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

View Larger Map

May 15, 2009

Boston cell phone ban

Just a few days after my post about “The Texting Bus Driver From Texas” there has been another transit accident related to an operator and texting. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) which operates bus, train, and subway were involved in an accident with a rail trolley rear ending another Green Line trolley.

A MBTA official has stated the operator, had been texting his girl friend at the time of the accident.  Forty-nine people were taken to hospital but none of the injuries were considered life threatening. The operator suffered a broken wrist in the crash.

As a result of the accident, MBTA has implemented a zero tolerance policy on bus, train, and subway operators caught using a cell phone, iPod, or paging device while on duty. The transit authority has gone one step further and will ban their drivers from keeping electronic devices with them in a pocket, knapsack or handbag while operating a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority vehicles. If caught using any of these devices while on duty drivers face immediately suspension.

Breaking the rule by using any of the above devices will result in a month's suspension with a recommendation for dismissal, while merely carrying a phone will receive a 10-day suspension for a first offence.

Tough rules for tough circumstances.

Related Link:
MBTA unveils zero-tolerance cell phone policy

May 12, 2009

A bridge not too far

The City of Pickering has just announced the construction of a high rise office tower. The building will be located on the north side of the 401 Hwy., close to Liverpool Rd., on Pickering Pkwy. Construction will begin in July 2009. The structure will be built to LEED Silver (green) standards.

Right about now, you have to be asking yourself, “what has this got to do with transit?”

According to The City Of Pickering, Metrolinx has designated the Pickering GO station as an Anchor Mobility Hub. The City intends to make this office tower the first one in Durham, that will have a pedestrian bridge spanning the Hwy. Of Heroes (401), with direct access to the a Go Station. The piers for the pedestrian bridge were built into the Highway 401 median areas as part of the widening of the highway through Pickering in the mid 1990’s.

For the construction, Pickering has set aside $10 million in the 2009 budget.  They have also submitted an application to the Canada Infrastructure Stimulus Fund for Federal and Provincial assistance for construction. 

The Liverpool Rd. bridge is located only 155 metres towards the west of the station. Regardless of this the pedestrian bridge still has it’s advantages.  A “Kiss & Ride” could be established at the north end of the bridge, thus reducing traffic around the station. Stairs and and elevators at both ends will make it fully accessible for everyone. Cyclists will also be able to use it.

As for security the entire structure will be illuminated within and both internal and external illumination for the terminals. It will also be equipped with security video cameras and emergency phones.

Related Links:

More Drawings
Tower to Rise in Downtown Pickering 

Map picture

May 10, 2009

Return of the PCC

The TTC  continues to own and operate two PCC streetcars (Presidents' Conference Committee) for private charter use. Starting today (May 10, 2009) you will be able to ride on one for regular fare. The last two remaining  cars will be pressed back into service on the 509 Harbourfront route from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. You will be able to see them there on every Sunday until September 6, 2009.

When I first started to work at the TTC I dove PCC streetcars out of Russell Division. The thing I remember most about them is how cold they were in the winter. Overnight the cars were parked outside and being construct mainly metal they really felt cold in the morning. It took hours for the driver’s compartment to warm up.

Here’s a little bit of trivial for you. Russell (Connaught) Division  is the only TTC Division named after a person. All of the others are named after the street or area they were built on.

Related Links:

May 9, 2009

New info signs at Union St.

According to GO Transit 

on May 11, 2009 they will introduce new electronic gate signs in waiting areas and entrances to new train platforms 26 and 27, at the south end of Union Station.  These signs will indicate to passengers when to proceed to track level and also display trip specific details.

May 8, 2009

Electric bus

The 35-foot Proterra electric bus, was able to reach over 20 MPGe in fuel economy equivalency testing. The testing, was conducted by Pennsylvania State University. The testing validated that the bus achieves up to 400 percent better performance than present day conventional diesel or competitor's hybrid transit buses.

