been or will be released very shortly. It’s no wonder that TTC drivers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Related Links:
  • TTC driver attacked
  • Jan 21, 2008

    TTC drivers, post-traumatic stress disorder

    The following two paragraphs have been reproduced from an lengthy article that appeared in the Toronto Star.

    Their (TTC bus drivers) rate of post-traumatic stress disorder is about four times that of police officers who patrol Toronto streets, and the city's transit drivers report these problems more than any other workers in Ontario, according to provincial data.

    Drivers have suffered a wide range of abuse – shot at with an air rifle, punched in the eye, head-butted in the mouth, gashed with a broken beer bottle, to list just a few examples the Star uncovered.

    This is horrible news. To get that information, The Star had to battle for nearly two years with the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board through the freedom of information act.

    It is not only assaults that contribute to the stress disorder. Suicides and accidents also take their toll. From my own personal experiences, I had many stressful days working for the TTC. Fortunately I never have been assaulted but I knew other drivers that were.

    When I first started working at the TTC, drivers used to sell tickets and make change for the traveling public. We carried large amounts of cash and tickets in plain view of everyone. Most of us felt safe but over a period time the feeling of well being was getting less and less. The exact fare system was implemented in 1975. Toronto was the last large city in North America to switch over to exact fare. This was supposed to reduce the number of assaults on drivers.

    Our politicians have to start doing something more positive. Transit drivers suffering from the same symptoms as survivors of combat is something that should not be happening. The City of Toronto has a mayor that thinks the answer to violence is to ban hand guns. Does he have no thought of banning criminals?

    Placing the divers behind a protective shield only means that the bad guys have won. The law abiding citizens are locked up and the criminals are roaming the streets. Should it not be the other way around? Would it make a difference if we had a system of electing our judges?

    I guess you could say this is my seconded rant of the year.

    Related Link:
  • TTC drivers in crisis
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • How to Relieve Stress
  • Jan 12, 2008

    Go Transit resolves contract dispute

    Good news for Go Transit users. Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1587 and GO Transit's Board of Directors have ratified a new labour contract. The union said that 72 per cent of its members voted to ratify the new contract on Friday. This will avert any strike or lockout. At this time I have very little knowledge of what has been agreed to except that it is a four-year agreement, effective June 1, 2007.

    This has been an interesting round of negotiations and I am hoping that Durham Region and CAW Local 222 were paying attention. This could be a lesson to them that it is possible to settle a transit labour contract without a strike. As far as I am concern both sides were responsible for Durham Region Transit's strike in 2006. When I say both sides I don't mean the employees or the Durham Region Transit's management team. I am talking about the Region Councilors and the CAW union's leaders.

    There is another threat of a strike brewing on the horizon. Next stop Whitby. Presently DRT contracts the Whitby routes out to Trentway Wagar Coach Canada. The employees there are represented by the same CAW Local 222 that represents the rest of the DRT unionized employees. The union has receiving a 89 percent strike mandate from it's members. We will have to wait and see if this small group are able to do a better job at settling a contract.

    Related link: GO and ATU ratify contract

    Jan 11, 2008

    TTC Orion VII

    The newest hybrid incarnation of the Orion VII. Now being purchased by the Toronto Transit Commission.

    Jan 9, 2008

    Customer communications take a back seat

    Apparently the first day back after the Christmas holidays wasn't the best for DRT customers who used to take the Duffins mid day route in Ajax and the Route 10 running from Pickering to Ajax along Highway #2 and back to Pickering.

    At Pickering Go Station there were many Pickering High School students looking for the best way to get to school first thing in the morning. They used to take the Route 10 and get off at Highway # 2 and Church Street and walk up to the school. DRT continues to list on their web site that the students can still take the R-10. ( Pickering High School Sept2007-June2008 ) Now they either have to take a bus to Highway # 2 and transfer to a GO Bus or take the 915 to Ajax and transfer to the R-32 Village Route. Both choices involve transferring and longer times to get to school. Coming home they will have to have DRT tickets or passes if they want to catch the GO bus coming back or else pay the full GO fare rate.

    There were passengers standing at the old Route 10 platform at the Pickering Go Station waiting for the bus to arrive. Of course there is nothing posted at the stop informing customers that the Route 10 service has been discontinued. It would have been helpful if there was such a notice with instructions on alternative routes to take.

    The afternoon mid day Harwood M-24 driver was busy at the Ajax Go Station having to stop at the Duffins platform after leaving the Harwood platform to inform the passengers awaiting the mid day Duffins bus that it no longer existed and explained alternatives, etc. There were so many customers waiting there in the afternoon that the driver ended up almost 25 minutes late and had to get the assistance of another driver to cover the 3:30 run. One would think they might have had an supervisor or another employee covering the Duffins platform for the first little while of this change to assist the customers and keep things moving smoothly.

    It is service like this that drives customers away. It would have been better if notices were posted at all bus stops on routes that have been changed. These notices could have told of the changes and offered alternate routes. It’s bad enough that DRT has to cut service. Adding to this is DRT’s failure to communicate. Not everyone has access to a local newspaper or to the internet.

