Feb 26, 2009

Strike blocked; RTD, union go to arbitration

This is an interesting news story from Denver, Colorado. The Regional Transportation District (RTD) supply public transit to Denver and Boulder, Colorado. After attempting to bargain a contract, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001 and RTD failed to come up with a settlement. The union served notice to the Department Of Labor of intent to strike. The interesting thing here is that union argued to the Department against a strike and recommended that unresolved issues should be submitted to binding arbitration.
State labor officials ruled Tuesday that the transit workers union will not be allowed to go on strike when its RTD contract expires Saturday.

The decision of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment means that if the Regional Transportation District and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001 fail to reach agreement on a new labor contract, unresolved issues will be submitted to binding arbitration.

The union delivered a "notice of intent to strike" to the labor department, but at a hearing Thursday, union officials said a walkout would affect the "public peace, health and safety" and strike authorization should be denied in favor of arbitration.

RTD officials argued the opposite — that a strike would be an "inconvenience" to transit users but not rise to the level of threatening public health and safety.

Advocates for the disabled supported the request to prevent a strike.

In Tuesday's ruling, senior labor department official Michael McArdle agreed with the position of the union and advocates for the disabled.

"I have concluded that a strike by the ATU would in fact interfere with the preservation of the public peace, health and safety," McArdle wrote. The "request to strike against the Regional Transportation District is denied."

McArdle ordered RTD and ATU to submit names of arbiters who might decide unresolved contract issues between the parties.

"I'm just glad that they gave us this option," Local 1001 chief Holman Carter said of the ruling.

"We really want to sit down at the table with RTD," said Carter, whose union represents about 1,900 RTD employees. "This saves our riders the concern and worry of a potential strike."

The union had said it was looking for a "modest increase in wages," while RTD management has proposed a three-year freeze in wages.

Feb 25, 2009

Do Ostrich birds and politicians really bury their heads in the sand?

MPP Mike Colle is proposing a bill that would impose a fine of up to $50,000 for anyone carrying a weapon onto a public transit vehicle. He is also looking for a two-year sentence for anyone who commits an act of violence against a transit employee or passenger. 

One needs to look no further than David Miller and city council banning of guns to see the comparison between the Ostrich and politicians. The violence is now spreading from the streets to the transit system. There is no mention if politicians are planning to crackdown on the large number of murders that are plaguing the city.

Related links:

Feb 22, 2009

Filling transit jobs

Just a short follow up of my post of February 16... Shortage of driver's in a recession? The Coast Mountain Bus Co. in greater Vancouver, British Columbia had been holding a job fair seeking 500 new bus drivers. As it turned out there was no shortage of applications. There were 1,500 applications submitted. This was about three times more than normal and was on top of the 1,800 applications for the month of January.

Back in November of 2008, the CMBC at that time had been looking to hire 70 mechanics over the next year. As turned out there was a shortage applications within Canada. In turn the company has found success in recruiting bus mechanics from Jamaica.

Feb 17, 2009

Build it and they will come

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and and Premier Dalton McGuinty arrived on a Go Transit locomotive to make an announcement at a news conference. Their announcement stated, that to combat the global economic slowdown and boost Go Transit, they will invest in constructing and  restructure parking lots. Regular readers of this blog know my feelings about Go Transit and parking lots. Anyway it it looks like a done deal. Let us hope the Feds don't follow their past track record of making a commitment and then hanging on to the cash.

Stephen Harper being a true politician, continued to play games. At GO Transit’s Willowbrook Maintenance Facility, where the photo op took place the locomotives normal face east. The Prime Minister insisted that for him, it must face west. The locomotive had to be operated to the Via yard, turned around and brought back facing west. After he left, the reverse was done to get it back to the correct position. This only strengthens my previous post about politicians and transit.

Will the present free parking continue? GO Transit chair Peter Smith has not ruled out fees for parking at the garages. Build it and they will come, but you need a reason for them to stay.

