Dec 31, 2009

Is the TTC worth $3 a fare?

"Happy New Year from the Toronto Transit Commission: Please pay up.

On Sunday, TTC cash fares go up 25¢, or 9%, to $3, and a Metropass jumps from $109 to $121, a 10% increase.

These are hefty hikes. Is the TTC worth the extra money? The short answer is no. I visited New York over Christmas, where the subway costs $2.25 (US), and takes you all over town, 24 hours a day. By comparison, we are getting hosed.

Transit users here probably wouldn’t begrudge the TTC a steep fare hike if we saw improvements. But six years after David Miller won re-election as the “transit mayor,” turning down the mayor’s traditional seat on the Police Services Board to take a seat on the TTC, in what way is the transit system better?

The other night, after the city hall press gallery’s Christmas party at the Hard Rock Café, I waited at midnight for the 505 Dundas streetcar westbound with Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone and John Barber of The Globe and Mail. Mr. Barber flagged a cab. That left two of us. Mr. Pantalone told me he is running for mayor. We waited some more.

“People used to love and respect the TTC,” said Mr. Pantalone. “What happened?”

“Back then,” I replied, “the TTC used to show up on a regular basis.”

In fairness, the streetcar soon rumbled up, and we got home safe. And isn’t it nice to have a deputy mayor who takes transit after midnight?

Still, we just don’t have the transit system we once did. Compared with 1980, the year Mr. Pantalone first won election to City Council, today’s TTC is dirtier, more crowded and less reliable. Major improvement appears a long distance away.

“You’re packed in like a sardine and you’re paying more for all of this,” says Patricia Sinclair, who lives on Finch Avenue East in Scarborough and does not drive. Ms. Sinclair has launched a group called “Save our Sheppard” to protest the new streetcar right-of-way on Sheppard Avenue East, the first bit of the Transit City plan.

“We want them to go back to their original plan for a subway on Sheppard East,” she says. “The Spadina [light rail] line goes 12 km an hour. Is that rapid transit? We’re being hoodwinked.”

There is some good news for transit users in Toronto. Yesterday, I tested the new streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair Avenue West, from Dufferin Street to Yonge Street. The streetcar came promptly, filled quickly, and ran smoothly.

In another spot of good news, university students -- who apparently lobbied the TTC pretty hard -- will see the price of their transit pass actually drop next year, from $109 right now to $99 in September, 2010.

But overall, the TTC predicts that the fare hike will discourage use. A record 473 million people will have ridden the TTC by midnight tonight (up from 467 million in 2008). Once the fare goes up, in 2010 just 462 million people will ride the Rocket, the TTC estimates. The fare hike will generate $36-million. The TTC also says its costs will rise 6% in 2010, but it will provide no new service.

Am I the only guy who finds it wacky that, even as our mayor professes to fight global warming, we expect transit use to drop?

Over the long term, the TTC predicts that subway and light rail expansion (on Sheppard, Finch and Eglinton avenues, Jane St. and Don Mills Road) will bring in an additional 175 million riders by 2021. If this does come to pass, Mr. Miller will indeed look like a hero. But I would like a better transit system before then.

The other day Councillor Karen Stintz (Eglinton-Lawrence) described being stuck on the Yonge train in a tunnel southbound for 20 minutes, with no one explaining the delay. She decided then to run again for council, because, “we have to fix this.”

Transit users are looking forward to very specific proposals from all the mayoral candidates as to how they will improve public transit within their term of office."

Is the TTC worth $3 a fare? - Posted Toronto

Fleet safety book offers comprehensive guidance

A new comprehensive book on motor fleet safety — a textbook for everyday use in truck and bus transportation—is now available through the Maryland Motor Truck Association (MMTA).

This text, Fleet Safety: Standards and Practices – Safe Fleet Operations for the 21st Century by Jack Burkert, offers both an overview and the “How to” of motor fleet safety, with over 300 pages of easy-to-read standards, solutions and applications.

Included are case studies direct from the author’s 30-plus years of safety management experience, guidance on best management practices, driver training content, accident investigation and prevention, regulatory compliance, insurance and claims, and emerging standards of performance across the loss control and risk management spectrum.

Copies are available through MMTA for only $49.95. Interested companies can view the Table of Contents, read excerpts, or complete an order form online at

The book has been adopted as the official text of the certification and safety education program of the Texas Motor Transport Association and is being distributed to clients and policy holders by a major commercial vehicle insurer.

Burkert has been deeply involved in safety activities since 1975, teaching drivers, managers and executives the benefits and techniques of fleet safety. Testimony before Congress, lecturing at hundreds of seminars, making presentations on fleet safety at over 500 conventions, as well as offering much sought after expert testimony in litigation matters, he has authored multiple books on fleet safety for trucking and passenger transport.

Fleet safety book offers comprehensive guidance - News - METRO Magazine.

Dec 24, 2009

Dec 22, 2009

TTC seeks costly no-strike deal

The Toronto Transit Commission wants to negotiate a no-strike agreement with construction unions working on major streetcar line expansions across the city, to ensure labour peace leading up to and beyond the 2015 Pan Am games.

But some councillors fear such a deal will cost taxpayers millions, possibly tens of millions more, in exchange for unionized trade workers giving up the right to strike.

Transit City, a $10 billion program and key project of Mayor David Miller, is expected to transform the city over the next 10 years with 120 kilometres of new streetcar lines. The games have added an unprecedented urgency for the TTC to get at least the Scarborough-Malvern line built on time.

Toronto Councillor Doug Holyday said if costs on such a big project went up by only 1 per cent, it would mean an extra $100 million.

"Unions aren't known for giving away things for nothing," Holyday said. "And the right to strike is the power behind the union to a great extent. I'm sure if they're giving up the right to strike, there's something in it for them."

However, Councillor Adam Giambrone, the TTC's chair, insisted that fears of increased costs are unfounded.

"We need the work to be done on time and on budget, and the agreement ensures there will be no delays or extra costs due to labour shortages or disruptions," he said in an email. "The building trades, in exchange, get guaranteed work that allows them to invest training and apprenticeships for young people in Toronto neighbourhoods."

A no-strike deal became possible after changes to construction legislation in Ontario, said Jay Peterson, business manager of the Central Ontario Building Trades, which represents about 70,000 construction workers.

The next round of bargaining for new contracts begins next year, Peterson said.

"Potentially, any union could go on strike and upset Transit City," he said. "That would be terrible for our city and our workers. So we're looking to give away our right to strike so that we can count on seamless construction no matter what happens next year."

During the last bargaining round three years ago, labourers went out on strike, he said.

"Labourers are very important in the application of concrete, working hand-in-hand with the carpenters. So if we had one union like that go out, everything may grind to a halt in a couple of weeks. That would be terrible."

Councillor Peter Milczyn, a TTC commissioner who voted against negotiating such a deal with the Central Ontario Building Trades, said such a major initiative should have included background on whether other no-strike deals have led to higher costs.

Milczyn objected to the handling of the issue, in the form of a one-page memo from Giambrone that was approved in a 7-2 vote with no discussion.

"This came out of left field," he said. "This is not a good process to follow."

Holyday echoed Milczyn's concern that more information is needed on how so-called Project Labour Agreements have worked.

"There should be quite a bit of background information on something this big, and what the effect has been on the overall costs where it's been used before. Maybe it's good. But to go into this blind would be a mistake."

The provincial government has committed to fund the first three streetcar lines to be built under the Transit City program.

A spokesperson for Transportation Minister Jim Bradley referred questions to Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency.

Metrolinx said it is aware of the issue but didn't know the TTC would be dealing with it Wednesday. The transit body has yet to come up with a position on it.