    One good thing that has come from the service cuts is that the mayors, councillors and DRT staff have been having the phones ring off the hooks regarding the reduced service. People are disgusted.

    DRT bus driver threatened

    Durham Police looking to the public for help in locating a man who threatened an Oshawa Transit Bus Driver. Just before 11:30 p.m. Friday, Authorities say a man boarded a bus at Townline and Nash Road in Oshawa. When the bus came to the end of the route, the suspect allegedly approached the driver, said he was armed with a knife and ordered he be driven to Bowmanville. The suspect is described as black, 5’8, 17 to 22 years old with a medium build.

    The driver was not hurt and made the right decision in complying with the suspect's demands, said police spokesman Dave Selby.

    "We're not calling it a hijacking, but it is an unusual incident," Mr. Selby said.

    My Comment: Not a hijack? Do the police know something they are not revealing?

    Jumbo parking lots for car happy commuters

    One of my pet peeves is about the un fair competition that Go Transit has entered into against Durham Region Transit. They do this by constructing monstrous size parking lots that are built along side the Go Train Stations. These lots have thousands of free parking spaces and this makes it easier for potential DRT customers to bypass local transit and drive their cars directly to the Go Stations. Not only are these lots expensive to construct and maintain, they also add to traffic congestion in the area.

    Below you will find a report by Roger Brook, from Now Magazine about Go Transit’s plans for more and more parking lots. It also hits home about service cuts that are now plaguing DRT. Cuts in service are not just happening in Durham Region.

    The latest fad in North American public transit planning is embracing the car.

    You can spot the symptoms wherever governments shovel cash into flashy regional transit projects surrounded by free parking – leaving the less glamorous local routes that serve the (less well-off) majority of riders reeling from cuts. Sound familiar?

    Driving the trend locally is GO Transit. Eighty-six per cent of its rail passengers arrive at stations by car. And future plans have written off non-motorists altogether.

    The 10-year growth strategy calls for 20,000 new peak rides and 10,000 new parking spots.

    The kicker: because GTA municipalities are mandated to cover a third of GO’s expansion costs, Toronto is forced to fork over cash for sprawl-inducing frills like free GO parking instead of addressing basic TTC needs like more buses and drivers.

    The frills don’t come cheap. At the November Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (now Metrolinx) meeting, GO announced plans to spend $323 million to add up to 12,250 new parking spaces by constructing multi-storey garages at existing stations, expanding bus commuter lots and adding two new drive-in stations.

    GO says parking garages will free up land for offices at suburban stations. But rather than wait decades for GO to create what I’m sure would be lovely corporate centres, why not serve existing centres?

    GO’s auto-focus should come as no surprise, considering that its strategy and policies are set by the Ministry of Transportation, the folks who build Ontario’s highways.

    Michael Wolczyk, GO’s manager of marketing and planning, views highways and public transit as “complementary.” He sees GO filling in wherever highways can’t handle the load, as in downtown Toronto. By serving drivers on part of their trip, public transit keeps the highways flowing.

    The one area where GO makes a genuine effort to serve non-motorists has always been its bus fleet. Unfortunately, that’s about to change.

    GO’s bus rapid transit project proposes to add bus lanes along GTA highways, with most stations predictably located at highway park-and-rides. The estimated costs of initial phases, beginning with the 403 and 407, are more than $1.6 billion. Yes, GO is betting that folks will drive to the bus just as they now drive to the train.

    This concept worries public transit advocate Steve Munro, who wonders how those without cars will access isolated stations along roaring highways.

    “The single biggest problem with both politicians and professional planners is that they think in road/auto terms even when talking about public transit.”

    GO’s return to Barrie on December 17 illustrates the consequences of designing around automobiles.

    Taking its cue from the box stores, GO abandoned the centrally located Allandale Station, to which access by foot and public transit is practical, and relocated to empty fields 5 kilometres south of downtown, where there was plenty of cheap land for parking.

    Why the province won’t permit even a secondary station downtown is puzzling – the city spent years planning a revitalized downtown waterfront, with Allandale Station as a focal point. Barrie even purchased the rail right-of-way and station, which was erected in 1853 and rebuilt in 1905.

    Wolczyk counters that “the [old] station was in the wrong place for the market.”

    Yes, stations like South Barrie’s, with its 480-space commuter lot, will encourage development, but it tends to be gas stations, car lots, drive-through restaurants and low-density subdivisions.

    To serve communities without paving them over for parking lots, GO will need to confront its auto habit, mo

    ving beyond cynical gestures like green paint and sponsoring Car-Free Day.

    But GO’s embrace of the auto may be tough to shake, considering how nicely current provincial public transit policy lines up with key political objectives – like pleasing Ontario’s automotive industry, suburban developers who fund campaigns and well-off commuters in T.O.’s vote-rich suburbs.

    By repositioning public transit to serve drivers, the province is able to satisfy supporters and gain enviro cred, all while building parking lots and widening highways.

    When it comes to GO, it’s not easy being green.

    Related links:

  • NOW Magazine | News
  • Parking lot plan drives councillor mad
  • Jan 7, 2008

    From a blind person's point of view

    I received the following from Emily Green as a comment about a posting (Bus Drivers Must Call Out Stops After Lawsuit) on my blog. Rather than see it get buried in the comment section I decided to do it as a regular post.