When it comes public transit, nothing is more flexible than a bus that runs under it’s own portable power source. New routes or extensions  to existing routes, can be started up quickly and at much  lower cost than an LRT. This is one of the reasons why we are seeing a push to manufacture electric buses suitable for commercial purposes.

Ten of the most polluted cities in America are located in California. This has caused the state has taken a high interest in the Proterra electric bus.

May 6, 2009

Locking Up Bus Drivers

Here we go again with the way that politicians like to fight crime. It appears they like to lock up the law abiding citizens and permit the criminals to roam free. I am referring to the the bus driver’s plastic safety shields that are now being installed on TTC vehicles. This makes them the only transit system in Canada to use such shields to protect their drivers.

When it came to assaults, I was luck enough not to have experienced one. The worst thing that ever happen to me was to have passengers threaten me. I have seen the after effects on fellow employees that have been assaulted. The most unfavourable effects came from robbery at gunpoint.

So, is the driver shield the best way to go? 

When implementing something new like this the TTC use a procedure of involving the union shop stewards and a trial bus at each division. The shop stewards drives the bus for a week in service then make themselves and the equipment available at the division. The drivers could then see it for themselves and fill out a questionnaire. This time they saw a protocol shield that had a top and bottom piece that the driver had the option of leaving open or closing it if they wished. Most of the drivers DID NOT like the idea of a shield but were only accepting it because there was an option to close it or keep it open. For those drivers who drove at night and felt safer with it closed, they could do so.

So even after all of the questionnaires and suggestions from drivers the TTC still went ahead with the installation. The ones they are installing on the new buses HAVE TO BE CLOSED (bottom portion only) because there is nowhere to latch them...apparently.

The other thing they did not like was that there was no "escape door" on the closed side of the bus. If someone threw a fireball or something like that into the closed area, the driver has no chance of escape. Anyone could also grab the drivers arm as they reached for transfers, or someone who wanted to, could reach around the shield and grab the driver and again there is no escape.

Don’t laugh at the fireball thing. In 1978 I was on a tour of the New York City subway fare collection. At that time the fare collectors worked in a booth the same as the TTC. There were problems with gunpoint  robberies. The solution was to install bulletproof glass on the collector’s booth. With the intent of robbery at any cost, the crook showed up with his gun. The collector felt secure and pointed out that the booth now had bulletproof glass. The bad guy left and returned later with a container of gasoline. He proceed to pour the gas through the transaction hole and threw in lighted match.  

The  Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has also been testing the shields. Among the complaints are that the shields interfere with air circulation and create glare that interfere with the drivers using mirrors. Some large size drivers also say the shields make the operator quarters too tight. Other drivers are worried the shields would pin them in during a collision. Passengers also feel it's a block between open communications.

Recent incidents that could have been stopped include bricks and eggs being thrown through the front door at drivers and unruly riders punching, kicking or pepper-spraying bus operators. The safety shields also provide protection other than security. During winter, the barriers block cold air when the front doors open. The shields have help cut down on sick time off work. The shields serve as the equivalent of a sneeze guard at a salad bar.

Related link: ATU supports TransLink position
                         Mississauga Transit drivers demand greater safety

May 4, 2009

Biking to GO

Good news for people who are able to bike to and from the local GO bus. The entire fleet of GO Buses is now equipped with bike racks. As part of its strategy to encourage cycling, GO Transit is also installing covered bicycle storage area in several stations by the end of 2009.

DRT expects to begin installing bike racks in the of summer 2009.

May 1, 2009

The Texting Bus Driver From Texas

The Ontario Government is on the verge of banning cell phone use while driving. Check out the following video to find out why texting behind the wheel is a bad idea.

The driver and two disabled bus passengers were uninjured, but the woman driving the SUV never saw the bus coming and suffered neck and back injuries.

This would be a good opportunity for DRT and every other transit authority to grab this video and incorporate it into the driver-training program.