The TTC didn't have a no-strike clause during construction of the $1 billion Sheppard subway line. A three-week strike in 1998 by operating engineers and heavy equipment operators brought work on the line to a standstill.

TTC seeks costly no-strike deal -

Dec 19, 2009

Raleigh Avenue bus garage debate heads back to Oshawa council

The debate over the transfer of an Oshawa bus garage to Durham Region Transit got heated at Regional Council on Wednesday, but the issue was ultimately punted back to the City of Oshawa.

When the Region took over public transit in 2005, part of the deal was that all transit assets, including buses, garages and more, would be transferred to the Region.

Ajax and Pickering transferred transit buildings or leased them to the Region in 2008. However, the transfer of a bus garage on Raleigh Avenue in Oshawa is still outstanding. The issue now has a sense of urgency because the facility is slated for a multi-million dollar upgrade with the creation of Hwy. 2 rapid transit bus system using provincial funding.

"We need to get the garage in the name of the Region either in a lease or transferred to us or we potentially lose the funding for the bus rapid transit," said senior solicitor for the Region, Matthew Gaskell.

That's why Region and Oshawa staffs recommended a lease agreement where the garage would be leased to the Region by the City for $1; the Ajax Transit ticket terminal was also leased for that amount. But Oshawa councillors balked, instead pairing the issue with the debate over $8.6 million in unfunded liabilities, including employee pensions and benefits, carried over from the Oshawa Transit Commission.

On Nov. 23, they passed a motion that said if Durham dropped the request for $8.6 million, it could rent the depot to the Region for 25 years at a cost of $1. The other option Oshawa considered was leasing the depot for $440,000 a year for five years, with options to renew the lease.

After a heated debate, primarily among Oshawa councillors and the mayor, Regional councillors voted on Wednesday to send the issue back to Oshawa council and once again request the $1 lease. If Oshawa doesn't agree, Regional Chairman Roger Anderson said DRT will start looking for a new site for the garage because it won't risk losing the provincial dollars.

Coun. Brian Nicholson, one of the Oshawa councillors who voted to pair the two issues together, accused the Region of using threats and intimidation.

"I don't believe that's the way to treat a member municipality," he said.

However, Oshawa Mayor John Gray disagreed. He was opposed to pairing the unfunded liabilities issue with the issue of the lease and said the City's solicitor advised council against doing that. However, he was outvoted.

"If the Region abandons the site, we would continue to have ownership and we would end up with a derelict building on a brownfield," he said.

Brownfield land is land formerly used for industrial purposes, requiring environmental clean up before it can be redeveloped.

As the mayor spoke during the council meeting, Coun. John Neal shouted him down.

"I'm asking for the mayor to stand up for Oshawa," he said.

This earned a rebuke from Mr. Anderson.

"Coun. Neal, if you want to fight with your mayor at home, you can do your fighting with your mayor at home."

Ultimately, councillors voted 23-4 in favour of punting the issue back to Oshawa council, with Coun. Neal, Coun. Nicholson, Coun. April Cullen and Coun. Robert Lutczyk voting against it. Mayor Gray indicated he's been meeting with local councillors and he's hoping they'll accept the deal this time around.
As for the issues of the unfunded liabilities, the Region wants the issue to go to arbitration and so far Oshawa is refusing.
Mayor Gray argues that Oshawa shouldn't have to pay because the municipality contributed a slew of new buses while other municipalities contributed aging buses or none at all, in the case of Whitby, because its transit was contracted to a private company.

But Mr. Anderson points out that in 2008, Pickering agreed to pay the unfunded liabilities for its former transit workers. However, that $210,700 tab was far smaller than Oshawa's.

"Obviously you don't get $9 million in unfunded liabilities by paying your bills," he said. | Raleigh Avenue bus garage debate heads back to Oshawa council.

Dec 16, 2009

London Transit deal ratified

The London Transit strike officially ended Monday (Dec. 14), after a tentative deal between the London Transit Commission (LTC) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 741 was ratified, but LTC officials say it will be another three weeks before full bus service is restored.

The deal that sees an end to what was close to a month-long shut down of public transportation in the city of London, Ontario, sees a total compensation increase of 13.2 per cent – wage and benefits – for unionized workers with the LTC. The agreement covers a 45 month period, LTC officials said.

ATU Local 741 officials said the deal was given a 72 per cent affirmative nod from its members.

"While many issues remain to be addressed, from violence in the workplace and understaffing, to the city's chronic under funding of public transportation in London, sufficient progress has been made to get the buses back on the road," said an officials ATU Local 741 statement.

Work will begin preparing the equipment for service Tuesday morning (Dec. 15) with some form of limited service possibly resuming as soon as the weekend.

Transit officials have asked for the public's "patience and understanding" as full service is restored on a progressive basis.

While efforts are being made to restore transit service, there will be a four- to five-day delay before any buses are back on the road, with full service not anticipated for approximately three weeks, LTC officials said.

"The delay provides the necessary time to complete required servicing and inspection of a sufficient number of buses to start-up and maintain a limited (modified) service. It is expected that the return to full service will take approximately three weeks," LTC officials said.

Updates regarding the details surrounding the return of bus service will be made available through public service announcements and on the LTC website (see link below).

For those with monthly, weekday and semester bus passes, a refund cheque will be issued for the period of no service or a credit will be applied towards the purchase of a January, 2010 bus pass, but individuals must present their November pass. Credit applying to the tuition-based bus pass program will be provided as is detailed in the contracts with respective student councils.

Transit deal ratified; return to full service in 3 weeks -

Dec 13, 2009

Go Train Delays

This is one more dumb issue that could cause a major delay to commuter train service.

Be sure to vist my Photoblog - Eye Candy.

Oshawa transit depot option 'rejected'

DURHAM -- Thanks, but no thanks.

That's Durham Region's response to the offer from Oshawa to settle a dispute over a bus garage owned by the City.

What's at stake is $82.3 million in provincial money the Region could use to build a bus rapid transit system along Hwy. 2.

Durham and Oshawa have been haggling over the transfer of a bus garage on Raleigh Avenue since the Region took over operation of transit services in 2006. At the heart of the issue is 'unfunded liabilities.'

The Region wants Oshawa to cough up $8.6 million to cover things such as employee pensions and benefits. The City says those costs are now the Region's responsibility.

Oshawa council, on Nov. 23, passed a motion that said if Durham dropped the request for $8.6 million, it could rent the depot for 25 years at a cost of $1. The other option Oshawa considered was leasing the depot for $440,000 a year for five years, with options to renew the lease.

Regional council's finance committee on Wednesday approved a staff recommendation that said the Oshawa offer should be "rejected."

Regional Chairman Roger Anderson has previously said, "We're adamant that they have to give the land to us for $1, we will not rent that property at market value. (Regional) staff have been instructed to start looking for sites."

On Wednesday, Mr. Anderson stated, "If Oshawa doesn't see the rationale of signing a lease for $1 a year, we as a group will have to spend money to buy land and build a garage. If we don't, we don't get the $83 million."

For the bus rapid transit system, the Region needs to have depots in both the east and west end of Durham. A lease has already been reached with Ajax for land, at $1 for 25 years.

Under the rules set out by the Province, the Region either has to own or have a lease agreement in place for all facilities, or it doesn't get any money.

If Oshawa holds firm, the Region would "have to invest some money in (land) acquisition. We can't lose that $83 million," Mr. Anderson said.

Buying land in the Bowmanville area would cost somewhere between $30,000 to $50,000 an acre, Mr. Anderson stated.

It would cost about $25 million to upgrade and expand the two depots.

