Jun 28, 2008

Fuel costs don't bother DRT

The following appeared in the Metroland east newspaper of June 12, 2008.

DRT is doing what it can to reduce fuel consumption, including reducing idling times and keeping vehicles well-maintained, says Neil Killens, DRT deputy general manager of support services.

The latest two month board period for drivers shows that DRT is not too concerned about the rising fuels costs. It would appear that they are trying something new this time around by having drivers work in both Ajax and Pickering during some of the straight eight hour shifts. There are about ten crews that fit the following scenarios.

1. The drivers start out their day at the Ajax yard and some travel to Pickering to work the first half of their shift. After their lunch break, travel back to Ajax to complete the second half of their shift.

2. The drivers start out their day at the Ajax yard and some stay in Ajax to work the first half of their shift. Then again after lunch break travel to Pickering to complete the second half of their shift. Then these drivers, at the end of their shift have to travel back to Ajax in order to return their buses to the yard.

Of course, what happens is buses are passing each other running back and forth between Ajax and Pickering empty and not only are they burning up fuel while doing this, the drivers are being paid for the pleasure.

One excuse that the drivers have heard is that apparently the new computer program can't tell the difference between Ajax and Pickering. That seems like a gullible answer to me. My own personal experience suggest that the information needed by the software is incomplete. Testing before hand would have been useful.

Jun 27, 2008

Summer of the car?

 At DRT, in order of seniority, drivers pick their work every two months. This is common in public transit and gives management an opportunity to change schedules, move and plan their manpower needs. This is know as a "sign up" and the work that the drivers pick are known as "crews". These crews, usually include work that are on a stand by. Transit needs standby drivers because, if a bus does not enter service, the system is considered broken. In transit the buses must go on time. It's not like some industries when an employee will double up jobs.

It would appear that DRT has found a way to get customers off of the bus and back into their cars. It used to be that in Durham west there were always two or three standby drivers in the morning and one in the afternoon, to ensure that if there was an unexpected problem with a driver not coming to work, a sickness, etc., someone could cover the run that was in trouble. Well, for the latest sign up for July and August, DRT has cut the standby crews down to one. And to compound the problem, the crew is only available for about the first forty minutes rather than the couple of hours they used to be available. The standby in the morning has been combined with a schedule run and the driver has to leave to start runs shortly before six o'clock.

On Wednesday, June 25, there was a vacancy created by a driver unable to come to work. The standby driver took over the crew but by the time the on duty supervisor could get someone to come in to cover the now open runs on the standby crew, the first two cycles were missed. The second cycle was actually started 15 minutes late and customers were wandering down to highway 2 looking for buses to take to the GO Train or other destinations. These gaps in service become more noticeable when the headways are thirty minutes, such as DRT operates in the rush hour.

Unless DRT is willing to rectify the situation, this is obviously going to continue to happen (as many drivers predicted when they saw the cutback) and will undoubtedly have many customers looking for other ways to get to work.

Jun 25, 2008

Minister To Make Important Transit Announcement

Transportation Minister Jim Bradley, Mississauga-Streetsville MPP Bob Delaney, GO Chairman Peter Smith and Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion will make an announcement affecting transit projects across Ontario.
Date: Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Time: 2 p.m.

Location: GO Transit Streetsville Station
45 Thomas Street, Mississauga

- From QEW or Highway 403, exit at Erin Mills Parkway
- Proceed north on Erin Mills Parkway to Thomas Street
- Turn right onto Thomas Street
- Streetsville Station is at the corner of Thomas and
Mississauga Road in Streetsville

You read it right. The Transportation Minister Jim Bradley, making an announcement affecting transit with directions how to get there by car. Hello! Should there also not be directions via public transit?

CNW Group | ONTARIO MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION | Media Advisory - Minister To Make Important Transit Announcement.

Jun 24, 2008

Nova public transit bus assembly

Here's an interesting video on how Nova buses are constructed. There is no fast moving assembly line... just one bus at a time.

Jun 23, 2008

Transit tax

London, Ontario has just changed the property tax assessment for transit. If you own property within 450 metres of a transit route, you get a special assessment. Own property greater than that distance and you pay no transit tax.

The purpose of the change was twofold, said Jim Logan, the city's manager of revenue and tax collection.

The new system is fairer since its based on access to service and will allow more properties to be added to the transit tax roll as bus service expands in the annexed areas.

"As service expands, so will revenue," Logan said.

Durham Region points out on their web page, that the vast majority of transit tax is raised through a property tax rate that varies by local area municipality based on both the service level and the weighted assessment of the particular municipality.

Speaking of taxes, these people over at Metrolinx are beginning to scare me with their tax proposals. Metrolinx's mandate claims "To champion, develop and implement an integrated transportation system for our region that enhances prosperity, sustainability and quality of life." They are beginning to look more like tax collectors from medieval times. Metrolinx, is considering slapping motorists with additional gas taxes and road tolls. They are also looking at sales tax and a parking surcharge on non-residential parking spots. Crippling residents with crushing taxes is not the answer.

Do they want to propel us back to a medieval state of affairs, where we only leave our local area if we really must, and have to pay a big fat toll to a sheriff for the privilege of doing so.

