Mar 31, 2009

$1.3 million bus simulator

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority uses a $1.3 million bus simulator to train new drivers and retrain experienced ones. The simulator uses 10 video screens and an assortment of knobs, switches, and levers to recreate the Boston driving experience. 

The instructor uses a joystick called a rabbit to throw anything and everything at trainees and at experienced drivers in need of remedial help. Among the challenges are digitized mothers with strollers on the edge of the sidewalk, police blockades up ahead, distracting fights in the rear of the bus, pedestrians with headphones wandering obliviously into traffic.

Link to full story and video clip in The Boston Globe.

Mar 30, 2009

New Flyer - flying high

Things are looking up for New Flyer Industries. They have just announced it earned $87.6 million profit in 2008. The majority of this increase is a result of higher production. Bus deliveries in 2008 totalled 2,164. That's up from 2007 deliveries of 2,003 units.

The next bit of good news for the company is that the Canadian Auto Workers main collective bargaining unit at the company's Winnipeg facility, have ratified a new collective agreement. It's a three year deal that extends to March 31, 2012.

New Flyer buses appears to be the choice vehicle, for public transit in Ontario. There should be no disruption to the delivery of new buses for some time to come.

Mar 27, 2009

Go Trains need better and reliable service

The following letter appeared at It has been a frustrating winter for Go Train passengers.

To the editor:

I have been relying on this service for the past nine years as I work in the financial district in the city and reside in Whitby. Where to begin? The service is outrageous. A monthly pass costs $224 for a service that most often, from early November to the beginning of April, can guarantee you a late arrival to work almost three times weekly and most certainly cancelled and delayed service home in the evenings, almost every evening. There are numerous reasons given for the poor or lacklustre service such as switch problems, mechanical issues, door problems, medical emergencies and fatalities.

The service has been significantly worse in the last two to three years. The frustration is incredible. GO Transit will publish statistics on how the trains are 88 per cent on schedule but in order to run a fair analysis I think one shouldn't include all the non-rush hour trains that run hourly on off-peak times. And please tell us -- the commuters who wait in the cold or packed into Union Station wondering how we will pick up our children from daycare -- when they simply cannot get the switches to operate due to the weather. This is Canada, it is cold here and always has been. But still, every winter it is the same old scenario that plays out and we are left waiting on the platforms for late and cancelled trains while our BlackBerries are sending us updates that are at least an hour behind.

Traci Mendez

Mar 26, 2009

NEXTbus Video

This video gives a good explanation of the benefits of the NEXTbus tracking system.

Mar 25, 2009

Transit tickets sink with the kiosk

Have you been to your local mall and noticed the empty lotto kiosk? Infoplace Ticket Centres Ltd., that operated the 177 kiosks across the country has declared bankruptcy. Not only did these booths sell lotto tickets but a number of them also sold transit tickets and passes. They have left a debt of $9.7 million.

The City Of Ottawa is one of the largest claims of $1,891,823,.40. Infoplace sold transit tickets and passes for the city. Durham Region has submitted a claim of $12,266.06. This is a small amount when compared to the City of Mississauga that has a claim of $599,006.46. The newspapers have cited higher figures but the ones I have published here are from the latest statement of claim. You view it here.

It looks like transit authorities have to be careful with their point of ticket sales. In the case of Mississauga, it appears transit did not following its own rules for collecting payment for tickets. Let's keep our fingers crossed that none of the major bus manufactures declare bankruptcy.

Related Link: City loses a bundle in kiosk collapse

Mar 19, 2009

TTC Nextbus Beta Testing

The TTC continues testing it's latest online tracking tool, Nextbus. Still not ready for public use the web site had been leaked earlier this week. You can view it here...  

The site is still in beta testing and the times shown are more than likely not correct. The site also provides links to other cities that have the system up and running. This will give you a better ideal as to how the TTC intends to use this customer service tool.

Just a reminder, that the City Of Guelph Ontario, has beat the TTC to punch in it's use of Nextbus technology.

Mar 13, 2009

Find the way

By accident I came across a web page by Metrolinx. Go to It is a portal for transportation information in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. 

You will find an interactive map for the regions and cites of the GTA. Dig further into the site and you will find information on public transit authorities, intercity transit, cycling and more. Click on any of the city or town links and you will find more information on local transit, plus info on hiking and cycling trails.

This web page is up my alley.