Oshawa Councillor Joe Kolodzie proposed the option with "nominal rent for 25 years" provided the Region drops its claim to unfunded liabilities.

"I don't support it. I hope the committee defeats it and moves forward," Coun. Kolodzie said. "It's not my position, it's the Oshawa position and I have to bring it forward."

Ajax Mayor Steve Parish said a compromise could be reached, with the City agreeing to the transfer of the Raleigh Avenue garage to the Region, and the matter of the unfunded liability referred to binding arbitration.

"If that's put forward to Oshawa, as a sensible middle ground, no one loses face," he said, adding the alternative is "protracted litigation."

The Oshawa position is "wonderful and makes great press, but it doesn't get the Region the premises. We'll all look like asses and we'll be asses."

The matter now goes to Regional Council on Dec. 16. | Oshawa transit depot option 'rejected'.

Dec 12, 2009

No fare increase for Durham Region Transit

DURHAM -- Transit users won't have to dig deeper in 2010.

A recommendation going to Regional Council on Dec. 16 calls for almost all transit fares to remain the same. A single adult fare would remain at $2.90.

The only fare increase proposed is the U-Pass for UOIT and Durham College students. It would rise to $63 per semester from the current $60 a semester. The increase would start on Sept. 1 of next year.

During a meeting of Regional Council's finance committee, Jim Clapp, the Region's finance commissioner, said, "As the finance guy, keeping the fares to same, that was a tough, tough thing to do. I agree with Ted (Galinis, general manager of Durham Region Transit), this is not the year to increase fares. Perhaps it's wise to keep them where they are."

DRT is planning no service enhancements in 2010, Mr. Galinis told the finance committee.

The only change being proposed is a summer U-Pass program in 2010. It's a four-month pilot project and the pass would cost $80 for each student. | No fare increase for Durham Region Transit.

Dec 4, 2009

Calgary Transit orders 40 Nova LFS buses

Nova Bus announced it has been awarded a two-year contract by Calgary Transit with the possibility of extending the agreement for a further three years. In the first year, 40 Nova LFS buses are scheduled for delivery.

With a fleet of almost 1,000 buses providing 95.3 million rides annually on 168 routes, Calgary Transit is a significant new partner for Nova Bus and will help consolidate the company's growing presence in Western Canada.

The vehicles will be used to both grow their fleet and replace aging, less fuel-efficient buses, enabling Calgary Transit to provide enhanced service to the community.

Oshawa six must allow transit depot to be expanded

Oshawa councillors taking a hard stand on a new bus depot in the city should reverse their position to save a project very much needed in the municipality that motovates the Region.

At stake is the spending of millions of dollars in a city hit hard by the recent recession. Metrolinx, the body appointed by the Province to oversee massive transit improvements in the Greater Toronto Area, has offered Durham Region $83 million to get moving on a rapid bus transit project along Hwy. 2. As part of that plan, the Region wants to build two bus depots in the east and west ends of the region at a cost of $25 million each.

In the west, Ajax has offered up land for the depot at a price of $1 per year. For that amount, they will see new construction and new jobs in the town.

The story is a little different in Oshawa. The Region wants the bus depot to be expanded at the current location on Raleigh Avenue but six of the City's 11 councillors are asking for a little more rent than Ajax requested. Oshawa councillors want $440,000 a year in rent, a figure the Region is balking at. Regional Chairman Roger Anderson has made it very clear that if the rent isn't $1, it will look in either Whitby or Clarington for the depot.

The six councillors are using the depot as a carrot to persuade the Region to back off an $8.6-million legal claim against Oshawa to help pay for employee pensions and benefits for transit employees. In 2006, transit systems were uploaded to the Region and the Region claims the $8.6 million is owed. The City counters the Region is now responsible for transit and it should bear those costs.

That fight will likely end up in the courts and should not in any way derail the expansion of the new depot, which will bring $115,000 a year in tax revenue, new construction jobs and new employees to operate the facility.

Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, who is also vice-chairman of Durham Transit, is the voice of reason in all this when he notes it would be a real blow to Oshawa if it lost this deal because of a conflict over the $8.6 million.

He's right. Unless Oshawa council acts now, the city could lose this long-term project. The repercussions could affect the entire Region by delaying the rapid transit project if a site other than the existing Oshawa depot has to be found. Rezoning requests and public meetings could drag the project on for some time.

We urge Oshawa council to rethink its position and make it clear to the Region the two issues can be dealt with separately for the greater good of the community at large. | Oshawa six must allow transit depot to be expanded.

Dec 3, 2009

Oshawa stands to lose $25-million transit depot

An Oshawa councillor says squabbling between the City of Oshawa and the Region of Durham could see Oshawa lose out on a $25-million transit depot and the jobs and tax revenue that would come with it.

Oshawa Regional Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, who is also vice-chairman of Durham Region Transit, says the project could go to Whitby or Clarington, if Oshawa doesn't extend an olive branch.

"It would be a real blow to Oshawa if we lost this deal because people are being foolish," he said. "Other municipalities seem to be able to do things by the book, why can't Oshawa?"

At the root of the issue is a disagreement between Oshawa and the Region, over "unfunded liabilities."

In 2006, municipalities across Durham uploaded their individual public transit systems to the Region, creating an amalgamated system. Now, the Region is looking to Oshawa for $8.6 million to cover things such as employee pensions and benefits -- costs, the City argues, that should be the Region's responsibility now.

At the same time, the Region received an $82.3-million provincial grant as part of the Hwy. 2 bus rapid transit project.

The plan is to spend $25 million of that updating and expanding the existing transit depot on Raleigh Avenue in south Oshawa and build another depot in Ajax.

Ajax has already agreed to lease land to the Region for $1 a year and Oshawa was expected to follow suit -- until the debate over liabilities started. Now, the City is using that as leverage.

At its Nov. 9 meeting, Oshawa council passed a motion from Councillor Brian Nicholson that gives the Region an ultimatum: drop the fight for the $8.6 million and pay $1 a year to lease the depot property, or else pay market value for the land, about $440,000 a year or $10 million over the 25-year lease term.

Coun. Nicholson said his motion lets everyone walk away happy.

"If you want $10 million in free rent, give up your $9 million claim. Or, pursue your claim and pay for the property, I think that's fair," he said. "If they expect us to give them the $10 million in free rent and still pursue the other $9 million, that's a potential loss to Oshawa taxpayers of $19 million. I don't know how any councillor could justify that."

Regional Chairman Roger Anderson said there is a deadline to spend the provincial cash. If Oshawa won't work with the Region, he said other locations will be considered.

"We're adamant that they have to give the land to us for $1, we will not rent that property at market value," he said. "(Regional) staff have been instructed to start looking for sites. They are looking for land that is serviced and ready to go ... we know Clarington has some. Oshawa Mayor John Gray said Oshawa stands to lose $115,000 a year in tax revenue, and jobs, if the depot goes elsewhere.

"We're also going to be stuck with a vacant, derelict building on a brownfield site," he said. "Members of council are playing poker with this issue, and we're going to end up being the losers."

The motion from Oshawa council will be dealt with by the Region's finance committee on Dec. 9. | Oshawa stands to lose $25-million transit depot.

Dec 2, 2009

Green License Plates in Ontario

Ontario has a plan that, by 2020, 1 of every 20 cars on the road should be an electric vehicle. To encourage drives to adopt hybrids and electric vehicles, a new license plate is being offered for green vehicles.

Vehicles bearing the new plates will be eligible for a number of special perks, including use of recharging stations and special parking spaces. But the most compelling benefit the new plates will offer is allowing vehicles to use carpool lanes, even if there's just one person in the vehicle. The carpool lane benefit extends until 2015.