These are only some of new taxes these people are proposing. I hope they remember, you can't get something from someone who doesn't have it.

London Free Press - Local News- Transit tax baffles public.

Jun 16, 2008

Platinum thieves strip cars in GO lots

This a a continuation of my posy of May 31, 2008.

Never underestimate the resourcefulness of a thief.

We get a lot of email complaints from readers, many of the ho-hum variety, but some problems jump right off the computer screen.

Alex Zlatanovic wrote to say his Jeep Grand Cherokee was among a handful of vehicles that had the catalytic converters cut out of their exhaust systems June 4 in a parking lot at GO Transit's Rouge Hill station, at Lawrence Ave. and Pt. Union Rd.

Catalytic converters sit between two lengths of exhaust pipe that run beneath cars and trucks. Their purpose is to reduce harmful emissions.

Lots of stuff gets pilfered every day from vehicles – but catalytic converters?

Stealing one would involve crawling under the vehicle with a cutting tool or welding torch and cutting the exhaust pipe in two places – where it enters and exits the converter. The miscreant would be hard to spot in a spacious lot, but it's still a brazen crime.

Zlatanovic drives a Jeep model, and said at least two others were among vehicles targeted that day at Rouge Hill.

The Jeeps were towed to a Chrysler dealer where the converters were replaced with cheaper, aftermarket equivalents at a cost of more than $1,000, he said, adding his insurance covered all but the $300 deductible.

He said the owners were quoted a price of about $1,800 to install a genuine Jeep catalytic converter.

While talking to GO security officers, Zlatanovic was told about 30 catalytic converter thefts had occurred in the previous two weeks at GO stations between Rouge Hill and Oshawa.

The GO officers said a converter contains small amounts of platinum that can be extracted and sold to an auto parts recycler for upwards of $150.

We checked this with a service adviser at Marvin Starr Pontiac Buick and a police sergeant at 43 Division. Both confirmed catalytic converters have acquired a hefty black market value as platinum soared beyond $2,000 (U.S.) an ounce in commodity trading.

Zlatanovic is bothered by the lack of surveillance at GO lots. He said his vehicle was stolen from Rouge Hill a few years ago and later turned up later at GO's Pickering station, "looking much worse for the wear."

He told us, "I am getting fed up with GO's inability or refusal to put up some real monitoring, instead of just signs stating TV surveillance may or may not be present."

STATUS: Kathy Briscoe, who's in charge of GO security, disputed whether 30 vehicles had been victimized in GO lots, saying only 12 converters got stolen at stations between Rouge Hill and Oshawa, from May 9 to June 4.

She wanted to know the names of the security officers who spoke to Zlatanovic, to make sure they didn't "misinform" anyone else.

Ed Shea, who deals with media for GO, said 50,000 vehicles park daily in GO lots while, on average, only 350 cases a year of vehicle theft or vandalism occur. "Overall, our parking lots are quite safe" – and do have video monitoring, he said.

There is a flaw in Go's stats. If your vehicle is damaged, broken into or stolen from a Go Transit's lot it has to be reported to Go directly for them to know about it. If you report it to the police only they might not forward the info onto Go.

TheStar.com | GTA | Platinum thieves strip cars in GO lots.

Jun 15, 2008

Metrolinx To Partner With Municipalities

Thanks to the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), in the past, there has been a joint purchase of new buses for municipalities. Originally, this involved six municipalities: Barrie, Burlington, Durham Region, London, Windsor and York Region. It was later increased to eight municipalities. They saved tax payers on average of $15,000 per bus.

Metrolinx, will be taking over the program for 2008. The procurement started by the MTO, now involves seven transit systems; Burlington, York Region, Durham Region, Barrie, London, North Bay, and Orillia. A further eight Transit systems have expressed interest in joining.

The bids include...

1. Conventional 9-metre (30ft) low-floor urban diesel transit bus(es);
2. Conventional 12-metre (40ft) low-floor urban diesel transit bus(es); and
3. 12-metre (40ft) low-floor urban diesel-electric hybrid transit bus(es).

The bid submission deadline will be, 11:00:00 a.m. June 20, 2008 Toronto time. Read more here.

Jun 9, 2008

New beta TTC web page

The TTC has a new web page in beta. The site is still under development. This is the first major change the TTC has made to their web page since it started in 1998.

The new site is a great improvement. Once it finished it will have a greater extent and range of information available for transit users.

Jun 1, 2008

Commuter challenge launched

Thousands of Canadians and companies from coast to coast will be leaving their cars at home for a week this June as the 18th annual National Commuter Challenge kicks off with more Canadians and companies expected to participate than ever before.

The 2008 National Commuter Challenge takes place during Environment Week, June 1-7. According to a written statement, the challenge is a friendly workplace competition to promote environmentally sustainable and active means of transportation such as walking, jogging, biking, inline skating, transit, carpooling and telecommuting. Last year, approximately 39,000 Canadians in more than 170 communities and 1,700 workplaces participated.

Communities and companies with the highest participation rates in the National Commuter Challenge win recognition in various categories. Last year, Calgary won in the category of Cities with a Population Over One Million and Mountain Equipment Co-op won in the National Workplace category. Prizes will be distributed to individuals as well.

Commuter challenge launched.