    Hi, Andy!

    Thanks for posting this, I'm Legally blind myself, (I have the National CNIB card and I use a white cane, though I do have SOME usable vision) I don't agree with how David Lepofsky went about this, there is NO need to SUE and Transit agency, This whole thing has created animosity between drivers and the blind community, I am of a scant few, that have grown up around Transit Drivers, (HSR in Hamilton) and count many drivers as good close friends. I live in the Queensway division territory here in Toronto, I moved here for many reasons but the major one was the already accessible features of the TTC and the fact that at least here in Toronto there are ways to live independently.. I've studied how a driver is supposed to call a stop, I feel that using the handset takes a hand off the wheel and concentration off both the road and the bus as well as the Drivers surroundings, I've spoken with the H&S rep for Queensway as well as numerous drivers and have achieved this opinion, The Automated System is in nearly all the buses now (January 7th 2008) and is VERY helpful, but still has it's flaws and missed stop calls and too much volume changes on different buses, some stops are VERY loud and some you can barely hear. I miss the drivers quietly asking me when I'm getting on, "what stop would you like off at?" I come from a city where NO stops are called and blind people are left up to our own devices usually. So to come to Toronto and find drivers asking me where I'd like off felt a bit strange at first, now it feels nice.

    Emily Green



    Emily thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment on my blog. When I worked for the TTC, it was common to have vision impaired people riding my bus almost every day. The numbers were greater, in Toronto over Durham Region. I always found it amazing how they were able to get around. The TTC drivers were always more than willing to assist them when needed.

    Many times I used to drive Specialized Service bus (Handi-Trans) in Durham. There was a lady (completely blind) that used to ride the bus and she astonished me how she handled her disability. She was so good at it that some of the drivers were fooled into think that she did not need assistance.

    I found out first hand of the problems that people have with little or no vision. A few years back my retina became detached. Fortunately it was caught in time. With surgery it was re-attached. During the healing period my vision was not good. I soon learned to use things that I had taken for granted before. Things such as the yellow markings on the roadside curbs. They warned me that I should lift my feet to get over the curve. My vision is now back to normal thanks to a special lens in my eyeglasses.

    Jan 5, 2008

    Go strike averted??

    There has been another tentative agreement in the labour negotiations between the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1587 and GO Transit. This means there will be no strike on Monday January 7.

    Just keep in mind, that we got into this mess because of a previous tentative agreement that had been voted down by the members of Local 1587. The union executive had recomened acceptance but the membership said no. This latest agreement must still be ratified by GO Transit's board of directors and the union membership by a vote.

    Related links:

    Jan 2, 2008

    My first rant of 2008

    It really bother me when I see an issue of road safety taken very lightly. This one, concerns an article in the Metroland Media Group Ltd better known in Pickering as The News Advertiser.

    The City of Pickering has purchased two LED solar powered radar boards. The follow is a quote from Mayor Dave Ryan that explains what the signs will do. “What this board does is it doesn’t tell you how fast you’re going, it tells you you’re going too fast and that the speed limit is 50 kilometers per hour,” said Mayor Ryan.

    Another quote… “This is an area known for speed and, unfortunately, we’ve had a number of accidents,” said Mayor Dave Ryan.

    The purpose of these signs? The City is hoping to see a decrease in the accident rate along the stretch of road, said the mayor. If it does, council will consider purchasing radar boards for other areas.

    After admitting that…

    1. Drivers are going too fast

    2. The area area is known for speed

    3. There has been a number of accidents…

    This is the best that our council will do? I’m sure that the speeders and the careless drivers will be happy know that they will still be able to get away with it. A sign that tells them that they are bad boys and girls. This is nothing more than salad dressing. Underneath the dressing is the same old ineffective way of dealing with traffic violations.

    The police keep on saying that drivers don’t seem to be getting the message but our councillors still just want to send a message. A solar powered message at that!

    A large portion of Durham Region’s budget goes towards policing. When it comes to traffic enforcement we are not getting a bang for our bucks. More police officers are needed for real enforcement. I for one am fed up with having to drive on roads with drivers that… 

    1. Drive past a stopped school bus with it’s red flashing lights on.

    2. Running red lights

    3. Refusing to stop at stop signs.

    4. Speeding at high rates.

    5. Racing to cut off other drivers.

    I could go on but if you are a driver you get the point. We have too many people dying on our roads. It’s time for action not solar powered radar signs.

    I think right about now, you are asking, what has this has to do with transit? Safe roads and transit are good combination. This is important to bus drivers, especially when they have to spend eight hours or more driving with some of these losers that are behind the wheel. Transit drivers are highly trained in defensive driving. This is when you watch out for the other guy.

    There does not have to be a collision to have accident. Just being cut off and having to slam the brakes on to avoid one, can cause passenger injuries on a bus. The bus driver also, is not exempt from injuries. When you are out there on the roadways day after day you soon realize that something more than solar signs are needed. Let’s get to work and get these extremely unpleasant and inferior drivers off the road.