In the past, when other municipalities and government agencies have allowed benefits like this, the value of the perk has sometimes been as much as several thousand dollars on vehicle resales. This is another way to encourage matters in order to reach a goal like 5% hybrid or electric vehicles in little more than a decade.

Green License Plates in Ontario Come with Priviledges.

Dec 1, 2009

GTA transit fare card test begins

A small number of Greater Toronto Area commuters are getting their first taste of a smart fare card that will allow them to navigate the region's myriad transit systems.

Seventy-five riders from the GTA began using the Presto card on Monday as part of a pilot project initiated by Metrolinx, the regional transit agency.

The credit-card sized pass is machine-readable and reloadable and will eventually work on all public transportation in the Greater Toronto Area.

Users can load money onto the cards online, by phone or at participating stations.

Those currently enrolled in the pilot project can use their cards at three GO Transit stations — Union, Oakville, and Bronte. Some Oakville Transit buses are also equipped to read the Presto card.

The only Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) station that takes the card is Union, although the program will be expanded to include other major stations in the coming months.
Reader deducts fare automatically

The vice-president of policy and planning of Metrolinx said using the card is easy.

"So you arrive at the station, you tap on to a little register," Leslie Woo told CBC News. "It deducts automatically from your card that you registered with a certain amount of money … and you're on your way and that's it. No transfers, no metal, no paper."

In the next three weeks, 500 people will begin testing the Presto Card, Woo said.

The program will be steadily expanded over the next few months to include a number of stations and transit agencies.

Coming by Spring 2010:

* Oakville Transit.
* Burlington Transit.
* GO's Lakeshore West Georgetown and Milton rail lines.
* TTC's Bloor/Yonge College, Dundas, Queen’s Park, St. George, St. Patrick stations.

Coming by Fall 2010:

* Mississauga transit.
* Brampton transit.
* GO Transit's Lakeshore East, Barrie and Richmond Hill GO rail lines and bus routes.
* Hamilton Street Railway.
* TTC's Kipling and Islington stations

By the winter of 2011:

* Durham Region Transit
* York Region Transit
* GO Transit's Stouffville GO Rail line and all remaining GO Bus routes
* The TTC's Don Mills, Downsview and Finch Subway stations.

Ottawa's OC Transpo system is also expected to begin using the card system by the winter of 2011. The province has awarded a $250-million 10-year contract to management consultant company Accenture to design and implement the Presto card system.

CBC News - Toronto - GTA transit fare card test begins.

Nov 28, 2009

Transit strike cost city government $5.9M, auditor finds

Ottawa's public transit strike wasn't just bad for the pocketbooks of the city's transit employees. It was also costly for the city administration, with $5.9 million in direct costs, according to an audit released Wednesday.

The audit report found that wage and fuel savings were more than offset by lost pass and ticket revenue. City council gave transit riders generous deals to entice them back to transit after the 58-day stoppage of service.

But the city also had increased costs, such as $558,000 for increased snow removal, $362,000 for increased security and $400,000 to compensate colleges and universities to operate shuttle services.

The city initially said it was saving about $3 million a week during the strike.

The auditor wasn't looking at the cost of the 53-day strike to citizens and businesses, which were estimated to be in the millions of dollars each day.

Transit strike cost city government $5.9M, auditor finds.

Nov 25, 2009

Token Hoarding & Smartcards

Ontario’s new smartcard fare card will eliminate the token hoarding that is currently besieging the TTC, councillors acknowledged yesterday, yet the region’s biggest transit network will be the last in the province to get it.

The province’s PRESTO card goes live next week for the first 500 customers at two Oakville GO Stations. Those passengers will also be able to initially swipe their way through two turnstiles at Toronto’s Union Station, with a bigger rollout in May.

But Toronto passengers will likely have to wait until at least 2012 or 2013 for pre-loaded smartcards because the Toronto Transit Commission only gave PRESTO conditional approval last week, joining GO Transit, Oakville, Mississauga, York Region, Durham Region Brampton, Hamilton, Burlington – even Ottawa.

“Everybody else made a decision to go ahead in 2006 and TTC is making a decision in 2009 and so clearly that’s the reason why they’re last,” said David Smith, director of program services at PRESTO, which is overseen by provincially mandated regional transportation authority Metrolinx. “We’re very pleased with that decision and we’ll work with them as hard as we can to get them rolled out so that both the people who live in the 905 who use the TTC and all the residents of Toronto can enjoy the benefits of the PRESTO card.”

Since it announced a 25-cent fare hike effective Jan. 3, the TTC has faced a run on tokens, forcing it to first limit the number of tokens available to each customer and finally spend $50,000 printing 10 million temporary tickets for December as its token stores were depleted.

The TTC estimates it could lose $5-million from token hoarding.

Councillor Peter Milczyn (Etobicoke Lakeshore) said the whole debacle would have been avoided if the TTC had a less archaic fare system.

“With a smartcard system you could literally, practically overnight, change the fares. The next day it would deduct a different amount from your fare card. So there’d be no issue of hoarding tokens or anything else for that matter,” he said. “We have a fare system that others back in the ‘70s started going to magnetic tickets and things like that and probably since the ‘70s we’ve been somewhat behind.”

It would also offer the ability to load the card online, to pay with a credit card, and to register the card in case of theft or loss.

But Mr. Milczyn defended the TTC’s hesitancy to jump on board PRESTO. A report to the commission last week outlined significant costs as a chief concern. The province has agreed to bankroll $140-million of the start-up costs, in addition to installing PRESTO readers at 12 subways stations what will be part of a pilot.

But the report warned the true costs of implementation for the TTC could be as high as $417-million.

Councillor Joe Mihevc (St. Paul’s), vice chair of the TTC, said the commission has to tread carefully.

“We cannot make this something where the TTC loses money and we need to be able to control certain pieces,” he said. “If we want to introduce fare by distance or a discount for students or seniors or to offer off-peak lower fares, we need to be able to set those rules. We can’t have a third party set them for us.”

Mr. Mihevc said the costs meant implementing smartcard technology was not a priority for the TTC until recently.

“We have an integrated system whereby many of the buses and the streetcars go right into subway stations, therefore not requiring transfers, and our turnstile technology is pretty good and works just fine, it wasn’t in need of replacement. It wasn’t something that was on the TTC’s horizon” he said. “We had enough state of good repair issues to deal with 10 years ago when public transit money was really tight. So we decided our public transit system was working very fine, thank you very much, we’ll consider this at a later date. Now it’s that later date.”

Transit improvements eyed for Uxbridge

Public transit use in north Durham has been an incredible success since its launch, and the buses connecting northern residents to the rest of the region are running at full capacity, Uxbridge councillors heard Monday evening.

While presenting an update on Durham Region Transit's long-term transit strategy, Phil Meagher told Uxbridge's civic leaders the current service is certainly being utilized by residents looking to travel across the region.

"It's at capacity, it's one of the most successful launches we've had and it's been very successful," said Mr. Meagher, Durham transit's deputy general manager of operations.

The 950 route has two buses daily which run at capacity, connecting Scugog and Uxbridge residents to Durham College and UOIT, he explained.

"We're running at capacity through the whole day," said Mr. Meagher. "It's pretty steady ... throughout the day, it's being used."

And, in about 20 years time, Uxbridge residents can look forward to further transit improvements, added Mr. Meagher.

According to the DRT deputy general manager, the regional transit provider is eyeing an extension of the Lincolnville GO Train route to Uxbridge, and more GO Bus service and increased connections to areas such as Port Perry and Stouffville.

Cycling facilities are also proposed in the transit strategy plan, which is looking to 2031 and beyond.

In the south end of Durham, transit officials are looking towards introducing rapid transit in the lakeshore communities.