Station Project $ Amount Present Parking Spaces
Ajax Parking Structure $30,200,000.00 1,841
Aurora Building Rehab/Parking Rehab $1,250,000.00 769 parking spaces: (190- main lot; 382- west lot; 197-east lot)
Mount Pleasant Parking Expansion $1,100,000.00 611
Bramalea Parking Expansion $1,350,000.00 2,150 parking spaces: 1,500-main lot; 650-south lot
Centennial Parking Structure $14,000,000.00 178 parking spaces (behind Markham Centennial Community Centre)
Unionville Parking Expansion $1,500,000.00 810
Cooksville Parking Structure $30,500,000.00 1,458
Erindale Parking Structure $30,000,000.00 770
Oakville Parking Structure $30,500,000.00 2,724 parking spaces (1,854- north lot; 458- south lot; 32- leased north lot behind McDonalds opposite GO Station; 200- Davis Road & South Service Road lot; 75- 222/224 Cross Ave; 105- 530 Lyons Lane)
Markham Parking Expansion $700,000.00 266
Pickering Parking Structure $30,500,000.00 1,958 parking spaces (1,205- main lot; 753- least lot E. of station & north on Sandy Beach Rd.)
Rouge Hill Parking Expansion $1,500,000.00 1,041 (5 64- north lot @ 6200 Lawrence Ave. E.; 500 east lot- south lot)

Feb 16, 2009

Shortage of driver's in a recession?

When it comes to finding good people to drive buses, let’s recognize this is not an easy job. Some riders may scoff, but the requirements for operating TTC vehicles are actually quite rigorous. Successful candidates must transport us safely on roads that are often congested (and lately, full of potholes).
News reporter Ed Drass has an article at Metronews.ca regarding the shortage of drivers at the TTC. The transit company can't seem to keep up with demand for transit operators. The union that represents a majority of TTC employees (Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union) has an all time high membership of about 9,400.

So why would the TTC have a hiring problem with a recession going on? Is because the hiring standards are to high? How many people do they turn down that really want the job? Is it because some new employees can't take the nitpicking discipline that the TTC dishes out?

The labour shortage is also occurring with school bus companies as they struggle to fill runs. DRT also has it's problems. There have been a number times when supervisors have been sent out to drive buses. It's nothing new. This has been going on for years. It's not due to a shortage of applications being filled out buy people that want to work for Durham Region Transit. I think it has more to do with the strangle hold that the Ivory Tower has on transit.

The shortage of drivers is just not limited to the GTA. If you look to Greater Vancouver region in British Columbia a hiring spree is going on there. The Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) already has  5,200 employees and 3,350 of them are bus drivers.  CMBC is seeking 500 new drivers to cope with rising demand for public transit in Vancouver. 

The opening quote at the top of this post is true. Not everyone one is cutout to be a transit driver. I know that I was never happy working inside a factory or an office. I always liked driving a bus and working with the public. It was the perfect job for me.  If you are interested in getting into the transit industry I highly recommend it. You have to be able work strange sifts. Most of the shifts are two piece. You will find yourself working the the morning rush hour, then returning later in the day to drive in the PM rush hour. The job is not physically demanding but it can be stressful. Give it a try, it just might work for you.

Feb 15, 2009

Metrolinx improvements on the way?

I have never been a fan of Metrolinx. Most of their proposed projects are nothing more than a rehash of transit expansion plans that were proposed decades ago. Now the Toronto Sun has suggested that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is ready to do a shakeup at Metrolinx.

I have always felt that there were too many politicians sitting on the Metrolinx board. Nothing gets public transit managers more confused than politicians. Ask any of them what the politicians want and the most common answer you would get is they wish they knew. There used to be a time when the TTC's commission was made up of members from various parts of the community. There were people that represented business, labour etc. When it was taken over by city councillors things began to change. It was a change that could be felt right down to the rank and file.
One of the influential groups lobbying for a change in governance structure at Metrolinx is the Toronto Board of Trade.

President and CEO Carol Wilding said the board structure needs to evolve following the release last fall of its $50 billion regional transportation plan, The Big Move.

Similar transit planning groups in other jurisdictions have developed implementation boards that rely heavily, and in some cases totally, on private experts with the necessary background to carry through with major infrastructure projects, she said.

We've been advocating heavily that you really need to leverage private sector experience," Wilding said. "It is critical that that governance body has to be one whose priorities are really focused beyond election cycles and any changes in political agendas."
Maybe changes are really going to happen. Contracting out transit is working for York Region. Will contracting out the board of Metrolinx give us something that exceeds what's being delivered by a politically motivated board? We will just have to wait and see what the Ontario government has in mind.