Mar 12, 2009

DRT labour bulls eye

Last Sunday, DRT unionized employees of CAW Local 222 voted to accept the latest contract offer. After weeks of

negotiations a settlement was reached between the two parties.  This round of contract talks turned out much better than the disaster of 2006 that lead to a one month transit strike. This time both sides aimed for the bulls eye and came up with a win, win situation for everyone.

Things turned out different, because Durham Region was not involved, directly with the contract talks. They stood their distance and left it up to General Manager Ted Galinis and his management team to work out a solution.

The new contract runs from March 1, 2009 to February 28, 2012. See you in three years.

Mar 7, 2009

It's not fare

After the TTC changed it's tokens and eliminated adult tickets, counterfeiting is still alive and well at the farebox. The TTC is losing $22,050 per week because of counterfeit tokens. Some of these frauds are so well duplicated they are able to fool the sensors in turnstiles at subway stations.

Fare evasion is not just limited to the TTC . Durham Region Transit also suffers from improper fares but I always found, the vast majority of passengers using DRT or any transit are honest and paying full fare. The best fare system I worked with was the Ajax Transit smart card. Even though it's not foolproof, it was still a good tool for bus drivers. It worked well in Ajax and it will work well again when Metrolinx and DRT start updating the fare collecting system with Presto Card in the winter 2011.

Transit authorities that have upgraded have notice a increase in cash revenue. Anaheim  (Calif.) Transit Network (ATN) claimed a twenty fold increase. Using vending machines, Presto Cards will be available in more locations that the present point of sale now used for DRT tickets and passes. Smart cards also will eliminate paper waste. This can be accomplished by the none use of tickets and transfers. We should also see less fare disputes like ones reported by Simon Tonekham on his blog.

Related Link: TTC taken for a ride

Mar 6, 2009

GAS TAX FUNDING for 2008/09

Barrie $1,997,729
Belleville $721,825
Blind River $17,325
Brampton $7,248,122
Brantford $1,251,484
Brockville $219,520
Burlington $2,152,078
Chapleau $24,298
Chatham-Kent $891,567
Clarence-Rockland $264,032
Cobourg $190,227
Cochrane $34,949
Collingwood $162,974
Cornwall $558,868
Deseronto (Hastings) $17,434
Dryden $54,640
Durham Region $7,491,142
Dysart et Al $15,679
Elliot Lake $139,667
Espanola $15,188
Fort Erie $187,749
Fort Frances $78,588
Greenstone $15,807
Guelph $2,542,306
Halton Hills $158,328
Hamilton $11,119,297
Hanover (Arran Elderslie, Brocton, South Bruce and West Grey)$274,792
Hearst $42,685
Huntsville $70,544
Ingersoll $60,566
Kapuskasing $44,826
Kawartha Lakes $522,808
Kenora $151,436
Kingston $2,026,499
Lanark County $210,000
LaSalle $53,151
Leamington (Kingsville) $139,345
London $9,551,573
Loyalist Township $167,231
Machin $10,616
Meaford $49,976
Midland $114,289
Milton $333,077
Mississauga $15,873,893
Morris-Turnberry (Howick, North Huron and Huron-Kinloss) $59,915
Niagara Falls $1,143,256
Niagara Region $443,344
North Bay $1,164,852
North Perth $19,341
Oakville $2,343,559
Orangeville $277,254
Orillia $340,683
Ottawa $36,771,551
Owen Sound $274,841
Parry Sound $38,330
Peel $732,175
Pembroke (Laurentian Valley) $115,120
Perth East $79,304
Peterborough City $1,490,399
Peterborough County $44,684
Point Edward $24,392
Port Colborne $96,302
Port Hope, Town $149,528
Prince Edward County $66,094
Quinte West
(Brighton) $442,525
Renfrew (Horton, Admaston/Bromley and Whitewater) $185,233
Sarnia $928,453
Sault Ste Marie $1,165,205
Schrieber (Terrace Bay) $24,727
St Catharines $2,599,959
St Marys (Perth South, Thames Centre and Zorra) $59,791
St Thomas $437,414
Stratford $459,429
Sudbury (Greater) $2,767,697
Temiskaming Shores (Cobalt) $99,203
Thorold $252,780
Thunder Bay $1,912,687
Timmins $637,943
Toronto $164,068,790
Trent Hills $66,011
Wasaga Beach $79,800
Waterloo Region $8,756,641
Wawa (was Michipicoten) $6,434
Welland $566,524
West Elgin (South West Middlesex, Newbury and Dawn-Euphemia) $29,209
West Perth (was Mitchell) $45,932
Windsor $3,830,221
Woodstock $394,793
York Region $14,067,319

Mar 5, 2009

604 heading for repairs

Go Transit's locomotive is in tow heading for body work and paint job. Thanks to guys over at  GO Transit Locomotive Reports for the photo.