"A lot of activity will take place in the south, but there will be a lot of improvements and changes for Brock, Uxbridge and Scugog," said Mr. Meagher.

When quizzed by councillors about the potential cost for all the upgrades, the deputy general manager replied the transit authority plans to seek funding from the Province and federal government once the study is complete.

He also noted there is no firm time frame to bring GO Train service to Uxbridge, stressing the plan is looking beyond 2031.

It's expected a draft copy of the transit study will be presented to Regional council in December, with a final report due on Feb. 15, said Mr. Meagher.

The document will be completed by March, he added. | Transit improvements eyed for Uxbridge.

Nov 21, 2009

Transit union leader blasts Metro News for insulting cartoon

TORONTO, Nov. 19 /CNW/ - An editorial cartoon on the front page of the November 18 Toronto edition of Metro, a widely distributed daily commuter news digest, has drawn the ire of the president of Toronto's transit workers union.

The cartoon depicts a streetcar operator leaning out of his window with his hand in the pocket of a startled pedestrian reading a newspaper with the headline "Rate increase."

"Fare increases are always accompanied by a large spike in verbal and physical assaults on vehicle Operators and Collectors," says Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113. "Passengers angered by having to pay more to ride the TTC take out their frustration on the front line workers, not on TTC management or the Commissioners.

"This insulting cartoon makes it seem that the workers are to blame for the fare increase. It will provoke active animosity in some unbalanced passengers and lead to more assaults. We've been down this road too many times before to let this pass."

Kinnear says it is grossly unfair to attribute the magnitude of fare increases over the past decade to TTC workers.

"With this latest increase, TTC cash fares since 1999 will have risen 64% faster than the wages paid to Operators and Collectors. Angry passengers should be incensed at the failure of governments to support Toronto public transit at the level enjoyed by other cities. They shouldn't be taking it out on our members, who provide a great service under often very stressful and demanding conditions."

TTC management's recent presentation to the Commissioners on the need for a fare increase revealed that the TTC is the least subsidized transit system in North America.

"If the TTC received proportionately as much public funding per rider as Montreal, Vancouver or Edmonton, our fares would be much, much lower. If we received as high a per-rider subsidy as they do in Los Angeles, the TTC would be free to riders," said Kinnear.

"The cartoon would have been more truthful if it had shown Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper picking the pockets of our passengers."

"We believe in freedom of the press," added Kinnear, "but we have the right to strenuously object to a 'McPaper' like Metro distorting the truth at the expense of our members' safety."

AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, LOCAL 113 | Transit union leader blasts Metro News for insulting cartoon that will provoke assaults on TTC staff.

Nov 19, 2009

London transit strike underway

London's first transit strike in almost three decades didn't seem to affect the morning commute, police said.

London's bus drivers, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 741, walked off the job at midnight.

Many expected those who usually take the bus to school or work in the morning – students, workers, business owners – to tie up traffic using vehicles.

There were no unusual backups during the morning rush-hour, said London Police Const. Amy Phillipo.

Those who usually take the bus were forced to walk, taxi, bike, carpool or work from home.

Taxi companies in the city said they were prepared for more calls but they didn't come.

"People are starting to realize now that no bus is coming to pick them up but this morning there weren't that many more," said a dispatcher with Aboutown Transportation.

Another dispatcher at U-Need-A taxi service also said there weren't that many more calls this morning.

"It's surprising," he said.

London Transit bus drivers were on the picket line as thousands of Londoners scrambled to find a way to work, school and appointments on the first day of the first transit strike in nearly 30 years.

Bus drivers and other workers were on the picket line at the LTC headquarters on Highbury Ave. this morning with strike signs, getting some support from passing motorists who honked their horns and waved.

City streets were heavy with rush-hour traffic and the lack of buses was noticeable as union leaders and company officials hit the radio talk shows to defend their positions.

At 7 a.m. there was no sign of hitchhikers at major intersections, although there were many young people – high school, college and university students – seen legging their way to school on sidewalks.

Last-ditch talks to avert a bus strike broke down yesterday morning and no new talks are scheduled.

Management and the union blamed each other for the strike.

At two hastily-called news conferences yesterday, a visibly frustrated Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best said the London Transit Commission (LTC) offer was "more than fair," at a time when London has Canada's second-highest jobless rate.

Later, the LTC released documents showing it had offered the union a 9% increase during three years, including an 8.3% wage hike and improved dental and disability benefits and working conditions.

The LTC said the union demanded 20% in wages and benefits during three years.

DeCicco-Best slammed the demands as irresponsible with the city still mired in a recession.

"These numbers are staggering, I have people who have trouble putting food on the table, who have trouble finding a place to live," she said.

But in an interview, Pat Hunniford, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 741, said it was the LTC management that refused to budge.

"We made some pretty big concessions from where we started," he said.

Hunniford said the 20% increase in wages and benefits demanded by the union was an "old" offer and the union made a verbal offer closer to 12% by the time talks broke off.

He said the union's wage demands were flexible and the two sides were only about 50 cents apart. But the talks broke down on benefit issues including short-term disability and the dental plan.

Hunniford said even with the union demands, the LTC workers are well behind their counterparts in other cities in wages and benefits.

In an echo of the bitter 2001 garbage strike, DeCicco-Best signalled the city is ready to wage a public-relations battle with the union.

She said the public should know the full cost to the LTC and taxpayers of meeting all the union demands.

"The community has a right to know what led to the strike and why they walked away from the deal on the table," said DeCicco-Best.

Hunniford said he would be making the rounds of radio talk shows tomorrow morning to make the union's case

"It comes down to how long the citizens will tolerate this and when city hall will step in stop this," he said.

About the only thing the two sides agree on is that the strike will cause hardship for thousands of students, seniors and working people who rely heavily on the transit system.

A transit strike in Ottawa last winter lasted two months.

"We have seen what this has done in other cities and we simply did not want to be there," said DeCicco-Best.

The last bus ran at midnight Sunday.

DeCicco-Best said the city will try to help residents cope by posting information on its website about carpooling and urging employers to be patient especially in the early days of the strike.

The LTC also is promoting carpooling, walking and cycling.

Both the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College, whose students pay mandatory fees for LTC bus passes, are putting contingency plans into place.

Hunniford said only a handful of the 450 union members were around for the last strike in 1980 that lasted 10 days.

But Hunniford, whose father worked for the LTC for 37 years, remembers a nine-week strike in 1975.

"I remember being a kid here and that was the year without Christmas," he said.

The LTC normally handles about 75,000 to 80,000 passenger trips daily.

Specialized transit services, including para transit, will continue to operate despite the strike.

Ore. man wins APTA "Dump the Pump" video contest

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced the winners of its “Dump the Pump” transit rider-generated online video contest. Participants were asked to create a video that demonstrated why they were “dumping the pump” in favor of using public transportation.

Bob Richardson of Portland, Ore., the first place winner created a high-quality video, which depicts a familiar scene of a woman dumping a significant other. In this scene, however, she is leaving the gas pump behind for a more attractive suitor — her local public transit system.

“The purpose of this contest was to hear from the American public transit rider in a fun and entertaining way about how public transportation is taking us to a better future — economically, environmentally, and our overall quality of life,” said Rose Sheridan, APTA vice president, marketing and communications. “We were pleased and proud of the quality and creativity we saw in these videos, which made it hard to pick a winner. That’s a great problem to have.”

