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.