Mar 4, 2009

Too Much Money At DRT?

Along with the regular routes DRT operates special student runs called High School Specials. These school runs follow a predetermined schedule and route. They normally operate directly to and from the high schools. The reason for the runs is to take the pressure off the regular service. The regular service is not sufficient enough to handle the high volume of student traffic.

Mostly part-time drivers have been used to operate the school runs in the past. The reason that part-time employees were used is that when there is a P.A. day,  March Break, Christmas Break or exams, the work is simply cancelled and employees are either assigned other work or not used at all if other work is not available.

For quite a while now, many of the school runs have been covered by full-time employees as part of their 8 hour crews. This means that when the above mentioned school breaks occur, there are a lot more drivers sitting around on standby. Full-timers are guaranteed 40 hours of pay per week. An example of the excess cost is the March Break. During March Break the schools are closed for 6 days. In Ajax and Pickering there will approximately be 22 hours of dead time for the full-time drivers per each of the 6 days with nothing to do when they could be providing service on regular runs. If part time drivers were doing the school runs, there would be no wasted time as they are simply given other work or told not to report for the time that the schools are closed. Over a school year, this adds up.

It makes one wonder if DRT has more money than it needs.

Mar 3, 2009

Groundhog day for streetcar bid

It seems to me that we have already done this before, but the TTC insisted on doing it again. Friday February 27, 2009 was the deadline for the contract bids on the TTC order for new streetcars. The initial order is for 204 vehicles. The total order is for more than 600 vehicles, and is worth an estimated $3 billion.

It looks like the bidding has come down to two companies... Bombardier and German-based Siemens. The Bombardier factory is located in Thunder Bay, Ontario. About 300 jobs over ten years, are up for gain or loss.

Mar 1, 2009

Get ready for mid-day service change

Last Friday in the Pickering News Advertiser DRT ran a half page ad advising patrons of an upcoming schedule change.

Changes will be occurring mostly on the mid-day service. The buses as of March 9, 2009 will no longer depart the Pickering Go at 55 minutes past the hour. That time will be set back 5 minutes to a departure time of on the hour. The 101B Industrial has slightly different schedule. Presently it departs the Go at 57 minutes past the hour. This has been changed to 1 minute past the hour.

The departures from the Pickering Town Centre (PTC) have been set back 5 minutes. The buses will now depart at 30 minutes past the hour rather than the present 25 minutes past the hour. The 165 Bay Ridges - West Shore from the Town Centre will now enter the Go Station rather than bypass it on the way to Krosno Blvd. There are always calls to the 1/2 hour 915 Taunton from the 165 re transfers. These people now have a 25 minute wait. It is also interesting that the 165 now goes into the train station but has no additional time to do so.
The mid-day buses at the Ajax Go Station also have a change in departure times. Rather a 55 minute past the hour departure time look for a 5 minute past the hour. Also at the Ajax Plaza transit hub, buses will depart at 35 minutes past the hour rather than the present 23 minutes past the hour. 

This change is a departure from the past policy of connecting passengers with the westbound train to Toronto. Now more emphasis is placed on connecting with the trains arriving at the Go Stations. If you are expecting to board a train you will have to catch an earlier bus and spend more time waiting at the station. The 235B mid-day gets into the station at 2 minutes after the hour and since it runs hourly the wait for a train will be almost an hour. 

The links for the new DRT schedules can be found here... Ajax Schedule and Pickering Schedule. Just remember they do not come into effect until March 9, 2009. It will be interesting to see if DRT will offer an explanation as to why a schedule change was needed. There never really was much of a problem with train connections in Pickering. Two buses always cleared the station of late arrivals at 15 minutes past the hour. These buses were able to take the passengers to the PTC for connections on other routes.

I don't see how these schedules enhance the service. From my first impressions I think some people should be asking for property tax rebate. PS: There are also a few other changes and I will let you have some fun finding them or maybe this time DRT will publish hints to help you out.