The winners of the contest were chosen by a panel of APTA officials. The top three prize-winners and their awards are as follows:
Winning videos and all entries will be featured at APTA’s Public Transportation Takes Us There campaign Website:

Durham Region's Smart Commute Employer of the Year

AJAX, ON, Nov. 18 /CNW/ - Veridian Connections Inc. was recognized as Durham Region's 'Smart Commute Employer of the Year' at a ceremony held in Toronto last night. The Smart Commute awards ceremony was hosted by Metrolinx and is held annually to recognize employers who are leaders in helping employees to reduce the environmental impacts of commuting to work.

The Smart Commute initiative began as a partnership of municipal governments in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), and the partnership was expanded to include Metrolinx early in 2008. Smart Commute's goal is to reduce traffic congestion and to take action on climate change through transportation efficiency. It helps and encourages local employers to explore and promote more environment friendly commuter options such as carpooling, teleworking, transit, cycling, walking and flexible working hours.

Veridian's award was accepted by Kyle Brown, the company's Manager of Retailer Relations and Smart Commute Coordinator. Brown credited Veridian's 190 employees for the award. "The staff at Veridian has really embraced our smart commute initiatives," she said. "Simple measures such as promotions to increase awareness, fun competitions and low cost incentives have led to significant changes in employee commuting practices."

Brown points out that Veridian's smart commute initiatives have been embraced and supported by the company. "Veridian offers flexible work options such as telecommuting and compressed work weeks to reduce the amount of travel required by staff, and has recently implemented a video conferencing system to reduce the need for travel between the company's work locations," she said. "These are just a few examples of how employers can help support the development of sustainable communities."

Recipients of the Smart Commute awards were selected by an independent panel of community members from various sectors across the GTHA. Evaluations were based on the employer's commitment to the program, leadership in their communities, innovation and results.

Veridian Connections Inc. safely and reliably delivers electricity to more than 111,000 customers in the Cities of Pickering and Belleville, the Towns of Ajax, Port Hope and Gravenhurst, and the communities of Uxbridge, Bowmanville, Newcastle, Orono, Port Perry, Beaverton, Sunderland and Cannington. Veridian Connections Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Veridian Corporation. The City of Pickering, the Town of Ajax, the Municipality of Clarington and the City of Belleville jointly own Veridian Corporation.

For further information: George Armstrong, Manager of Regulatory Affairs and Key Projects, Veridian Connections Inc., (905) 427-9870 extension 2202

Nov 17, 2009

Voice response system for partransit

York, Pa.-based public transportation operator, rabbittransit announced plans to implement an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to assist paratransit riders in accessing their reservation information.

For riders who are registered for this free service, they will receive an automated phone call the day before their trip with their pick-up time information rather than having to call rabbittransit the evening before for the information.

The IVR system, supplied by Trapeze at a cost of $300,000, is phase one of a larger plan of technological system updates that rabbittransit received special funding to benefit its passengers. Other initiatives include Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) technology in which all rabbittransit vehicles are being outfitted with new equipment.

This will enable the transit authority to track important ridership statistics and vehicle data, which will be tied to providing real-time passenger information. One of the later phases will include the ability for online trip planning through the organization’s website.

“We’re very excited at the prospect of maximizing technology to enhance our customer’s experience and provide service information in real time,” comments rabbittransit Executive Director, Richard Farr. “This use of technology will allow us to provide a more efficient and productive service.”

Paratransit or “curb-to-curb” service accounts for more than 200,000 trips each year.

York, Pa. taps voice response system for partransit - News - METRO Magazine.

Oct 26, 2009

Federal arbitrator sides with city in strike settlement

This is a direct reprint from the Public Transit in Ottawa blog. Thanks for great reporting.
The outcome of arbitration which was used to settle the underlying issues of Ottawa's 52-day winter 2009 transit strike was released today, and reports indicate that the arbitrator sided with the City of Ottawa in the dispute.

The decision, which covers the three-year contract ending in March 2011, includes the following:

* City gains control of scheduling
* A raise of 8.25 per cent (3.25, 2.5, and 2.5 in the three years)
* No one-time signing bonus
* No new with sick/special leave
* No contracting-out changes

One of the City's contract offers just before both sides agreed to arbitration was 7.25 per cent over three years, an increased number of sick days, a one-time bonus, and scheduling responsibilities handed over to the City--an offer which was soundly rejected in a federally-forced vote. The union was reportedly looking to retain control of scheduling, and gain a raise of 9.25 per cent over three years.

The issue of scheduling was the most contentious item in the strike, with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279 not willing to negotiate on it, and the City unwilling to negotiate without it on the table. OC Transpo management suggested that their reason for wanting to wrest control of scheduling was to take advantage of 'operational efficiencies' they felt they could gain.

Another of the key issues from the ATU's side was the contracting out of services. Particularly with regards to mechanics and the servicing of OC Transpo equipment, the union wanted some certainty that they had job security. This settlement fails to ease that concern, and OC Transpo management had suggested that contracting out some services may offer more operational efficiencies.

It is now up to OC Transpo management to demonstrate that those operational efficiencies are, in fact, significant enough to have justified the 52-day strike.

This arbitration settlement adds a level of intrigue to the ATU's recent vote against giving up their right to strike in favour of sending all future negotiations to arbitration. Although the common perception of arbitration is that they favour unions, this settlement demonstrates that they do not, necessarily.

Mainstream coverage of the outcome:

Sep 14, 2009

Another One Bites The Dust

After watching other transit bloggers… Karem Allen of Transit Nightmares and David Harrison of Durham Transit Review put an end to their blogs, I have decided to do the same with this blog.

My first posting began on January 9, 2006. Since that time there have been 530 postings in total. This past summer has been a changing point in my life where I have lost all interest in transit issues. I knew it was bound to happen one day. I retired from DRT  on October 9, 2007 and never dreamed that the blog would have lasted this long. I would have quit long ago except that every time I met up with

Ted Galinis, the General Manager of DRT he gave me encouraging words about what I was doing.

My thanks too everyone that followed my blog.

You can still check me out on my other blog Eye Candy.

Jun 24, 2009

Burning gas tax money

The spending of gas tax funds is a matter of concern for Durham Region residents.

To the editor:

I, like many of my fellow constituents, took the day off without pay Tuesday to present my opinions and concerns on the proposed Durham-York incinerator.

I was very disappointed by the absence of my regional councillor Don Mitchell as well as the behaviour of many of the regional councillors. At one point, Chairman Roger Anderson had to request only one councillor leave the room at a time as groups of councilors were congregating outside during delegations. I even captured a photo of Pickering Councillor Rick Johnson fast asleep during delegations from the public. Others were on BlackBerrys or openly having discussions with their neighbours.

I issued a challenge to regional council members. Before voting on this project, where 100 per cent of the federal gas tax is pledged, I would like them to ride Durham Region Transit for an entire week. They will soon see the inadequacies residents who depend on that system deal with daily. Even at peak times, no bus passes my home more than two times an hour.

Please note the DRT is the only GTA transit system that does not link with the TTC. That means only Durham residents are ineligible for the GTA pass system. Unless you work right downtown by Union station, you are basically obligated to drive to work.

I am a user of this system. The Ontario Human Rights Code is clear about the obligation to provide dignified affordable and accessible service for the elderly, young families and the disabled among others. I can also tell you there is nothing dignified about hiding in a bus shelter at the Whitby GO station for nearly an hour in the middle of the night because Durham buses have stopped long before the train. Once my cab arrives I then pay upwards of $20 to get home. That is in no way affordable to me.

Rebecca Harrison


Related Link: | Resident frustrated at behaviour of councillors during incinerator meeting.

Jun 23, 2009

MTA legislate manners


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is the public transportation authority in south eastern New York State. It is the law on New York public transit that patrons must give up seats that are designated as priority seating for persons with disabilities. The fine is $50.00 for bone heads that choose to keep the seat.