Feb 12, 2009

Transit not essential

According to Transport 2000, the federal labour relations board ruled against transit being declared an essential service. After a lengthy strike in Ottawa, the ruling was made because the Canada Industrial Relations Board received submissions from concerned citizens requesting that OC Transpo be made an essential service. The city and the union also made submissions to the Board.

The Board determined the strike posed no immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public and therefore OC Transpo service fails to meet the criteria to be deemed essential.

David Jeanes, president of Transport 2000, said transit in the city "is absolutely essential. It's essential for the necessities of life, it's essential for employment, it's essential for productivity," said Jeanes. "People have lost their jobs, people's health is jeopardized, students are having their academic studies jeopardized, we've got cases of elderly people having to walk great distances just to live their lives," the Sun reported.

Meanwhile back in Durham Region, the Canadian Auto Workers Union and Durham Region Transit, entered into negotiations on January 27, 2009. The contract expires on February 28, 2009. It is to early to make any predictions. Lets hope that things turn out better than 2006 when there was a lengthy transit strike in the region.

Feb 11, 2009

Go Transit is going loco

On February 10 Go transit announced it has placed a order worth $85 million for 20 more MPXpress diesel locomotives. This an option on an original order for 27 600 hp locomotives, which are now in service. The locomotives are to be built at MotivePower's plant in Boise, Idaho, for delivery in late 2009 and 2010.

Feb 10, 2009

How much transit can you buy?

A number of transit advocates are calling for the federal government's economic stimulus incentives, to be used towards construction of transit projects. How much will will $30 billion, plus deficits starting at $5 billion next year really buy? According to Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier it costs about $15 million on average to build a kilometre of light rail line. That does not including the cost of extras such as railcars and stations. That works out to about 2,333 kilometres of light rail transit line that could be laid.

The TTC has said that the Sheppard East LRT would cost $800 million, including vehicles. That's up from the March 2007 cost of $555-million. This project will more than likely end up with a price tag of over a billion dollars. Let's get started before it's too late.

Feb 4, 2009

Bus photo with ad

Just a photo and I have no comment.

Feb 2, 2009

Go Transit communicates

Go Transit have installed new LCD monitors at GO Stations along the Lakeshore East line. Effective January 31, 2009, these signs will provide current Lakeshore East GO Train status information, including delays of 10 minutes or more.  Similar signs are already along Lakeshore West line and will be installed on all corridors in the near future.

With train delays mounting up this winter, passenger should find this to be useful tool.

Feb 1, 2009

Nightmare strike over

Under the government threat of back to work legislation, the Ottawa transit strike has come to an end. Saturday's ratification vote by striking drivers, mechanics and dispatchers was the final step to bring the affair to an end. City Council had already voted 100% in favour of acceptance on a tentative deal with the union. Both sides agreed that all outstanding issues would be sent to arbitration.

With Labour Minister Rona Ambrose threatening a decision that all issues would go to binding arbitration, the city and union came to a deal that salvage what had already been agreed to.

Mechanics and service people began returning to work on Saturday to start getting buses ready for a return to service. According to the OC Transit web page, the O-Train service will resume on Monday February 2. Also, approximately half the fleet of 1,000 buses will be ready on the first day of service. Transit routes will have to operate at a reduced level while the bus fleet is getting readied for a return to full operation.

The city announced some incentives to lure transit riders back on the bus:

  • December bus passes will be valid in February
  • All train and bus service will be free until Feb. 15.
  • Free evening and weekend bus service throughout the month of February.
  • Day passes discounted to $5 instead of $7.
  • Free rides for seniors every Wednesday throughout the rest of 2009.

The strike began on December 10, 2009. That adds up to 52 days on strike. For the people of Ottawa it was something that went on longer than it should have. We must remember that a transit strike effects not only transit users but also every citizen of the city. There was traffic chaos, shops closed because employees stopped showing up for work and taxis were hard to come by. Those that chose to walk were in weather that went down to below -20 Celsius.

Other lengthy transit strikes:
  • 2001 Calgary 50 days.
  • 2001 Vancouver 129 days.
  • 1981 Quebec City 9 months
  • 1976 Winnipeg 47 days.