Related Link: Priority Seating Campaign

Jun 22, 2009

York-TTC deal in the works

By David Fleischer
York Region Transit and the TTC are eying a pilot project that could make getting to and from York University a lot easier.

If it goes forward this summer, commuters on both sides of the Toronto-York Region border will be able to take Viva buses from Downsview Station to York University without paying a double fare.

"It's an opportunistic thing," TTC service planner Bill Dawson said.

Even at peak periods, the 48-person Viva Orange buses average only seven riders on the stretch before heading west into Vaughan.

By contrast, the TTC's 196 York University bus averages more than 50 people at peak hours and is at or over capacity virtually all day.

"It's a unique situation. We think it's the only place on the boundary where this would occur, because of York University itself," Mr. Dawson said.

York Region Transit general manager Don Gordon said they floated the idea with TTC some time ago but it took time to negotiate an agreement.

Helping break the logjam was in the interest of Metrolinx, the regional transit authority, that wants to see more seamless cross-border transit.

The pilot project could provide a model to be applied elsewhere, Mr. Gordon said.

It may seem like common sense but the ability to pick up and drop off riders in Toronto has been an ongoing issue.

Riders on Yonge Street may have noticed that when their buses cross Steeles they do not pick up passengers waiting for TTC buses, even though they are all going to Finch Station.

Unlike the Viva Orange buses, however, those buses tend to be relatively full, meaning a similar change there is not in the cards, Mr. Dawson said.

Mr. Gordon agreed, but said something similar could be looked at for the Green line, which terminates at Don Mills station, down the road.

In the meantime, there seems to be no downside for York Region.

"This is a case of us filling empty seats and getting revenue in return," Mr. Gordon said.

Under the terms of the pilot project, TTC and YRT will split revenues 50/50; a benefit of 49-cents per passenger, or about $70,000 for the region's coffers.

As transit becomes more integrated across the border, the old double-fare system is becoming increasingly complex, however.

Already, the TTC and YRT have agreed those boarding the Spadina subway will only have to pay a single fare to travel to Toronto. They will still have to pay a second fare to board a YRT or Viva bus, Mr. Dawson said.

Fare issues are subject to an ongoing review, Mr. Gordon said and simply eliminating the fare boundary would cost both TTC and YRT money.

Some kind of fare-by-distance system could be implemented in the future, but tends to be best suited to rail rahter than bus-based systems, he said.

The policy is due to the license under which YRT operates, forbidding it from doing so and it will require an amendment to allow the pilot.

The pilot is set to launch in August, coinciding with the opening of York's dedicated busway.

Regional council votes on the proposal at its June 25 meeting.

York region - York-TTC deal in the works.

Jun 20, 2009

Ottawa arbitration update

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 and Ottawa city council have agreed that there will be no more transit strikes or lockouts in the city of Ottawa.

No More Ottawa Transit Strikes

Both sides in future contract negotiations would not resort to a strike or lockout and unresolved labour negotiations would be settled by through arbitration. This agreement had to be voted on by the union membership.

The vote was scheduled to take place this week, but ran into a road block as a number of members requested the vote be delayed to give them more time to review the impacts of such deals. Union members  say they want to delay the vote, until an arbitrator reports back on last winter's 53-day strike. The report is expected this summer.

The city has no-strike-no-lockout agreement its largest union, CUPE Local 503.

Jun 19, 2009

CUTA reports rider increase

According to the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA)  transit ridership has showed an increase of 3.5% nationally for 2008.

The statistics showed an additional spike of riders the same time the economy started to fall into recession.

CUTA was originally founded in Montréal in December 1904 as the Canadian Street Railway Association. In 1913, it became known as the Canadian Electric Railway Association. In 1932 the name was changed to Canadian Transit Association. The present name was adopted in 1973 when the Association was incorporated in its current form.

Membership in CUTA is composed of 120 transit systems, along with 15 government agencies and 250 business members.

Related Links:
Canadian Transit Ridership Breaks Record Again in 2008

bus advertising sign

Jun 17, 2009

How to alter a DRT bus route

I am going to tell you a secret on how to prevent a bus route from operating on your street. I hope Sandra Cassidy is paying attention.

Thanks to the Town Of Ajax, Durham Region Transit has permanently change the 240 Applecroft Monday to Friday AM PM, 240B Applecroft Monday to Saturday Midday and 282 Applecroft/Nottingham Monday to Saturday Evening,  Sunday and Holiday routing. Instead of the bus operating over Old Harwood Avenue and Fishlock Street it has been altered to travel directly south on Hardwood Avenue North. The reason being that the town has installed speed humps and traffic calming on the above mentioned roadways. Buses do not mix well with them.

The Monday June 15, 2009 8:20 a.m. Applecroft was the last bus to travel on the old route. The new routing began on the same date with the 9:05 a.m. midday cycle.  Thanks to the Town Of Ajax they have forced DRT to alter the route. Speed humps (bumps) play hell with the bus and passengers. It’s easy for passengers and the bus driver to receive injuries when passing over the humps.

It may be an incontinence to the people that now have to walk an extra distance to get the bus, but it is a win fall for DRT. First of all it forced the route onto more of a grid system. It has made the route 4,364 metres shorter and that is for one only one cycle. Do the math over a week, month or year and it adds up to savings for DRT.

So how did this all come about? It started on March 14, 2008, when the town staff mailed out a Traffic Calming Survey to all the property owners with frontage on Old Harwood Avenue and Fishlock Street. Residential support indicated the willingness of the resident’s to support this initiative. The project was done in consultation with Operations and Environmental Services, Fire & Emergency Services, Durham Region Transit and Planning and Development staff. After months of work the Town Of Ajax Council finalized the plan at a cost of $36,900. I am assuming that no one informed the residents that they would lose their bus route.

It’s interesting to note that all this started about the same time that a neighbourhood fight was going on about removing bus service around the Hoile Audley Road South loop.

Related Links:
Old Harwood Avenue Traffic Calming Implementation Plan 
Old Harwood Avenue Traffic Calming Construction Award 
DRT Customer Alerts

Jun 12, 2009

Vancouver streetcar demo

Bombardier Transportation and Brussels Public Transport Company  STIB (Société des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles) are teaming up with Vancouver, British Columbia, to prepare for a streetcar demonstration project that will help the city provide public transit service during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

STIB and Bombardier are collaborating with Vancouver to ship two of STIB’s 100 percent low-floor Flexity trams to the city by sea in late 2009. In Vancouver, the vehicles will operate seven days a week on the demonstration line between January 21 and March 21, 2010, near Vancouver’s Olympic and Paralympic Village. The streetcars will run on an existing track the city is now upgrading to accommodate both the project and a possible future streetcar line. The line will be operated and maintained by Bombardier as a unique service for the city.

STIB’s 68 Flexity vehicles operate on significant parts of the Brussels 331-mile public transport network that serves more than 286 million riders each year. To further enhance its network, STIB commissioned an additional 102 bi-directional Flexity trams, including a firm order for 87 vehicles in January 2008. The new Flexity vehicles support the city’s efforts to curb traffic congestion and reduce CO2 emissions.

Related Link:
The Olympic Line

Jun 10, 2009

GO Transit Niagara Falls

GO Transit has posted the complete listing of Niagara bound train service. Click here to view it. The first train will begin operating on June 27, 2009.

Union Station to Niagara Falls                           

Union 6:30 9:40 16:15 20:05 22:30**
Port Credit 6:46 9:56 16:31 20:21 --
Oakville 6:57 10:07 16:42 20:32 --
Burlington 7:08 10:18 16:53 20:43 --
St Catharines 8:06 11:16 17:51 21:41 23:40**
Niagara Falls 8:29 11:39 18:14 22:04 00:05**

Niagara Falls to Union Station

Niagara Falls 8:50 12:20 19:20 22:15
St Catharines 9:15 12:45 19:45 22:50
Burlington 10:13 13:43 20:43 23:48
Oakville 10:25 13:55 20:55 00:00
Port Credit 10:34 14:04 21:04 00:09
Union 10:49 14:19 21:19 00:24

Related Link: Niagara Falls Tourism Official Website

Jun 9, 2009

Mississauga Transit feels the pinch

The ridership counts on Mississauga Transit are down by about 6% . Routes servicing industrial areas have seen counts drop by 25%. The recession is taking part of the blame for the lower performance.

Meanwhile, in Toronto the TTC has seen an increase of 3% overall in the number of passengers carried. It is suggested that a fare increase freeze and and service expansion have made the difference.

A similar thing in the 1990’s recession occurred in Pickering. The Route 1 Industrial, used to carry standing loads of people heading to work. Thanks to the recession rider counts fell off and to this day they have never recovered.

How much money could you save by using public transit? Find out with the help of the Transit Savings Calculator.

Related Link: Mississauga gets off the bus

Jun 8, 2009

York Region rider increase coming

A recent decision by York Region District School Board to eliminate more yellow school bus routes for high school students should bring good fortune to York Region Transit.  

York Region Transit continues to expand it’s service and routes, it doesn’t make sense to have two publicly funded transportation systems.
It is expected that an additional 600 students will be using public transit next September to get to and from school.

Related Link: York region Public board cutting high school bus routes

Jun 6, 2009

New Flyer online warranty system

Since New Flyer is the vehicle of choice at Durham Region Transit, this should improve the service department ability to keep buses on the road.

New Flyer Industries Inc. and New Flyer Industries Canada ULC (together, New Flyer) is offering its customers iWarranty, a new internet-based warranty lifecycle management system.

iWarranty users can manage and track all campaigns in real-time, eliminate paperwork by entering claims directly into the system, improve efficiency by responding with corrective action more quickly, receive payment faster as a result of reduction in processing time, and speed problem discovery with early warnings of possible product issues.

In addition, customers have instant access to electronic copies of their warranty information, can run pre-built and custom reports, view a history of past claims, track the status of warranty claims and parts requests on a bus-by-bus basis, and see the date the claims were paid along with the check number.

New Flyer provides a broad range of services, including customized maintenance information, service parts, on-site product training services, service support, product safety and compliance advice and engineering support for complicated projects

New Flyer unveils online warranty system - News - METRO Magazine.

Jun 4, 2009

No More Ottawa Transit Strikes

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 and Ottawa city council have  agreed that there will be no more transit strikes or lockouts in the city of Ottawa.This new agreement will continue to allow for collective bargaining. If that fails, both sides will go to binding arbitration. The city is  still recovering from a recent 53 day strike, which took place at the height of winter.

This is a good deal for the city, union members and transit users. It’s not something that is agreed to easily. Usually in a labour dispute, only one side will want to proceed to arbitration. Getting them both to agree without government intervention is an important and outstanding significant achievement. 

The closest that DRT and the CAW come to an agreement like this is a clause in the collected agreement which provides for Specialized Services no interruption to service during a strike or lockout. Of course this agreement is not worth the paper it is printed on. It would have to rely on goodwill from Durham Region and the union.

Jun 3, 2009

DRT - Canada Day Fare Increase

DRT has started a program of keeping transit users informed of an up coming fare increase. Drivers have already started issuing the following business size card with info about the changes that will take place on July 1, 2009. Co-Fare is the only one with no increase. It sill amazes me as to number different fares that public transit needs. If you count the child under 5 years, you can see 18 different types of fares listed below.

One item not listed is the charter rates. Presently they are $86.00 per hour for weekday service and $102.00 per hour for weekend and holiday chartered service, plus applicable taxes.  There is a 3 hour minimum. On July 1, 2009 the rates will be $89.00 per hour for weekday service and $105.50 per hour for weekend and holiday chartered service, plus applicable taxes.  There is a 3 hour minimum.

May 21, 2009

Discount Pass Program For Employees


The City of Mississauga will be conducting a experiment of allowing their employees to purchase a monthly transit pass at half the normal price. The project will start July 1st and will run for 18 months. Transit passes will be made available for sale at half-price, of $53.50 instead of $107. The plan is part of the Smart Commute program that is in effect within the GTA.  

A similar program took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Known as the EcoPass, local transit increased ridership by an average of 45%, monthly bus pass sales by about 500%, and net revenues by 30%.

Saint John Transit, New Brunswick offers a 10% discount for companies with with more than 20 employees.

TransLink of Metro Vancouver in British Columbia gives employers of more than 25 employees up to a 15% saving on their purchase of transit passes.

Kingston, Ontario has the Transpass. Employees pay for Transpass through direct payroll deductions and will receive a discount of 10% on the monthly pass. Kingston Transit’s smart-card technology will automatically reloaded the cards when passengers scan their monthly My Cards on the fare box.

In Durham Region, the only similar discount would be the U-Pass for Durham College  UOIT. It is different from other DRT passes in that it is not interchangeable and has a photo identification on the pass.

May 17, 2009

T union grieves ban on phones

Using a phone while driving a vehicle is stupid, dumb and dangerous. When you ban something, there are always circumstances that make it seem as if it may be going a little too far. I don't agree with disallowing operators from even carrying cell phones. It pays to have one in emergency situations. It is a select few that screw it up for the majority.

Less than a week after saying it agreed with a ban on cell phones, the union representing MBTA drivers has filed a grievance against a rule prohibiting the practice.

The ban was proposed by management in the wake of a T crash apparently caused by a text-messaging trolley operator. Under a rule effective Monday, drivers will be prohibited from using or possessing a cell phone while on a T bus, train or streetcar.

Using a cell phone or other electronic device will be punishable by a 30-day suspension with a recommendation for discharge.

Possessing a cell phone or other device will be punishable by a 10-day suspension for the first offense and by a 30-day suspension with a recommendation for discharge for a second offense.

The union now opposes the policy because it doesn’t address the fact that most drivers start their shift in one place and conclude it in another, which would leave them no access to a cell phone to conduct everyday affairs on unpaid breaks, said Steve MacDougall, president of the Boston Carmen’s Union.

Secretary James A. Aloisi Jr. said in a statement: “I am sorry to learn that the Carmen’s Union has decided that the personal convenience of their members will take priority over public safety. This . . . grievance is, given the facts and circumstances, unconscionable and proves how out of touch the union is with reality.”

MacDougall stressed that the union still supports the prohibition of cell phone possession and use while drivers are working.

MacDougall said he suggested that drivers be allowed to carry cell phones in locked, orange bags that would be kept in plain view of passengers to prevent abuses, but the suggestion went nowhere.

Meanwhile, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office continued to weigh criminal charges yesterday against Aiden Quinn, the 24-year-old driver the T fired after he rear-ended a Green Line trolley last week, injuring dozens of people.

T union grieves ban on phones -

May 16, 2009

Over The Falls In A GO Train

The summer of 2009 will be a first for Niagara Falls and and GO Transit. Starting this summer trains will begin operating weekends and holidays between Toronto and the City Of Niagara Falls Canada. 

Trains will make four round trips on each day of the weekends and holidays. A one-way adult fare between Niagara Falls and Toronto's downtown Union Station will cost $15.90. The Niagara train station is located 2.74 kilometres from Clifton Hill.

Don’t forget, bicycles are permitted on any GO Train on a Saturday, Sunday, or statutory holidays.

Related Link: GO even farther with your bike this summer

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